On this day in history : 18th May 1909 – The birth of English tennis player Fred Perry who – until Andy Murray in 2013 – was the last British player to win the men’s Wimbledon Championship….

Fred Perry – Public domain

Fred was born in Stockport – his father, Samuel Perry, was a cotton spinner but also a Labour Co-operative politician…. Due to his father’s political career the family moved around in Fred’s early years, living in Bolton, Lancashire and Wallasey in Cheshire…. When Fred was 11 they settled in Brentham Garden Suburb, Ealing, West London as Samuel had become the National Secretary of the Co-operative Party…. He then came to serve as the Labour Co-op Member of Parliament for Kettering in 1929….

Fred Perry’s birthplace – 33, Corrington Road, Stockport – Image credit : Zzztriple2000 – own work- public domain

Fred was educated at Ealing Grammar School for Boys and first began to play tennis on the public courts near to the family’s housing estate…. However, his first taste of sporting success was as a table tennis player – winning various titles and medals and eventually the world table tennis singles title in Budapest in 1929 – when he was 19-years-old….

Using the speed and aggressive techniques he had learned during his table tennis days Fred developed his own unique style of tennis…. At first his approach was not appreciated by the Lawn Tennis Association – who regarded him as being rather hot-headed…. There was also a certain degree of stuffiness from them because of his working-class background….

Considered one of the greatest tennis players ever it is no surprise that Fred was to become the first player to win all four singles titles in a Career Grand Slam…. He was to win ten Majors, including Grand-Slam and Pro-Slam singles…. He also won six Major doubles titles – and won the Wimbledon Championship three years running, 1934-36…. Always at his side through his sporting career, lending her support, was his sister Edith…. They also had a half-sister, Sylvia….

Fred Perry (right) with Pat Hughes, Sydney, Australia, 1934 – Public domain

During the 1940s he teamed up with Austrian footballer Tibby Wegner and the Fred Perry clothing brand was formed…. Starting out with the creation of the wrist worn sweat band – then going on to the classic Fred Perry sports shirt, which when launched at Wimbledon in 1952 became an instant success…. The brand’s laurel wreath logo is based on the original Wimbledon symbol….

Classic Fred Perry design – Image credit : Stylecountz CC BY-SA 2.0

Fred also had a colourful life off of the court and was popular with the ladies…. He was romantically linked with actresses Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow and Bette Davies and in 1934 announced his engagement to Mary Lawson – however the relationship ended after his move to the US….

He was to have a trio of unsuccessful marriages…. He married American movie star Helen Vinson in 1935 but they divorced in 1940…. He then married model Sandra Breaux in 1941 but that was to be short-lived; as was his marriage in 1945 to Lorraine Walsh…. Finally in 1952 he found ‘the right one’, when he married Barbara Riese – a marriage that was to last until his death in 1995…. The couple had two children, Penny and David….

Fred died in hospital in Melbourne on the 2nd of February 1995, after a fall in a hotel bathroom in which he broke his ribs….

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