July 2, 2012

In service of tennis

Cricketers (or their kin) who played at Wimbledon. And a tennis star who likes cricket

Spencer Gore
The first Wimbledon tournament took place in 1877. Just 22 men took part in that inaugural event, which was won by Gore, an Old Harrovian who thought cricket a far superior game: "That anyone who has really played well at cricket, tennis, or even rackets," he later wrote, "will ever seriously give his attention to lawn tennis, beyond showing himself to be a promising player, is extremely doubtful." The Wimbledon authorities at the time seemed to take a similar view: after Gore and William Marshall reached the final, play was suspended over the weekend to allow everyone to attend the Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord's. Gore, who had played in that game a few years before, was a handy batsman who scored centuries for I Zingari, and played five first-class matches, two of them for Surrey.

Frank Hadow
Gore's successor as Wimbledon champion - he beat him in the final in 1878 - was Hadow, another Old Harrovian, who fitted in the championships during a holiday from his coffee plantation in Ceylon. He had also played first-class cricket, scoring 37 on debut for Middlesex against Surrey at Prince's (in Chelsea) in 1873. Hadow didn't lose a set but never played at Wimbledon again, and didn't even return there until 1926. Another well-known Wimbledon name, George Hillyard - he won two men's doubles titles, and his wife Blanche won the singles six times - also played quite a bit of first-class cricket for Middlesex and Leicestershire (a useful medium-pacer, he took 6 for 74 against Yorkshire in Leicester in 1894).

Roger Federer
You mightn't expect Federer, the elegant Swiss tennis player, to be very interested in cricket - but actually he says he is an avid fan, having been taught the rudiments by his mother Lynette, who is South African. At Wimbledon in 2011, he proclaimed it a great honour to meet Sachin Tendulkar there. "Spent an hour with Roger Federer chatting on the balcony of Wimbledon Royal box," tweeted Tendulkar afterwards. "And by the way he knows a lot about cricket!"

John Newcombe
The big-serving "Newk" won the singles at Wimbledon three times, in 1967, 1970 and 1971. He was related to Warren Bardsley, who played 41 Tests for Australia, and scored 193 not out for them at Lord's in 1926, when he was 43. Newcombe wrote in his autobiography that Bardsley was the cousin of his mother, Lilian.

John Edrich
The doughty England opener was briefly married to the glamorous American tennis player Pat Stewart, who brightened up the courts in the 1960s (once, presumably before their marriage, apparently writing her phone number on her tennis panties for the benefit of would-be suitors in the crowd). The future champion Virginia Wade's first singles match at Wimbledon, in 1962, resulted in a three-set victory over Mrs JH Edrich.

Buster Farrer
William "Buster" Farrer, who played six Tests for South Africa - his top score was 40 against New Zealand in Johannesburg in 1961-62 - was also an accomplished tennis player. He had played in the men's singles at Wimbledon in 1956, winning his first match before losing in the second round. Farrer also played hockey and squash for South Africa.

Cotar Ramaswami
India's Ramaswami, who played two Tests in England in 1936 when he was 40, played in the singles at Wimbledon 14 years previously, winning his first match but losing his second. He later played in the Davis Cup as well. SM Hadi, an occasional team-mate of Ramaswami's on that 1936 tour and a Davis Cup player too, reached the third round of both the singles and men's doubles at Wimbledon in 1922.

Paul Winslow
The South African batsman Winslow is best remembered for a ferocious assault on the England bowling at Old Trafford in 1955, which brought him his one and only Test century: he reached it with a six off Tony Lock that ended up in a nearby car park. And, according to his obituary in the 2012 Wisden, "his mother Olive won several South African tennis championships and was, apparently, the first woman player to show an ankle at Wimbledon".

Ole Mortensen
The Danish fast bowler "Erik Bloodaxe", who had a distinguished county career with Derbyshire, also has a connection to Wimbledon: his brother Michael was a doubles specialist who was seeded there several times. In a men's doubles match in 1985, Michael and his partner Jan Gunnarson from Sweden won a record 50-point tie-breaker against John Frawley (Australia) and Victor Pecci (Paraguay) 26-24.

Mike Procter
Whirlwind fast bowler (and whirlwind batsman) Procter married a tennis player, Maryna Godwin, who represented South Africa in the Federation Cup (the ladies' equivalent of the Davis Cup), and reached the third round at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1969. She also made the quarter-finals of the first US Open in 1968, losing to Billie-Jean King in three sets.

Bob Hewitt
The short-tempered doubles specialist Hewitt was born in Australia and later moved to South Africa, another hotbed of cricket, so it was no surprise that he was interested in the game. In the more relaxed amateur days of the 1960s some of the players used to take part in an impromptu game of cricket on Wimbledon's middle Sunday, a day of rest from tennis: Max Robertson's Wimbledon history recalls one such encounter in which the Australian Test batsman Bob Cowper was caught by Dutchman Tom Okker at mid-on, off the bowling of Italy's Nicky Pietrangeli. Hewitt was a frequent participant too. And I once saw him bowl a perfect legbreak to a surprised ball boy on Centre Court.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012

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