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TENNIS

The Fred Perry
Tennis Championship

JULY 2020

A year ago, we launched the Fred Perry Championship at the Brentham Club. Fred Perry has a history here. It’s 101 years since he first played at the Brentham Club, and we look forward to welcoming this year’s talented young players to the club – the tennis champions of the future.

Fred was the son of a cotton spinner and a socialist MP, who, against all the odds, went on to win Wimbledon three times with a killer forehand at a time when tennis was an elitist sport.

It was at the Brentham Club he first became interested in watching and playing sport because it was on his doorstep, and free.

Fred loved table-tennis. He’d drive everybody in his family crazy, pushing the kitchen table up against the wall every evening, hit the ball over a net and onto the wall - over and over.

Fred taught himself to play in this way. He was world table tennis champion at 19.

He switched to lawn tennis.

He honed his self-taught shots at Brentham with a tatty old racket his father gave him, and a do-it-yourself hatchet grip. He would practice on hard and grass courts, and if they weren’t available, he’d practice on the bowling greens until he was chased off.

 

In the same way he practiced table tennis at home, he would practice his volley over the house and the greenhouse.

In this way, on his own, practicing over and over, Fred developed his own rhythm and movement – which prospered better than the greenhouse.

Through this determination, Fred entered various Junior Championships, where his one racket eventually collapsed.

He was kindly gifted a brand-new Slazenger racket by a Davis Cup player who saw his potential.
Fred was encouraged to enter tournaments and he practiced for hours, days and weeks – breaking tennis club windows and losing his balance at the net.

Fred lost an important tournament game against Bunny Austin, the British number one. He was devastated. But he later realised it was just as important to lose that game as it was to go on, all the more determined, to win.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fred went on to be a successful Davis Cup captain, winner of 10 majors and the first player to win a Career Grand Slam - Fred remains the only British player ever to achieve this.

He remains one of the greatest sports people this country has ever seen.

Yet still, his success was always unexpected. He was from the wrong side of the tracks, and despite his unprecedented contribution to British tennis, Fred was not accepted by tennis authorities until later life for the simple reason he was different to most players associated with the sport in England.

In 1984, a statue of Fred was unveiled at Wimbledon – a permanent tribute to the champion.

The Brentham Club

To mark the first tournament, we repainted the hard court in our iconic Fred Perry shirt colours – Black and Champagne – colours that symbolise our independent spirit, colours that subvert the traditional whites of tennis. We have since repainted eight courts which are all free for non-members.

The winners were each given a medal, with some sound advice Fred Perry himself offered to young players on a BBC radio interview in 1961; Be absolutely dedicated.

Fred didn’t stop at tennis. He started a business with a Jewish businessman from Eastern Europe making sweatbands for tennis players. This functional, yet stylish product was the beginning of the Fred Perry clothing brand, which you’ll recognise by the Laurel Wreath – the symbol of excellence in Wimbledon, and one which remains a signature of both individuality and of belonging for all who wear it.

Our 2019 Champion winners received a clothing supply with on and off-kits, designed especially for this tournament, in black – again highlighting our non-traditional approach to tennis.

We are committed to supporting youth tennis. This tournament is a launch pad for a longer-term national initiative in conjunction with the LTA and local councils where we are renovating courts and upgrading existing facilities up and down the country.

The 2019 Fred Perry Championship

Our hope in the future is to welcome more wild card players - more ‘Freds’ from different backgrounds and walks of life.


For more information and to apply for the Fred Perry Championship tournament, please visit lta.org.uk