On This Day: Fred Perry enjoys Australian Open glory


Tennis legend Fred Perry became the last Englishman to win the Australian Open on this day in 1934.

The working-class winner of eight Grand Slams during his career surprised the fans by thrashing their local man and reigning champion Jack Crawford 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

A British Pathé newsreel titled 'Well played, Sir!' shows Perry easily dismissing his rival only months after winning the 1933 US championship.

In New York, the future sports clothing mogul prevented Crawford from scooping all four Grand Slams in a year.

In 1934,the Stockport-born son of cotton spinner and later Labour MP Samuel Perry, matched Crawford’s feat by also winning three.

He followed up his success in Australia by also winning Wimbledon and the US championships.

He failed to reach the final of the French Open, which in those days was the only major that was not played on grass.

But Perry’s only success at the Australian Open means he remains the last British man to win the tournament after Scotsman Andy Murray went out of the 2014 championship.

Perry, who wound up opponents by continually praising their good shots by saying “very clevah”, also captained Great Britain to four Davis Cup victories.

Yet he stunned the tennis establishment when he turned professional after winning Wimbledon for the third time.

At that time only amateurs were allowed to compete in the four Grand Slam tournaments.

It was not until 1968 that the championships were renamed opens and professionals were admitted.

But Perry had become disillusioned with snobs at the Lawn Tennis Association who had nicknamed him a “working class playboy” and regarded him as an “upstart”.

The privileged members of the All England Club were quick to ostracise him after also announced that he was moving to America.

View photo


Perry won the US Pro twice before his new host country was drawn into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Having become a naturalised American citizen, he was drafted into the US Air Force, where he served mainly as a physical training and rehabilitation officer.

Afterwards, he made a name for himself as a sportswear brand after helping to develop the first sweatband.

It is his iconic tennis shirt, which quickly began being used by a host of stars on the court, that he arguably is best remembered for.

The garment, which features the former Wimbledon symbol of the laurel wreath logo, also became a trendy must-have for mods, Northern Soul fans and even skinheads.

Perry was not reconciled with the British tennis establishment until shortly before 1984 when they erected a bronze statue of him at Wimbledon.

From then on, until his death in 1995 at age 85 after falling from a hotel bathtub in Melbourne, he regularly attended all the Grand Slam tournaments.

Some critics claim he inadvertently ruined British tennis because afterwards coaches tried – and failed – to get the students to copy his uniquely powerful forehand.

It was not until Murray won the US Open in 2012 that a British man won a Grand Slam after Perry quit.

View comments (3)