On the bookshelf

By Observer Reporter in Feature

Fred Perry, three-time Wimbledon champion in the 1930s, was one of Britain’s greatest sportsmen of the 20th century. His success on the hallowed Wimbledon turf went unmatched by a British man for a remarkable 77 years, ahead of Andy Murray’s triumph in 2013. Perry was the first player to hold all four Grand Slam titles, and also played a pivotal role in Great Britain’s domination of the Davis Cup in the mid-1930s.

Despite his status as a global sports celebrity, Perry was criticised for his ruthless desire to win and was frequently at odds with the amateur tennis authorities of the day. In this concise and revealing biography, award-winning historian Kevin Jefferys examines afresh the life and career of Britain’s most successful tennis star.

The author shows how good fortune as well as tremendous talent aided Perry’s meteoric rise to the top; traces his frosty relationship with the British tennis establishment, which continued after he built a new life as a professional in the United States; and considers Perry’s place among the true legends of the sport.

In Fred Perry: British Tennis Legend, you will discover:

• How Fred’s background as the son of a Labour politician, and his no-nonsense personality, ruffled feathers in the socially exclusive world of 1930s British tennis

• The way in which Lady Luck, as well as talent and a fierce desire to succeed, made Perry the undisputed number one in world tennis by 1934

• Why, despite amassing eight Grand Slam singles titles and ensuring Britain dominated the Davis Cup, Fred had a fractious relationship with the amateur tennis authorities

• Whether Perry’s decision to join a professional tour in the USA, which debarred him from Grand Slams and the Davis Cup, could have been avoided

• How Fred’s departure for America to join the ranks of the paid pros damaged men’s tennis in Britain for years to come

• The process whereby the British tennis establishment gradually acknowledged the scale of Perry’s achievements, ensuring his place as a sporting legend

• Why in the final reckoning many of his opponents, as well as knowledgeable observers of the game, see Fred as one of the true greats of men’s tennis

A 224-page paperback, Fred Perry - British Tennis Legend is published by Pitch Publishing and is priced £16.99.


Kevin Jefferys, formerly history professor at Plymouth University, is the author of a dozen books including Anthony Crosland, Finest and Darkest Hours and Politics and the People. In recent years he has published widely on aspects of sports history, including articles on British and world tennis. His work Sport and Politics in Modern Britain: The Road to 2012 was winner of the 2013 Lord Aberdare book prize.

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