Photograph: Getty Images
It was 1952, Australia was dominating tennis on the world stage post the war and a young Frank Sedgman was leading the charge.
Sedgman had adopted the serve-volley into his game and before playing at Wimbledon in 1952 had already notched up three grand slam singles titles with his offensive style of play.
Sedgman however, dominated at Wimbledon in 1952 after he was crowned singles champion and won the doubles and mixed doubles, something that hasn’t been done since.
This year marks 70 years since that remarkable triple crown and Sedgman, now 94 spoke to The First Serve to talk about his memories of Wimbledon.
Of course, Wimbledon is still the most prominent tournament on the world circuit, its tradition and rich history has created a fierce appetite for players to perform well, with every player dreaming of winning on the grass and this mantra was shared by Sedgman.
“We all wanted to win at Wimbledon, and I was sponsored by an Australian businessman to go over there,” Sedgman said.
“It means a lot to Australia if an Australian wins Wimbledon,” he said.
The gentlemen’s singles final saw Sedgman face off against Jaroslav Drobny (pictured above) where he went on to win in four sets despite dropping the first.
Sedgman still remembers walking nervously onto centre court before the singles final.
“Well, it was a big deal to get into the final, we had to walk out and bow to the Duchess and there was a lot of good will associated with it,” Sedgman said.
Sedgman was part of an era that should never be forgotten and was one of three Australian men to win the singles at Wimbledon during the 1950s, with Lew Hoad winning consecutive titles in 1956 and 1957 and Ashley Cooper taking the trophy in 1958.
This particular period saw many players participating in all three disciplines (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) with Sedgman distinguishing himself as a strong singles and doubles player.
“Well in those days I guess everybody played the three events,” he said.
“We used to play just to win titles, and we never got any money, so we just used to play the three events to win the trophies,” Sedgman said.
Sedgman’s long-time doubles partner Ken McGregor was also part of Australia’s tennis monopoly post war, and the pair created a dream doubles team.
McGregor and Sedgman won seven out of eight grand slam doubles finals in 1951 and 1952, including Wimbledon in both years.
“We got on well as a pair and he had a big serve so that was his biggest asset but I was a very good volleyer and so I used to move around a lot and volley,” Sedgman explained.
Their dream run ended after Wimbledon in 1952 at the US Championships with McGregor suffering an injury while playing.
“We won all seven titles in a row, and we were a bit unfortunate that we didn’t win two years running because he (McGregor) pulled a stomach muscle and he had to serve under-arm in the US,” Sedgman said.
For Sedgman, Wimbledon in 1952 remains one of his fondest memories in tennis and the Australian and International Tennis Hall of Fame member still loves watching the game he has given so much to.
“I still love watching and the game has really improved a lot since we were playing, these guys now are hitting ground shots a million miles and hour,” Sedgman said.
“We played an offensive game, but the ground game wasn’t as good as what these guys play now,” he said.
Sedgman, a five-time grand slam singles champion, is still very active at 94 and when he’s not watching tennis, he’s watching the races with he and his wife Jean part owning two-year-old filly She Dances who ran at Caulfield last Saturday.
Sedgman’s Wimbledon milestone is set to be celebrated at Melbourne’s Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at a lunch to be shared with Sedgman’s family, friends and tennis greats later in July, which comes as a fitting tribute for a legend who has been on court or court side for nine decades.