'A Champion and One of the Greatest of All Time'

By Newman, Paul | The Independent (London, England), May 17, 2009 | Go to article overview
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'A Champion and One of the Greatest of All Time'

Newman, Paul, The Independent (London, England)

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Fred Perry's birth. Paul Newman speaks to four people with evocative memories of a colourful character

Kaspar Hocking was a contemporary of Fred Perry's at Ealing County School for Boys. He played table tennis with Perry, who became world champion before concentrating on tennis. Hocking now lives in Cornwall

"Fred lived just around the corner. His father was a Co- operative MP. My father was a keen supporter of the Co-operative movement so they were good friends. I needed a scholarship to get into the school. Fred was a couple of years older than me and had done the same a few years earlier.

"We played table tennis together many times in the school games room, but I never beat him. He was very good. He was fairly tall, though he wasn't particularly striking physically. His father persuaded him to take up tennis after he won the table tennis world championship. I remember when he started playing tennis down at the local recreation ground. There were no tennis courts at the school. He wasn't noted for any academic success, but he was very popular.

"It's always been nice to be able to tell people that I played table tennis with Fred Perry. I was certainly surprised at what he went on to achieve. I'm very proud to have known him."

Gene Mako, 93, reached the 1938 US Open final and won four Grand Slam doubles titles with Donald Budge. He later became an art gallery owner and settled in Los Angeles

"I played with and against Fred hundreds of times and we often practised together. The first time I was 15. Fred and Bunny Austin came to Los Angeles to play an exhibition. I played with Jack Tidball and we won 6-4 6-4.

"Fred was a better singles player than a doubles player. He was without question one of the greatest of all time. He could do anything he wanted. I would say the best thing about his game was his marvellous forehand. He also had great stamina. He won a lot of long matches. He drank in moderation and looked after himself.

"He was a better loser than winner. He rather lorded it over you if he was the better player. Off court he was a very likeable man. He loved America, he knew a lot of people there, particularly in the motion picture business. He had a lot of fun here."

Max Robertson, 93, was BBC Radio's voice of tennis and worked alongside Perry in the commentary box for many years. He now lives in Guernsey

"I was already an honorary member of the All England Club when Fred won Wimbledon the first time. I was furious with the way he was treated. The club didn't even present him properly with his tie, which went with his membership as champion.

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