News brief: First in shorts, last Brit in finalsPosted: July 7, 2012
When Andy Murray steps on Centre Court at Wimbledon tomorrow, he will be the first British gentleman to reach the Wimbledon finals since Henry Wilfred “Bunny” Austin in 1938.
Bunny is best known as the first tennis player to wear shorts. In 1932 he decided that the traditional tennis attire, cricket flannels, weighed him down too much. He suffered from jaundice and was handicapped by the weight of his sweat-soaked long trousers in hot weather.
Austin bought a pair of shorts to use at Forest Hills in the 1937 US Open, and subsequently became the first player to wear them at Wimbledon.
Here are 10 other “Bunny” Austin sparklers:
1. The nickname Bunny came from a comic strip, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.
2. While still an undergraduate at Cambridge University he reached the semi-finals of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon in 1926.
3. By the 1930s, Austin was ranked among the world’s top ten players.
4. In his first Wimbledon men’s singles final in 1932 he was beaten by Ellsworth Vines of the United States in three sets. In the 1938 championship, Austin lost to American Don Budge, 6-1, 6-0. 6-3.
5. He was a key member of the British David Cup team that won three straight titles starting in 1933.
6. A pioneer, Austin is credited with the design of the modern tennis racket — the split shaft.
7. Bunny married the actress Phyllis Konstam in 1931, after meeting her on a transatlantic liner while travelling for the US Open. Together, they were one of the celebrity couples of the age
8. Austin played tennis with Charlie Chaplin, was a friend of Daphne du Maurier, Ronald Colman and Harold Lloyd, and met both Queen Mary and FDR.
9. Although ostracized by the All-England Club because he was a conscientious objector, he served as a private in the US Army Air Force during World War II.
10. He died on his 94th birthday in 2000, several months after appearing at Centre Court during a millennium celebration.
BTW: The last Englishman to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry, who beat German Gottfried von Cramm 6–1, 6–1, 6–0, in 1936 for his third straight championship…The last British woman to win Wimbledon was Virginia Wade in 1977