News brief: First in shorts, last Brit in finals

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

IBM Powers French Open Website

IBM technology practically puts fans on the clay court at Roland Garros Stadium.

The French Open has been full or surprises so far this year. In one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, top-seed and four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal, master of the clay court, was knocked out by unheralded 23-seed Robin Soderling of Sweden.

Meanwhile, second-seeded Roger Federer, Nadal’s archrival, had to rally from two sets down to defeat Tommy Haas of Germany. And Novak Djokovic of Serbia, picked by many to be a French Open finalist this year, was also eliminated.

On the women’s side, #1 seed Dinara Safina and #2 seed Serena Williams have battled to stay alive, while Serena’s sister, third-seeded Venus Williams, was upset by unseeded Czech Lucie Safarova

If you’re having trouble following the action from  Roland Garros Stadium, simply visit the official French Open website. IBM consolidated 60 servers that once powered to website to six Power 550 Express servers using POWER6 processors and PowerVM virtualization technology.

Information generated through technologies such as intelligent sensors on the court that calculate the speed of a players server — coupled with real-time data analytics — gives tennis fans the chance to track matches and their favorites.

As part of the dynamic infrastructure, a new feature called Visual Match helps fans follow matches as they happen. Positioning the mouse on the ball shows viewers the speed of serves as they happen, as well as the score of a match or a fault at the precise moment it occurs.

It’s almost as good as being in Paris.

C’est magnifique.