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Old 04-14-2010, 11:50 AM   #1
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Default A chronology of Anthony Wilding’s singles titles (1901-1914)

A chronology of Anthony Wilding’s singles titles (1901-1914)

Part I of III

Anthony Frederick Wilding was born at Opawa, Christchurch, New Zealand, on 31 October 1883. He grew up in a sporting atmosphere at the Wilding family home, Fownhope, where at least one tennis court, of asphalt, had been laid out, and showed an early ability at several sports. After some early success at tennis tournaments in his native country, Wilding left New Zealand in 1902 to study law at Trinity College, Cambridge, England. He graduated BA in 1905.

While still a student at Cambridge, Wilding took part in a small number of tennis tournaments. The first English tournament he ever competed in was in Sheffield, probably in 1904. His first significant singles title in England came at the Championships of Shropshire in July 1904, when he was 20. Not surprisingly, this tournament was played on grass, a surface on which Wilding was to have a good deal of future success. However, as Wilding’s results show, his most successful surface in terms of titles won was clay.

In his autobiography “On The Court And Off”, published in 1913, Wilding wrote: "At the outset let me make a confession. I prefer the Continental tournaments to those held in England. Except in exceptional summers like that of 1911 our climate does not allow the full enjoyment of a tennis tournament. Bad weather in England means bad courts; but on the Continent a few hours to dry and the surface is better and firmer than ever.

“Another important aspect from a player’s point of view is the dreary business-like air so often pervading English meetings. The referee does not ask; he orders. And then the players themselves are apt to over-estimate the serious character of their matches. On the Continent players mean to enjoy themselves in addition to playing tennis.”

The Continental tournaments were, of course, played mainly on clay. Whenever possible, Wilding liked nothing better than to travel from tournament to tournament by motorbike, especially on the Continent. In “Captain Anthony Wilding”, published in 1916, Wallis Myers wrote: “The only form of scientific research in which he showed intelligent interest was mechanical traction. Wheels and petrol and quick motion he loved – loved them because, himself a perfect human machine designed for rapid propulsion, he was instinctively drawn to machines created by man for the same object; but very few who loved him had that passion…”

In the same book, Myers wrote: “It is not the purpose of this volume to catalogue Anthony Wilding’s lawn tennis successes. Legion, they were spread over all quarters of the globe. He had won championships at courts as far apart as Wimbledon, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Paris, Homburg, Nice, Christchurch (N.Z.), Brussels, and Prague; save the American, for which he never competed, he held every title of eminence in the lawn tennis world. No player of this or any age covered so much ground to get from one court to another, or covered it so rapidly.

“Taking but one year alone, we find him in New Zealand at the beginning of 1907, on the Riviera in March, in Paris in April, in London (where he won all three covered court championships) in early May, at Wiesbaden the same month, in Austria in late May, at Wimbledon in June, in Austria again in July, back in England the same month, at Homburg in August, at Baden-Baden in September, at Eastbourne in the middle of the month, and back in Austria for the winter.”

Wilding spent most of 1909 in his native Christchurch, qualifying for the New Zealand Bar and playing little tennis, but he returned to England via South Africa in 1910, the year in which he won his first Wimbledon singles title. In his last five years or so of competitive tennis (1910-14) it is striking to note how seldom he played in grass court tournaments. In 1914, he won an astonishing eleven titles in a row on clay, a surface on which he had last lost in singles back in 1909.

Somewhat fittingly, Wilding’s last ever singles title came on clay at the World Hard Court Championships, in Paris, in early June 1914. A few weeks later he lost the Wimbledon Challenge Round to Norman Brookes. In early August he and Brookes helped Australasia regain the Davis Cup in the United States, but by then war was breaking out in Europe, and Wilding’s fate was sealed.

Wilding joined the Royal Marines and, subsequently, the Royal Naval Air Service. By March 1915, he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was stationed with a squadron in France. He was promoted to captain shortly before he and his party were moved to the front in May 1915. On 9 May 1915, after taking part in a heavy trench bombardment near Neuve-Chapelle in France, Wilding was killed instantly when a shell landed close to the dugout in which he was sheltering. He was 31.

Last edited by newmark401; 05-06-2010 at 06:01 PM.
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