Join Date: Dec 2006
Since then Gottfried von Cramm, the only great post-War player in a country where until recently tennis and squash courts were discouragingly rare, has put Germany into the Davis Cup interzone final four times (1932-35-36-37). He has played 74 Davis Cup matches and lost only 14, five in his first season. He has defeated every leading amateur in the world. Last year in the French champion ships, fortified by a cleaner backhand stroke he had learned from William Tatem Tilden, he beat Fred Perry for the title. Then the following month at Wimbledon he strained a thigh muscle and lost to Perry in the final.
This year at Wimbledon, with Perry out of the way, von Cramm had a chance to become the world's No. i amateur by beating Donald Budge in the final. But he failed, 3-6, 4-6, 2-6. A fortnight later they met again—in the Davis Cup interzone final, with the matches between the U. S. and Germany standing at two all— in a match which, as an exhilarating display of two great tennis machines was not so much a contest as a cumulative spectacle. It made a gloriously crowded hour of Wimbledon history. With both men constantly attacking, it seemed to the crowd as if every hard-hit rally had its incredible gets, its finishing shots whipped back for aces. "How pleased we all were," said a reporter for the London News, "with the admiring gasp of 'Oh Baby!' that burst from Budge when von Cramm left him standing with an astonishing stop-volley from the centre of the court." When after splitting four sets, Budge worked up from 1-4 in the fifth set to 7-6, the well-behaved Wimbledon audience crumpled as von Cramm, having saved five match points, finally had to yield, 6-8, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 8-6. There were many spectators who agreed with the London News Chronicle that they had seen "the greatest match of all time."
Although the fact that Gottfried von Cramm came to the peak of his deft, flawless game along with two players so formidable as Perry and Budge may keep him at No. 2 as long as Budge remains an amateur, this misfortune has helped him to become another kind of champion even more impressive to the tennis public. He is by far the most gracious loser in the game. In the Davis Cup interzone final in _1935, he and Kay Lund had Wilmer Allison & John Van Ryn at match point four times. As von Cramm served and came in for the volley, he just checked himself from hitting Van Ryn's high return, let it sail out. The umpire called match point for Germany again. Von Cramm walked up to the umpire to explain that his racket had touched the ball, a piece of Quixotry that cost Germany the match. And when he had come within an ace of his first Wimbledon championship only to be nosed out by Budge this year, his remark at the net was typical: "I played the best tennis in my life, and if you can beat me, it is a pleasure to lose."
Gottfried von Cramm speaks some French and Italian and a reasonably fluent English, is equally amiable in any of them. Although umpires may insist on pronouncing his full name as resonantly as possible, his fellow players call him Gottfried or Cramm. He likes dancing, field hockey, swimming, hiking, the cinema, Wagner and after tournaments, night clubs and champagne. He also likes to race his Opel limousine from Berlin to Oelber. Independently rich, he is currently the only outstanding amateur who is certain not to turn professional, may thus some day be unquestionably the world's best amateur. From Forest Hills, he plans to go on to California. He will go alone, for this year he and the Baroness, who used to knit and read during his matches, are divorced.
Says tennis' modest No. 2: "For three years Tilden has been saying that I am the best amateur. It is the only time I have known him to be wrong." With Tilden's judgment still in doubt, von Cramm and his 22-year-old doubles partner, Henner Henkel, prepared for Forest Hills last fortnight at Chestnut Hill (Mass.), where they met Budge & Mako in the final of the U. S. doubles championship, neatly reversed the two defeats they suffered earlier in the season (Wimbledon semi-finals and Davis Cup interzone final). 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
As the Forest Hills matches got under way, von Cramm put out young Alfred Jarvis and Donald McNeill, but had to work his hardest to beat Hal Surface of Kansas City, who twice was within a point of making it a five-set battle. With much greater dispatch, Budge put out William Winslow, Joseph Abrams.