Fred Perry interviewed in Eliot Berry's book "Topspin"
Love these excerpts from the Berry book with Fred Perry...
Berry had to work for it though. "Look. I'm sorry. I just can't talk to you know," said Perry. "SKY TV wants me this afternoon. This German TV crew thinks I can open the door for them at Wimbledon if I let them interview me this morning but I can't and I won't. I'm doing BBC radio at noon for the rest of the day. It's just not a good time to talk."
"I smiled," wrote Berry. "And I think that smile, while he was trying to blow me away with his verbal serve and volley, got to him. Then he stared at my blue shirt: a Fred Perry."
"Oh, all right," Fred Perry said. "But I can give you five minutes. No more. Let's go down to the BBC studios, if we can find one down there that's free."
Here is some of what Fred Perry told Eliot Berry during that interview...
"Look. This game is not complicated. If there is no footwork, there is no tennis. If you're not secure in your footwork, you're in trouble."
"I played over 300 matches with (Bill Tilden)."
"To me...when you talk about the best player I ever saw...I say Bill Tilden. These professional boys today do not realize how much they owe to Tilden. He WAS tennis. He won this tournament (Wimbledon) three times. He only played here four times. The first professional, about 1928, was Suzanne Lenglen, the French girl, who got $25,000. They toured in the U.S. with Murray K. Brown, Vincent Richards, who had won the Olympics in Paris in 1924, and the Tinsey Brothers. They first year they made money. The second year they broke even and the promoter said, That's it. It was 1929 and the stock market crashed. The next year Tilden turned pro anyway after winning Wimbledon, and he really started the pro circuit as it is known today."
Outstanding feature of Tilden's game?
"His head. When you played Tilden, you had to think," said Perry without hesitation. "I learned a great deal from him. See, when you played Bill, you never got anything you wanted. If you wanted it low, he gave it to you high. If you wanted it wide, he gave it to you close. If you wanted it fast he gave it to you slow. If you wanted to talk, he shut up. If you wanted to play silently, he talked. You were always thinking, and you had to think against Tilden."
Thoughts on modern tennis?
"Today's game, because of the equipment which limits them to certain things, is lacking a bit of thought. They use the technology to the absolute utmost for their own game, which is wonderful in its way. They play extremely well. But there are certain things they just cannot do any more with this equipment. We could never play like they do with our equipment, but they can't play like we did with our equipment because we had to work for the opening much more. They can force it. Now when you force something and you make mistakes, you fall over. We never used to fall over. We never knew where the ball was going to come back; we knew where it wasn't going to come back. See, we had the fellow on the run by the time he moved in. It's a different ballgame completely. The tournament tennis played today is show business. You're advertising this, you're advertising that. At the age of 20 you have a manager, you've got a lawyer, you've got a coach and a trainer, you've got a mother, you've got a father, a girlfriend. It's an absolute business. They are extremely lucky today. And basically they owe it all to Bill Tilden."
Stay tuned for Part 2 where Perry tells Berry about how an ankle sprain wrecked his grand slam achievement, how Tilden was still perfecting his game at age 53, Don Budge insights, and more...
Excerpts from "Topspin" by Eliot Berry, Henry Holt & Company, 1996.
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