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Top 10 British achievements

Tim Henman
by Mark Hodgkinson
Wednesday 27 June 2012

Fred Perry. After beating Australia’s Jack Crawford in the 1934 final, Perry, the son of a Labour MP, was lying in a bath in the locker-room when he overheard an All England Club official say to his beaten opponent: “We’re only sorry that this was one day when the best man did not win.” On getting out of the bath, Perry saw that his club tie – champions were given membership – had been left draped over the back of a chair. Perry went on to win two more titles, in 1935 and 1936. Some 76 years after his last victory, he remains the last British man to have won Wimbledon. 

Virginia Wade. As soon as Wade walked on to Centre Court for the 1977 final against Holland's Betty Stove, she looked up at the Royal Box, and thought that it would turn out to be her day. “We turned around to curtsey in front of the Queen,” recalled Wade, who was wearing a pink cashmere cardigan over a white dress with pink piping, “and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, she’s wearing a hat and a coat in exactly the same pink’, and that’s a good omen.” During the final set, it was felt as though Wade had “a little angel sitting on my shoulder”. She remains the last British woman to have won Wimbledon. 

Bunny Austin. There are many reasons to remember Henry Wilfred Austin, who was known universally throughout tennis as Bunny. He was the first man to wear shorts at the All England Club, after deciding that his flannel trousers were too hot and heavy. He also played tennis with Charlie Chaplin (a friend), and he and his wife, the movie start Phyliss Konstam, were one of the celebrity couples of the 1930s. He is also the last British man to have played in a Wimbledon final. For his appearance in the 1938 final – he lost to America's Don Budge – he received a £10 gift voucher, which was redeemable in a high street jewellers. 

Barry Cowan. Who would have thought that Cowan, a Briton ranked outside the world's top 250, would take Pete Sampras to five sets when they played in the second round of the 2001 Championships? Though Sampras won the first two sets, Cowan won the next two to take the match into a decider and test the nerve of an opponent who had won seven Wimbledon titles. During the changeovers, Cowan, a supporter of Liverpool Football Club, sat with a towel over his head and listening to the Anfield anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone, on his Walkman. Had Cowan won the match it would have been, in Sampras's words, "the upset of the century". 

Tim Henman. Four times Henman reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon. The first time, in 1998, he lost to Pete Sampras. The next summer, it was the same opponent and the same result. And in 2002 he was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt. But the match that everyone remembers was his defeat in 2001 to Goran Ivanisevic, when, if the match had not been interrupted by rain, he would have been well placed to have made the final. 

Angela Mortimer and Christine Truman. The last all-British men's or women's final was in 1961 when Mortimer defeated Truman. 

Andy Murray. When Murray lost to Rafael Nadal last summer – a match that turned on a missed groundstroke – it was the third successive summer that he had lost in the semi-finals of Wimbledon, after defeats to Andy Roddick in 2009 and Nadal in 2010. It also meant that British men had lost their last 11 appearances in the semi-finals of Wimbledon, an extraordinary statistic. 

Laura Robson. One afternoon in 2008, Robson walked through the gates of the All England Club, won her match and became the Wimbledon champion. At the age of just 14, the Londoner had won the junior version of the Wimbledon Championships, and, whether she wanted it or not, guaranteed herself years of attention. 

Tim Henman. The outbreak of Henmania can be traced back to one match. It was 1996, and Henman's first appearance on Centre Court where he was playing Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the new French Open champion. Henman won the five-setter and went on to reach the quarter-finals. 

Roger Taylor. Three times he reached the last four, but he never played in a final. After a defeat to Wilhelm Bungert in 1967, he lost to Ken Rosewall in 1970 and Jan Kodes in 1973.


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