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Friday, 25 November 2016 16:27 PM GMT
Remembering Wimbledon's oldest male champion remembers the remarkable career of Gardnar Mulloy, who died last week aged 102. READ MORE

Gardnar Mulloy won 129 United States national titles in a career that spanned 75 years but enjoyed his finest hour on Centre Court at the All England Club. In winning the Gentlemen’s Doubles at The Championships in 1957 at the age of 43 alongside Budge Patty, Mulloy became the oldest champion in Wimbledon history. Martina Navratilova beat his record by winning the Mixed Doubles Championship at the age of 46 in 2003, but Mulloy remains the oldest male champion.

Mulloy, who died last week at 102, was one of the great characters of tennis. A fiery individual on the court who often clashed with authority, off it he was engaging company. He joked with the Queen and was a boyhood hero of Bill Clinton’s.

In singles Mulloy was good enough to reach the final of his own national championships and the semi-finals at Wimbledon and Paris, but it was in doubles that he enjoyed his greatest successes. 

Mulloy's age when he won the Gentlemen's Doubles in 1957

“The Washington Post” last week recalled an incident when Mulloy was asked to transport a British general and his chief of staff to a port in Italy. Unhappy with what he considered disparaging remarks about Americans by the British officers, Mulloy had them locked up in their cabins.

Mulloy was 31 when the war ended, but he never let age get in his way. In 1952, at the age of 38, he reached his only Grand Slam singles final. The oldest men’s singles finalist at his national championships, he was beaten in straight sets by 24-year-old Frank Sedgman.

The closest Mulloy came to reaching the final of the Gentlemen’s Singles at The Championships was in his debut year in 1948, when he made the semi-finals. Having beaten Britain’s Tony Mottram in the quarter-finals, Mulloy went down 4-6, 4-6, 6-8 to the eventual champion, Bob Falkenburg.

In doubles Mulloy played in six finals at the US National Championships alongside Bill Talbert, winning four of them. He lost two doubles finals at the French Championships with Dick Savitt and also lost in his two Grand Slam mixed doubles finals, with Fry at the US Nationals in 1955 and with Gibson at Wimbledon the following year.

Mulloy played his last singles match at The Championships when he was 52 and his last doubles match at 59.  A champion of senior tennis, he continued playing into his nineties. In his eighties he was American No.1 in his age group in both singles and doubles.

It was during a national senior event that Mulloy left the court mid-match after seeing the then President Bill Clinton watching through a fence. Mulloy introduced himself, upon which Clinton told him: “I know who you are and I have followed your career ever since I was a little boy.” Mulloy replied: “You are still a boy.”

Mulloy put his longevity down to his lifestyle as a disciplined vegetarian who did not drink or smoke. In 2005 he told “The New York Times”: “People come to me and say: ‘What fun do you have?’ I say: ‘I have a lot of fun. I don’t have any hangovers. My fun is clean living and enjoying the sunset and sunrise’.”

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