In celebration of the Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library’s status in charting not only the history of The Championships but the history of lawn tennis, Librarian Robert McNicol has assembled a 13-day guide showcasing the stellar sources available. Here he explains which titles he has selected for Day 9
The drama and magic of Wimbledon stems from the unpredictable – the premature defeat of a top seed, the flourishing of an unheralded talent, the heartwarmingbounce-back to form of the perennially injured. Each day of play begins with a thrilling sense of anticipation: what stories will today bring? And that same dynamic is at play during this fortnight in the Library. Quite literally – only the stories are already written and recorded for posterity between covers. “The lovely thing about The Championships is that people turn up unexpectedly with books we didn’t know about, and are very grateful to receive,” says Robert. “We’re just over halfway through the tournament and we have half a shelf of new donations.”
El Milagro Del Potro, which translates as “The Del Potro Miracle”, was delivered this week by author Sebastian Torok, a journalist from La Nacion in Buenos Aires. Chronicling the story of the popular Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro and his incredible triumphs over injury, the book is a welcome addition to the collection of biographies of contemporary players. “Only a handful of top players have books, and those that do – the so-called Big Four – have a lot, so it’s great to have the story behind Del Potro, a Grand Slam champion and Olympic medallist.”
...people turn up unexpectedly with books we didn’t know about, and are very grateful to receive
Another visitor was Linda Marshall, daughter of the 1952 Wimbledon champion Frank Sedgman, who arrived with a signed copy of Game, Sedge & Match - The Frank Sedgman Story: Making of a Tennis Dynasty by Ron Reed, which was published in 2014. “Gayle, Sedgman's other daughter, had knocked on the door a few months earlier and was so pleased to meet Alan [Little] that she offered to send in a book. The courier turned out to be her sister, Linda, who was amazed when Alan revealed he had been on Centre Court when her father won his Wimbledon singles title in 1952. Alan is so important to the Library because he is a link to the past. On another occasion, Enrique Morea's wife came in. Morea was runner-up in the mixed doubles in 1952, 1953 and 1955. When Alan said he remembered those matches, his wife threw his arms around him!”
For the last 10 years at least, the Czech Republic's Helena Sukova – a seven-times Wimbledon doubles champion – has popped over at some point during the tournament to bring in two yearbooks, International Lawn Tennis Club Ceske Republiky and Szenior Tenisz.
Each year Alan looks forward to catching up with her, but in recent years her visits have coincided with moments when he is out and about in the Grounds. Their missing each other has become a long-running saga…
Some donations are testimony to the allure of The Championships around the world. For instance, Sune Sylven’s 2016 work, Wimbledon En skon gron drom – which translates as “a nice, green dream” - was donated by fellow Swede Bjorn Hellberg. “He is an old friend of the Library, who has been visiting for more than 50 years,” says Robert. “He is a tennis authority, a detective novelist, and the host of a popular quiz show.”
Others celebrate a pure love of tennis in which Wimbledon contributes significantly to the conversation, such as Tenisowe Dzwieki (Tennis Sounds) – a personal memoir of interviews with tennis stars and the game’s leading figures, donated by Cezary Gurjew from Poland.
We were also very grateful that Dutch tennis collector Peer Linz brought in 40: Love – Forty Years of Porsche Tennis Grand Prix signed by authors Markus Gunthardt and Dieter Fischer, and Wolfgang Porsche. “It marks 40 years of the WTA tournament in Stuttgart.”
Occasionally, gratitude for a donation calls for a bit of tact. When someone has kindly gone to a lot of trouble to bring the Library a volume that looks interesting, they always receive a warm welcome and a big thank you even though the same volume may already be on the shelves.
Au fond, it takes a collector to understand a collector, as Robert vouches. “Attila Szabo, one of the biggest collectors of tennis literature from Bethesda, Maryland, brought in a full 1938 volume of the Hungarian periodical, Tenisz. It is very rare, and he knew Alan particularly loves periodicals.”
The Library, founded in 1976 by Alan Little, holds one of the largest and most diverse collections of tennis literature in the world. Dating from the birth of Lawn Tennis in the 1870s to the present day, the collection holds books, magazines, yearbooks, annuals, programmes and newspaper cuttings from more than 80 countries and continues to grow all the time.