Frederick John “Fred” Perry (18 May 1909 – 2 February 1995) was a championship-winning English tennis and table tennis player who won 10 Majors including eight Grand Slams and two Pro Slams single titles, as well as six Major doubles titles.
Perry won three consecutive Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936 and was World Amateur number one tennis player during those three years.
From 1927 to 1967, the International Lawn Tennis Federation treated all amateur champions as though they no longer existed, from the moment they turned professional.
Perry, who turned pro at the end of the 1936 season, suffered the same fate.
Only in 1968, with the introduction of “Open Tennis” did this state of affairs come to an end.
After becoming disillusioned with the class-conscious nature of the Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain, the working-class Perry moved to the United States before becoming a naturalised US citizen in 1938.
In 1942, he was drafted into the US Air Force during the Second World War.
Perry’s success attracted the adoration of the crowds at Wimbledon particularly as he contrasted sharply with the privileged background of most patrons and players associated with the All England Club at the time.
The upper echelons of the British tennis establishment greeted his success more coolly, regarding him as an “upstart”.
After winning his maiden Wimbledon title, Perry recalled overhearing a Wimbledon committee member remark that “the best man didn’t win.”
His All England Club member’s tie, awarded to all winners of the Championships, was left for him on a chair in his dressing room.
Perry had a romantic relationship with the actress Marlene Dietrich and in 1934 he announced his engagement to the British actress Mary Lawson, but the relationship fell apart after Perry moved to America.
In 1935 he married an American film star Helen Vinson, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1940.
In 1941 he was briefly married to a model, Sandra Breaux.
Then, in 1945, he married Lorraine Walsh, but that marriage also ended quickly.
Perry’s final marriage to Barbara Riese in 1952 lasted over forty years, until his death. They had two children Penny and David. The sister of Barbara (Bobby) Riese was the actress Patricia Roc.
In his 1979 autobiography, fellow tennis great Jack Kramer named Perry one of the six best players of all time.
Kramer recounted, “Whenever an opponent would make an especially good shot, Perry would cry out “very clevah.” I never played Fred competitively, but I heard enough from other guys that that “very clevah” drove a lot of opponents crazy.”
He described Perry’s reputation for being “an opportunist, a selfish and egotistical person,” who “never gave a damn about professional tennis.” This sentiment echoed the views of the tennis hierarchy during Perry’s time, unable to accept the success of an ordinary man from the working class.
Despite his early unpopularity, Perry’s enduring legend, as the last male British player to win Wimbledon, has made him Britain’s most celebrated tennis player.
In 1984, a statue of Fred Perry was erected inside the Church Road gate at the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his first singles championship.
The Somerset Road entrance to the Wimbledon grounds was also renamed the Fred Perry Gates.
In his birthplace, a special 14–mile (23 km) walking route, Fred Perry Way, was built by the borough of Stockport and officially opened in September 2002.