So much more than just a ghost of British tennis past,
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This review is from: The Last Champion: The Life of Fred Perry (Paperback)
This is a first-class account of Britain's most successful tennis player, and no mistake.
Anyone who has observed the continuous Henman and Murray-bashing from the British press in recent years will know all too well that Perry was the last British male Grand Slam winner. But the story of Fred Perry's life and career - when tennis was a completely different game and based on completely different principles - is nothing less than fantastical.
It is a surprise to many that Perry hailed from relatively humble beginnings in Stockport, at odds with the perception of accessibility to UK tennis at that time (some would argue those perceptions still exist). Jon Henderson has provided us with a wonderful account of Perry's upbringing, his father's political persuasions, and Perry's trailblazing tennis techniques - as well as his playboy lifestyle.
What Henderson does so well in this book is provide a really evocative sense of tennis in the 20s, 30s and 40s; with lavish attention given to the seemingly endless cast of colorful characters that Perry played, befriended, or romantically encountered. Henderson also provides a tennis biography which is rare in the sense that it encompasses the period where amateur and professional players were completely segregated; where Perry's greatest battles and sense of self were as an amateur, the professional tour of the day is revisited as gruelling, and evidently less rewarding for Perry (certainly in terms of competition).
I have to say, after reading this book I did get the urge to attend some sort of 1930's soiree, such was the impact of Henderson's narrative. Fred Perry has ensured that all future British tennis players have an awful lot to live up to; and this biography is fittingly grand. For anyone keen to know exactly who it is that haunts Henman Hill every Summer, this book will be compulsory reading.