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The 1954 Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship

7th July 2016

wimbledon, signed, tennis, jaroslav drobny, maureen connolly, lew hoad, little mo, ken rosewall, tennis memorabilia, sportspages
THE 1954 LAWN TENNIS ASSOCIATION’S DINNER MENU – SIGNED BY MANY WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONS

The 1954 Wimbledon Tennis Championship was hugely significant for its two eventual champions: Male singles champion, Jaroslav Drobny and female singles champion, ‘Little Mo’ Maureen Connolly. 32 year old Drobny won his first and only Wimbledon title in 1954 after 11 previous, unsuccessful attempts. He also won the competition as an Egyptian citizen, the only Egyptian citizen to do so in the history of Wimbledon. For 19 year old ‘Little Mo’ Connolly,  already a phenomenon in tennis, the 1954 women’s Wimbledon title was to be her third and unexpectedly her last. They, along with several of their finalists, signed this dinner menu for the ball (code: 38174), celebrating the end of that year’s Wimbledon competition.

Jaroslav Drobny was a Czech sports star, excelling in both tennis and ice hockey. When he won Wimbledon, he achieved a number of firsts. He was the first and only male tennis player to win Wimbledon, wearing glasses! Over his long tennis career, he also competed at Wimbledon under 4 different national identities. In 1938 he entered the championships as a Czech citizen. By the following year Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia. So Drobny competed under the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In 1948 a coup led to a Communist government in Czechoslovakia. Drobny was subjected to travel restrictions, which limited his tennis career. So in 1949 Drobny and his doubles partner defected while in Switzerland. Drobny tried unsuccessfully to become a Swiss citizen. Then he tried for American and then Australian citizenship. Finally he was successful – Egypt granted him citizenship and so Drobny became the first Egyptian citizen to win a Grand Slam title!

In 1954 Drobny defeated a young 19 year old in the final, Ken Rosewall, who would become one of the greatest male tennis players of all time. In his early days, however, his fellow tennis players called him ‘Muscles’ for his lack of them. He was small, 5’7″ and he was skinny. But he was also fast, agile, tireless and had a deadly volley. Like ‘Little Mo’,  a fellow Wimbledon finalist in 1954, Rosewall was only 19 in 1954. He had something else in common with her too. Both Little Mo and Ken Rosewall were natural left handers, who had been taught by their respective fathers to play right handed instead. It’s hard to imagine how good they might have been if they had been allowed to continue left handed.

Little Mo was already a tennis superstar in 1954. In 1953, aged just 18, she had become the first woman to win all 4 Grand Slam tournaments during the same calendar year. 1954 was to be her third win at Wimbledon…and unexpectedly her last. Little Mo had been brought up by her mother and her aunt after her parents’ divorce when she was 3. Little Mo had at first wanted to become a horse rider. She turned to tennis because her mother couldn’t afford horse riding lessons. In 1954 Wimbledon finished on the 2nd July. Presumably Little Mo decided to treat herself to a bit of her favourite hobby after the championships. So it was on the 20th July, only two and a half weeks after the tennis tournament finished, that Little Mo had  a terrible riding accident that ended her tennis career.

We found this fantastic footage of all the key Wimbledon players of 1954 – a great slice (not too much pun intended) of Wimbledon history You can see how cool Drobny was in his glasses and how slight Ken Rosewall was…as was Little Mo’ for that matter!