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Anthony Wilding: The Tale of the Wimbledon Champion

11 July 2016

In the years leading up to the First World War, one of the most famous sportsmen of the Edwardian era was Anthony (Tony) Wilding. An excellent all-round sportsman, Wilding had been born in New Zealand but his family returned to England in 1902 - from where his parents had emigrated - in order to study with the intention of making a career in law.

He visited Wimbledon for the first time in 1903 as a nineteen year-old spectator, but was back the next year as a competitor, being defeated in the 2nd round. He managed to balance his studies at Cambridge University with his increasingly successful tennis career, and graduated from the university in 1905 - he also made it to the quarter finals at Wimbledon in that year.

Wilding was becoming well known and although he had intended to return to New Zealand to join his father's law firm, the glamour of the tennis circuit could not be easily put to one side and he pursued this avenue, travelling - often by motorbike - to tournaments all over Europe, but in particular in France, winning the Riviera Championship in 1906. (In this year he took part in thirty tournaments and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon).

In 1910, Wilding went on to win Wimbledon for the first time and dominated the tournament for the following three years.

Wilding was also an enthusiastic motorist and on the outbreak of war, after talking to Winston Churchill, he volunteered his services when the Royal Navy appealed for "fifty gentlemen...to bring their own cars and place them at the disposal of the Admiralty".

He went on to serve in France for several months, before losing his life in a shell explosion on 9 May 1915.

Anthony Wilding is commemorated by the CWGC in Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery, Richebourg L'Avoue, France.

...Read more about Wilding's life story here (Archived PDF)


Read the BBC's tribute to Anthony Wilding here (External Link)