From the Archives

Tennis personalities at Roehampton Club in the early years

In this latest look back at the time of the inaugural Open Tennis Tournament at Roehampton Club in 1914, this article highlights two individuals who had already cemented their places in the history of the Wimbledon Championships as previous winners. One was a Member of Roehampton Club, Captain Hope Crisp who also played golf at a decent level. The other was a native of Australia, Norman Everard Brookes who had already achieved world status in the game and was used by the newspapers at the time to promote the Roehampton Club event with his playing partner in the Men’s doubles, Anthony Fielding featured in a previous edition of this newsletter. 

Captain Hope Crisp and Norman Brookes had achieved notable firsts in their respective appearances at Wimbledon. Captain Hope Crisp was the first-time winner of the Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon in 1913 with his partner Agnes Tuckey. The lady partner in the losing pair in the final that year was Ethel Thomson Larcombe – wife of Major Larcombe who had recently joined Roehampton Club as Games Manager from his role as Tournament Director at the Wimbledon Championships.

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Norman Brookes was the first left-handed and non-British tennis player to win the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon in 1907. He had planned to defend his title the following year but was unable to do so because of the passing of his father requiring him to take charge of the successful family business interests in the paper industry. He was not able to play again at Wimbledon until 1914 when he took the honours in the Men’s Singles winning in the final against his friend and playing partner in the Men’s Doubles, Anthony Fielding. This focus on the family business in the intervening years kept him in Australia, restricting him to appearances in the Victorian Open Grass Court Championships in Melbourne and a single appearance in the Australasian Championships in 1911, where he won the Men’s Singles title against Horace Rice also in his hometown of Melbourne. Brookes also played 39 Davis Cup matches for Australia/New Zealand and the Australian Davis Cup Team finishing in the winning team on no less than five occasions. In 1926, he was appointed President of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia – a role which he held for 29 years. During his time as a player, he even designed a tennis racket of his choosing. His legacy in the game is enshrined in the trophy for the Men’s Singles in the Australian Tennis Championships which is named in his honour. 


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Captain Hope Crisp was an active member of Roehampton Club shortly after the First World War and was responsible for proposing and seconding a number of new Members including Wimbledon Champion Ernest Wool Lewis, who joined the Club in 1919 having previously reached seven Men’s Doubles Finals at the All England Club, winning only on one occasion in 1892. In 1915, while attached to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Captain Hope Crisp was severely wounded on Hill 60 at Ypres resulting in the amputation of his right leg. Despite this disability, Hope Crisp continued to play sport at the Club and amazingly took part in the Wimbledon Championships in 1919 with the use of a prosthetic. He also played golf but without the help of an artificial limb. He helped in the coaching of junior players at the Club and contributed to Red Cross funding activities playing in a series of tennis matches using a peg leg made by the Surgical Requisites Association. One of the newspapers at the time described the spectacle of watching him play right-handed with an artificial right leg which made the act of serving the ball relatively easy but required him to hop around the court to reach the return of the ball. His cheerful temperament was also acknowledged, despite the additional strain on his body and the undoubted frustration of the additional efforts involved to maintain a standard of play before his injuries. Playing from a standing position, he found golf much easier to play balancing on one leg which he thankfully continued well into his later life leaving us with an image of incredible courage and fortitude against the odds. His attitude of mind serves as an example to us all as we live through these difficult and demanding times.

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Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist