An Article partially about Phyllis Mudford King, at the time of this article the oldest living Wimbledon champion. Phyllis lived until 2006, living over 100 years.
From the Guardian:
'It was a sport in my day'
Jon Henderson tracks down the oldest surviving Wimbledon champion, who remembers a friendly sport - and one played with a lot less luggage
- There is a lovely little annual treasure by Alan Little, the Wimbledon Compendium , and it was in here that I made the discovery that the oldest surviving male and female title winners are Britons.
This is not entirely surprising, given that domestic competitors dominated the tournament in its early years. The good thing is it means that the champions of longevity are close at hand.
The oldest of them all is Phyllis King, who as Miss Mudford won the 1931 women's doubles with Dorothy Shepherd-Barron. She will enter her hundredth year in August, but her voice sounds as if the phone rang just as she happened to be walking past on her way outside for a set or two. 'Yes,' she says, 'please come and see me' - and gives precise directions to her home in Surrey, warning that the front gate is on a particularly dangerous bend.
She is, of course, frailer than she sounds, but has an extraordinarily robust constitution for someone who was born in August 1905 when the Queen's great-grandfather Edward VII was on the throne and the outbreak of the Great War was still nearly a decade away.
'They were happy days,' says King, who was captain of tennis at Sutton High School. 'Tennis wasn't so important and serious as it is today. It was a sport in my day. We used to walk off court with our opponents in a friendly way, which doesn't seem to happen any more. And they seem to have so much luggage now.'
Mudford, as she then was, and Shepherd-Barron were unseeded when they beat the French player Doris Metaxa and Josane Sigart, of Belgium, the fourth seeds, 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the 1931 final. She giggles helplessly when I read her the following from a Daily Telegraph report of the match, which is pasted into her cuttings book: 'Had Miss Mudford broken down, had she not proved a Gibraltar in the siege, Belgium and France between them must have gained another triumph.'
'We each got a £10 voucher and a very nice gold medal,' says King. They were told that they should not spend the money on 'articles of domestic necessity', but on something that was more in keeping with a prize. King used to save up the vouchers she received for winning and put them together to buy something special at Harrod's.
King, a widow, was less successful as a singles player, the quarter-finals in 1930 being her best result in 16 visits to Wimbledon - the last of them in 1953 when she was a few weeks short of her forty-eighth birthday. But she was a doughty competitor with heavy groundstrokes, notably a severe forehand.
One of her finest singles victories was in the 1931 Beckenham final when she trounced the formidable Dorothy Round, twice a Wimbledon champion, 6-1 6-2. In its report of the match, The Observer referred to her 'hurricane drives'. Round would avenge that defeat when she beat King in three hard sets on the way to the first of her titles in 1934.
She watches Wimbledon avidly on television and says she admires what she calls 'the wonderful play' of the modern player. 'They are so accurate and so strong these days, but you can't compare the way they play with the way we did. They are much more forceful, but not nearly so tactical.'
She regards Tim Henman (whose grandparents, the Billingtons, she used to play with at the All England Club) as very talented, but doubts whether he can make it through the two weeks to the title.
On the men's side, Raymond Tuckey is the oldest surviving champion, the 1936 winner of the men's doubles with Pat Hughes. He celebrated his ninety-fourth birthday 12 days ago. He is too hard of hearing to be interviewed, so his 82-year-old sister, Kay Maule, a women's singles quarter-finalist in 1951, does the reminiscing. Like King, Maule is strikingly hale for her age.
'I was there with our mother,' recalls Maule of the day Tuckey and Hughes beat another British pair, Charles Hare and Frank Wilde, 6-4 in the fifth on Centre Court. 'I can just about remember it and that it was very exciting and terribly emotional. My mother was in floods of tears. That was the year Fred Perry won the last of his singles titles and Raymond and Pat were also the last British pair to win the men's doubles.'
Tennis families were a feature of the tennis scene in those days. Tuckey's mother, Agnes, won the Wimbledon mixed-doubles title with Hope Crisp in 1913 and in the 1930s, when in her fifties, partnered Raymond in the mixed, the only instance of a parent and child teaming up at the championships. They also knew the Billingtons.
So what does Raymond Tuckey reckon the chances are of Henry Billington's grandson finally assuaging the longings of the Henmaniacs? Thumbs down here, too, sadly. Maule reports, showing an unexpected acquaintance with modern idiom, that her brother worries that Henman doesn't have the bottle to do it