Elegant 1950s tennis champion Budge Patty dies at 97

Budge Patty, one of only three Americans to win the French and Wimbledon men’s singles championships in the same year and a glamor figur...


Budge Patty, one of only three Americans to win the French and Wimbledon men’s singles championships in the same year and a glamor figure on the international tennis scene of the 1950s, died Monday in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was 97 years old.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced his death in a hospital on Friday. He had lived in Europe for over 70 years and at his death resided in Lausanne.

Patty honed his skills as a teenager at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and won the United States Junior Championship in 1941 and 1942. But he moved to Paris after WWII and played primarily on the mainland and in the Great Britain. -Brittany.

He was ranked world No.1 in 1950, when he defeated Jaroslav Drobny, the Czech defector, in five sets to win the French championships, then only needed four sets to defeat Australian Frank Sedgman. in the Wimbledon final. Don Move, in 1938, and Tony Trabert, in 1955, are the only other American men to have won the singles titles at these two Grand Slam tournaments in one year. (Trabert passed away in february to 90.)

Known for exceptional all-round play but especially for a solid forehand volley, Patty was generally in the top 10 of the world rankings between 1947 and 1957 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, in 1977.

But he played sporadically in the US Nationals in Forest Hills, Queens, never advancing beyond the singles quarterfinals, and he did not make it to the Australian Championships.

Patty was almost invariably described as beautiful, elegant, and a fashionable dresser. In late July 1950, anticipating Patty’s appearance in Forest Hills in search of a third major triumph that year, Allison Danzig, the longtime New York Times tennis writer, noted how Gussie Moran made a splash by wearing a short skirt and lace underwear at Wimbledon. “Now men’s tennis has its glamor,” he wrote.

“Budge Patty has made them look pale on the French Riviera for the past few years,” Danzig continued, adding: “It wasn’t fair, that someone so tall and handsome, with that je ne sais quoi that defies translation but forces surrender, would have to spend all his time on the mainland despite having a good home in California.

But all Forest Hills fans inclined to swoon over Patty have been disappointed. He injured his ankle while playing doubles at Newport in mid-August and was unable to compete at the United States Nationals later that summer.

John Edward Patty was born February 11, 1924 in Fort Smith, Ark. His family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was young.

According to the Hall of Fame, he got his nickname when a brother, considering him lazy, called him Budge to argue that he often doesn’t do exactly that.

After winning two junior championships, Patty entered the Air Force during WWII. He won the singles championship in a tournament organized for the Allied soldiers on the French Riviera in September 1945. Three years later, he took up residence in Paris.

He had a French-born grandmother and an Austrian grandfather, and once remarked that “as a child, I knew I would love Europe”.

Patty teamed up with Pauline Betz winning the mixed doubles of 1946 at the French championships then losing to Frank Parker in the French singles final in 1949 before seizing it the following year.

He played in all French tournaments and at Wimbledon from 1946 to 1960. “Budge Patty’s perfect manners and exquisite tennis style made him a Wimbledon idol for 15 years,” wrote E. Digby Baltzell in his book “Sporting Gentlemen” (1995).

His most memorable match was a marathon duel with Drobny in the third round of the Wimbledon Championships in 1953.

Lasting nearly four and a half hours over five sets and 93 games, it ended after 9 p.m. in the dark when Patty succumbed after wasting six match points.

“I could barely see a thing and I was so tired I barely knew where I was,” he told UK newspaper The Telegraph in 2000, recalling the last moments.

At 33, Patty teamed up with 43-year-old Gardnar Mulloy to win the Wimbledon men’s doubles championship in 1957, blowing Australians Lew Hoad and Neale Fraser, who were in their early twenties.

Remained an amateur throughout his career, Patty won 46 singles championships.

He married Maria Marcina Sfezzo, the daughter of a Brazilian engineering magnate, in 1961. She survives him with two daughters, Christine and Elaine Patty.

In an interview with The Times in 1958, Patty, who at the time was playing four or five months a year while working for a Paris travel agency and enjoying life in Europe, said he didn’t expect not to compete in your forties.

The world-class players who did it had never “smoked, drunk or gone to bed after 10 am,” he said. “I preferred to enjoy life.

But 50 years after his double triumph in Grand Slam tournaments, Patty bristled at the way he had been portrayed in sports pages.

“Tennis players then are like tennis players now,” he told The Telegraph in 2000. “If they see someone wearing a tie, they think it’s strange. was like, ‘Wow, Budge is wearing a tailored jacket, he must be a secret agent.’ It was ridiculous. I never paid attention to it. “

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Elegant 1950s tennis champion Budge Patty dies at 97
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