John Barrett (tennis)

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John Edward Barrett MBE
Born (1931-04-17)April 17, 1931
Mill Hill
Nationality British
Occupation Tennis player, sports commentator, author

John Barrett MBE (born 17 April 1931) is a former tennis player, TV commentator and author. He was born in Mill Hill, North West London, the son of Alfred Edward Barrett, a leaf tobacco merchant, and Margaret Helen Barrett (née Walker). He had one sister, Irene Margaret Leppington (1925–2009), a research chemist. His father had the rare distinction of having played both for Leicester Tigers RFC as a wing three-quarter and for Leicester Fosse FC (the former Leicester City) as a wing half.

Educated at University College School in Hampstead, he was a prominent British junior tennis player and won the National Schoolboy title in 1948. He also played three years of junior country rugby for Middlesex, captaining an unbeaten team in his last year. He was twice the Royal Air Force tennis champion during his period of National Service which he completed before going up to St. John's College, Cambridge(1951–1954), where he gained an honours degree in History. He represented Cambridge in three winning years against Oxford, captaining the team in his last year, and twice represented Oxford and Cambridge in the biennial match against Harvard and Yale for the Prentice Cup, winning in 1952 and losing in 1954.

He went on to compete at Wimbledon for eighteen years from 1951, reaching the third round of the singles on four occasions and the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles three times. At his peak he was ranked as his country's fifth best singles player. His doubles successes included the capture of the 1953 National Covered Court title with Don Black of Rhodesia and the 1956 Asian Doubles with Roger Becker. In 1956 he became a Davis Cup player and was appointed captain of the British Davis Cup team for the years 1959-1962. Three years later he established and ran the LTA Training Squad, known as "The Barrett Boys" which set new standards of fitness in British tennis between 1965 and 1968.

In 1955 he had joined Slazengers Ltd., the sports equipment firm, as a trainee executive and remained with them for 39 years rising to become the International Promotions Director for tennis and a member of the Board of Directors until his retirement in 1994. During his time with the company he became the tennis correspondent of the Financial Times in 1963, a post he filled as a freelance contributor until 2006. In 1986 he joined the team that compiles the daily crossword for the pink paper and still compiles a themed crossword for each year's Wimbledon.

To mark the start of open tennis in 1968 he launched the yearbook World of Tennis (which for the first two years was published as "The BP Yearbook of World Tennis") in 1969, editing and contributing to it for the next 33 years. From 1981 to 2001, when the last issue was published, this bible of the game was also the official yearbook of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

His other writing includes Tennis and Racket Games (Macdonald 1975), Play Tennis With Rosewall, a coaching manual produced in collaboration with the great Australian champion, and he co-authored From Where I Sit, the autobiography of Dan Maskell, his predecessor as Wimbledon's Voice of Tennis for BBC Television. His monument to the game "100 Wimbledons - a Celebration" was first published in 1986 and re-published in 2001 as "Wimbledon - the Official History of The Championships". A third revised and expanded edition, "Wimbledon the Official History", brought the story up to date when it was published in May 2013. In June 2014 a fourth edition appeared to include the historic events of 2013 when Andy Murray became the first British men's champion for 77 years.

His broadcasting career with BBC Television began in 1971 and he followed Dan Maskell as the BBC's 'Voice of Wimbledon' until his retirement following Wimbledon in 2006. He also commentated for Channel 9, Australia (1980-1986) and for Channel Seven, Australia (1987 - 2007) and at various times for HBO, ESPN, and the USA Networks in America, CTV in Canada and both ATV and TVB in Hong Kong. In 2007 he was awarded the MBE for Services to Sports Broadcasting. For ten years he served as President of The Dan Maskell Trust, a charitable organisation established in 1997 to help people with disabilities to play tennis.

A member of the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain since 1953, he served as Chairman from 1983-1994, as President from 2004-2008 and is currently a Vice-President.

A member of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since 1955 and currently a Vice-President, he served for twelve years on the Club Committee and the Committee of Management of The Championships, during which time he started to compile a complete database of every result that has ever occurred at Wimbledon, in all events. This mammoth task took some 20 years to complete and can now be accessed on the Club's web site.

In April 1967 he married the former French, Australian and Wimbledon champion Angela Mortimer and they have a son, a daughter and four grandchildren. In 2014 Barrett was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.[1]


Awards and honours[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]

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