Tony Wilding

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Tony Wilding
Anthony wilding, ca 1912.jpg
Wilding c. 1912
Full name Anthony Frederick Wilding
Country (sports)  New Zealand
Born (1883-10-31)31 October 1883
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died 9 May 1915(1915-05-09) (aged 31)
Neuve-Chapelle, France
Height 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
Plays Right-handed (1-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF 1978 (member page)
Career titles 118
Highest ranking No. 1 (1911, Karoly Mazak)[1]
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (1906, 1909)
Wimbledon W (1910, 1911, 1912, 1913)
Other tournaments
WHCC W (1913, 1914)
WCCC W (1913)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open W (1906)
Wimbledon W (1907, 1908, 1910, 1914)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
Wimbledon F (1914)
Team competitions
Davis Cup W (1907, 1908, 1909, 1914)

Anthony "Tony" Frederick Wilding (31 October 1883 – 9 May 1915) was a former World number 1 tennis player from Christchurch, New Zealand and a soldier killed in action during World War I.[2]

Wilding was the son of wealthy English immigrants to New Zealand and enjoyed the use of private tennis courts at their home. He obtained a legal education at Trinity College, Cambridge and briefly joined his father's law firm. Wilding was a first-class cricketer and a keen motorcycle enthusiast. His tennis career started with him winning the Canterbury Championships aged 17. He developed into a leading tennis player in the world during 1909–1914 and is considered to be a former World number 1. He won 11 Grand Slam tournament titles including six in singles and five in doubles[a]. He also won three ILTF World Championships; the World Hard Court Championships twice and the World Covered Court Championships once. Wilding also won the Davis Cup four times playing for Australasia, and won a bronze medal at the indoor singles tennis event of the 1912 Olympics which made him the first and only player ever from New Zealand to win a Olympic medal in tennis in the Summer Olympics,a record which still remains unbroken as of 2016. He still holds a number of all time singles tennis records namely 75 [3] career clay court titles (1900–15), 23 titles won in a single season (1906) [3] and 114 career outdoor titles (shared with Rod Laver). In his ranking list of greatest tennis players compiled in 1950, Norman Brookes, winner of three Majors and president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, put Wilding in fourth place. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I he enlisted and was killed on 9 May 1915 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve-Chapelle, France. In 1978 Wilding was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Wilding was the second of five children of Frederick Wilding and Julia Anthony and was named after both parents.[4] Cora Wilding was a younger sister.[5] Wilding's parents emigrated from Herefordshire, England to Christchurch after their marriage in 1879. His father was a well-to-do lawyer in Christchurch, New Zealand who also played tennis and won several doubles championships of New Zealand. His mother was the daughter of Alderman Charles Anthony, mayor of Hereford.[4] At their farmlet, situated on the banks of the Heathcote River to the south of the town, they had two tennis courts, one asphalt court for use in the winter and one grass court for summer play.[6][7] Wilding started playing tennis in 1889, at age six, after receiving a racquet from manufacturer Ralph Slazenger.[8] He was first educated at William Wilson's private school for boys in Cranmer Square, where he was captain of the school football team at age 12.[9][8] Wilding passed his matriculation in 1901 after failing at his first attempt in 1900.[10][11] He attended a term at the Canterbury University College for six months prior to departing on his seven-week sea voyage to England in July 1902 where he first stayed at a cramming school at Hunstanton before passing his entrance examination for Trinity College, Cambridge University to study law.[12][13] There he developed his tennis game as a member of the Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club. In March 1904, during his second year, he became honorary secretary of the club and managed to popularize the game.[14][15] He visited the 1903 Wimbledon Championships to see former champion Harold Mahony play.[16] Although Wilding did not excel academically he passed the law examination and graduated B.A. in June 1905 after which he returned to New Zealand to join his father's law practice.[17] Finishing his education, he was called to the English Bar at the Inner Temple in June 1906.[17]

Tennis career[edit]

In October 1901 at the age of 17 Wilding won his first singles title at the Canterbury Championships.[18][19][20] In July 1903, during his first summer vacation at Trinity College, Wilding entered his first English public tournament at Sheffield and Hallamshire. He reached the semifinal of the singles event, defeating English top-10 player F.W. Payn in the second round, before losing to G.C. Allen.[21][22][23] At the 1903 Brighton tournament he won the mixed doubles partnering Dorothea Douglass, the reigning Wimbledon ladies champion.[24]

He made his first appearance at the Wimbledon Championships in June 1904, defeating Albert Prebble in the first round of the singles event before losing to Harold Mahony in the second in four sets.[25] Shortly afterwards, at the Welsh Championships, he reached his first singles final which he lost in straight sets to S.H. Smith.[26] He won his first title in England at the Championships of Shropshire followed by a win at the Thompson Challenge Cup in Redhill; both relatively new and minor events on the tennis circuit.[27] In August 1904 Wilding won the Scottish national championships in Moffat. In July 1905 he made his first Davis Cup appearance as part of the Australasia team[b] in the semifinal against Austria, played at the Queen's Club, London. Australasia won 5–0 and Wilding won both his singles matches but in the final they were defeated 5–0 by the United States.[28] In 1906 Wilding toured during almost the entire year across continental Europe and England, sometimes travelling by train but most often on his beloved motorcycle. He played and won tournaments in cities throughout Europe including Cannes, Paris, Lyon, Barcelona, Wiesbaden, Reading, Prague, Bad Homburg and Vienna. At some of the tournaments in England and Germany he was accompanied by his father with whom he played in various doubles competitions. Together they won the doubles title at the Sheffield and Hallamshire tournament in June 1906. After winning the singles title at the London Covered Courts Championships in October, beating George Caridia in the final,[29] he travelled by boat to New Zealand and in December won the Australasian Championships singles title, defeating Francis Fisher in the final, and doubles title, partnering compatriot Rodney Heath.[30] A week later he also won the New Zealand Championship against Harry Parker in the final.[31] In 1908 he partnered Major Ritchie to win the doubles title at the South of France tournament against multiple Wimbledon champions Lawrence and Reginald Doherty.[32]

Between 1907 and 1909 he helped the Australasian team win three consecutive Davis Cups, the first against the British Isles at Wimbledon and the last two against the United States.[33] He won his second Australasian Championships in 1909, defeating Ernie Parker in the final in straight sets. The same year he qualified as a Barrister and Solicitor at the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Focusing on his tennis game, he won the Wimbledon singles title for four straight years between 1910 and 1913. In 1910 and 1912 he defeated Arthur Gore in the final, both times in four sets. In 1911 his opponent Herbert Barrett retired in the final at two sets all. In 1913 at Wimbledon tennis player and author A. Wallis Myers says that he played "the best game of his life", beating American Maurice McLoughlin, the 1912 U.S. National Championships winner, in three straight sets.[34][35] In 1914 he narrowly missed winning his fifth title in a row, losing in the final to Norman Brookes. In addition, he won four men's doubles titles at Wimbledon, in 1907 and 1914 with Norman Brookes and in 1908 and 1910 partnering with Major Ritchie.[36][37]

He missed the 1908 Olympics in London because of administrative bungling, but at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm won a bronze medal in the men's indoor singles for Australasia.[38][39]

Wilding won a unique World Championships triple in 1913:[40]

At the time these were all three of the official World Championships events (Major tennis titles) as designated by the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF).[41][c] In 1914 Wilding retained his World Hard Court Championship title in Paris without losing a single set, defeating Ludwig von Salm-Hoogstraeten in the final.[42]

In 1914, he returned to Davis Cup play, and together with Norman Brookes lead the Australasian team to another championship, defeating the United States team in the Challenge round before their home crowd at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York.[43] This turned out to be his final tournament. He had entered the 1914 U.S. Championships which followed later in August but withdrew due to the outbreak of World War I and returned to England.[44][45][46]

Wilding was a leading tennis player in the world during 1909–1914 and is considered a former World No. 1. Norman Brookes in 1950 compiled a ranking list of greatest tennis players and put Wilding fourth behind Bill Tilden and the Dohertys, and ahead of Budge, Kramer, Lacoste and Perry.[47]

Other sports[edit]

He also played for the Canterbury cricket team in the early 1900s where he participated in two first-class matches as a lower middle-order medium-pace batsman and change bowler.[48][49] During his first summer at Cambridge in 1903 he focused almost exclusively on cricket before switching to tennis.[50] Wilding also played rugby at Trinity College and was part of the Trinity team that competed against Racing Club de France.[51][52] He was a keen motorcycle (with sidecar) rider with many long trips in Europe, New Zealand and America. In 1908 he won a gold medal in a reliability trial from Land's End to John o' Groats. Several "mighty rides" (Myers) in Europe in 1910 included London to Lake Geneva and back, some 3,000 miles (4,800 km), including 350 miles (560 km) from Évian-les-Bains to Paris in one day. He ventured into places with poor roads like Hungary and Serbia. Wilding frequently used a motorcycle to travel between tennis tournaments on the European continent.[53]

Major finals[edit]

Grand Slam singles[edit]

Anthony Wilding, ca 1912
Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner 1906 Australasian Championships Grass New Zealand Francis Fisher 6–0, 6–4, 6–4
Winner 1909 Australasian Championships Grass Australia Ernie Parker 6–1, 7–5, 6–2
Winner 1910 Wimbledon Grass United Kingdom Arthur Gore 6–4, 7–5, 4–6, 6–2
Winner 1911 Wimbledon Grass United Kingdom Herbert Roper Barrett 6–4, 4–6, 2–6, 6–2 ret.
Winner 1912 Wimbledon Grass United Kingdom Arthur Gore 6–4, 6–4, 4–6, 6–4
Winner 1913 Wimbledon Grass United States Maurice McLoughlin 8–6, 6–3, 10–8
Runner-up 1914 Wimbledon Grass Australia Norman Brookes 4–6, 4–6, 5–7

World Championships singles[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner 1913 World Hard Court Championships Clay France André Gobert 6–3, 6–3, 1–6, 6–4
Winner 1913 World Covered Court Championships Wood France Maurice Germot 5–7, 6–2, 6–3, 6–1
Winner 1914 World Hard Court Championships Clay Austria-Hungary Ludwig von Salm-Hoogstraeten 6–0, 6–2, 6–4

Military service and death[edit]

Wilding in his armoured car in Paris in January 1915

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Wilding joined the Royal Marines on advice of Winston Churchill who was then First Lord of the Admiralty.[54] He was gazetted a second lieutenant in early October 1914.[55] Wilding remained in the Marines for just a few days and was then attached to the Intelligence Corps due to his intimate knowledge of the continent and his skills as a motorist.[55][56] At the end of October he joined the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division in the battlefields of northern France where he had thirty men, three guns and armoured cars under his command. After a week's leave in London in February 1915 he returned to France on 16 March 1915 and was posted to a new squadron made up of armoured Rolls Royce cars under the command of the Duke of Westminster.[55] He was ranked a lieutenant. Before long the squadron was moved near the front and on 2 May Wilding received notice of his promotion to captain. In his last letter dated 8 May he wrote "For really the first time in seven and a half months I have a job on hand which is likely to end in gun, I, and the whole outfit being blown to hell. However if we succeed we will help our infantery no end.".[57][58] The next day, 9 May, he was killed in action at 4:45 in the afternoon during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve-Chapelle, France when a shell exploded on the roof of the dug-out he was sheltering in.[17][47][59]

Captain Tony Wilding was buried the next day at the front but was later re-interred at the Rue-des-Berceaux Military Cemetery in Richebourg-l'Avoué, Pas-de-Calais, France.[60] He had been dating and was about to marry Broadway star Maxine Elliott, 15 years his senior.[61]


In 1978, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.[62] Wilding Park, the principal venue for tennis in Christchurch, New Zealand, was named after his father, Frederick, but in the public perception became associated with him.[63] The New Zealand Post issued a stamp of Anthony Wilding in 1992 as part of the Health Stamps series to support children with emotional and behavioural problems.[64] Wilding Foundation, that grants scholarships was set up in 2009 in part to honour Anthony Wilding. The Wilding Foundation was active in the Christchurch quakes that destroyed the city, raising and donating money to local causes. In mid 2013 Anna Wilding discovered that Wilson Tennis Rackets, sold and made, without permission, a line of "Wilding" tennis rackets for a period spanning 20 years after Wilding's death. This led to an article in New York Times in 2012 by sports journalist Harvey Araton.[65]


All time[edit]

Tournament Since Record accomplished Players matched
All tournaments 1877 114 career outdoor titles won (1900–1915)[3] Rod Laver
All tournaments 1877 75 career clay court titles won (1900–1915)[3] Stands alone
All tournaments 1877 23 titles won in a single season (1906)[3] Stands alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ He is the first and only player from New Zealand to have won a Grand Slam singles title, the first player from New Zealand to win a Grand Slam doubles title and also the first player from New Zealand to win a Grand Slam title.
  2. ^ Between 1905 and 1914 Australia and New Zealand entered the Davis Cup competition as a combined Australasia team. Wilding would be the only New Zealander to play for the team while it existed.
  3. ^ The current four majors were only made officially so from 1924/1925


  1. ^ Mazak, Karoly (2010). The Concise History of Tennis, p. 39.
  2. ^ "Olympians Who Were Killed or Missing in Action or Died as a Result of War". Sports Reference. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Simons, Asher. "Sporting Heroes: Anthony Wilding - Wimbledon champ died on Western Front". The Independent Newspaper UK. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Wallis Myers (1916), p. 7
  5. ^ Sargison, Patricia A. "Wilding, Cora Hilda Blanche". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Wilding, Anthony F. (1912). On The Court And Off. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 88. 
  7. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 18
  8. ^ a b Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 24
  9. ^ Wallis Myers (1916), p. 37
  10. ^ Wallis Myers (1916), p. 45
  11. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), pp. 32–33
  12. ^ Wilding (1913), p. 97
  13. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 39–41
  14. ^ Wilding (1913), pp. 100–101
  15. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 73
  16. ^ Wilding (1913), p. 109
  17. ^ a b c "Biographies – Wilding, Anthony Frederick". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "Lawn tennis – Canterbury Championships". The Press. LVIII (11099). 18 October 1901. p. 5. 
  19. ^ Wallis Myers (1916), p. 43
  20. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 29
  21. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), pp. 61–62
  22. ^ "Lawn Tennis – Sheffield and Hallamshire Club". The Sheffield Daily Independent (British Newspaper Archive). 3 July 1903. p. 10. (subscription required (help)). 
  23. ^ "Lawn Tennis – Sheffield and Hallamshire Club". The Sheffield Daily Independent (British Newspaper Archive). 4 July 1903. p. 10. (subscription required (help)). 
  24. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 64
  25. ^ "Lawn Tennis". The New Zealand Herald XLI (12618). 27 July 1904. p. 7. 
  26. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), pp. 78–79
  27. ^ Richardson & Richardson (2005), p. 79
  28. ^ Huka (6 September 1905). "Lawn Tennis – International Contest". Evening Post LXX (58). p. 3. 
  29. ^ "Lawn Tennis". Evening Post. LXXII (120). 17 November 1906. p. 14. 
  30. ^ "The Tennis Tournament". Evening Post. 31 December 1906. p. 2. 
  31. ^ "The Finals". Evening Post. 2 January 1907. p. 3. 
  32. ^ "LAWN TENNIS.". The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903–1920) (Albury, NSW: National Library of Australia). 19 March 1908. p. 4. 
  33. ^ "Lawn Tennis – Spirited Contest for Davis Cup". The Straits Times (23,155). 30 December 1909. p. 3. 
  34. ^ A. Wallis Myers (1916). Captain Anthony Wilding (PDF). London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 161. 
  35. ^ Wallis Myers, Arthur (1921). Twenty Years of Lawn Tennis – Some Personal Memories (PDF). London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. pp. 26, 27. 
  36. ^ "Lawn Tennis – Success of Wilding and Ritchie". Evening Post. 17 August 1910. p. 9. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  37. ^ Collins, Bud (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). [New York]: New Chapter Press. pp. 417, 435, 436, 660, 661. ISBN 978-0942257700. 
  38. ^ "Anglo-Colonial Tennis". Auckland Star. XXXIX (172). 20 July 1908. p. 6. 
  39. ^ "Tony Wilding Olympic Results". Retrieved 2013-05-15. 
  40. ^ "Lawn Tennis". Poverty Bay Herald XL (13235). 18 November 1913. p. 5. 
  41. ^ "The End of the Early World Clay Court Championships". Histoire du Tennis. 
  42. ^ "1912–1914 The first World Clay Court Championships". Histoire du Tennis. 
  43. ^ "Davis Cup – Results 1914 Challenge Round". ITF. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  44. ^ "In National Lawn Tennis Tourney at Newport – Wilding Defaults". The Paterson Press. 25 August 1914. 
  45. ^ Talbert, Bill (1967). Tennis Observed – The USLTA Men's Singles Champions, 1881–1966. Barre: Barre Publishers. p. 92. OCLC 172306. 
  46. ^ "Tennis Cracks in Championship" (PDF). The New York Times. 23 August 1914. 
  47. ^ a b "Anthony Wilding: Wimbledon Champion 1910–1914". Wilding family. 2001. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  48. ^ "Players – Anthony Wilding". Cricket Archive. 
  49. ^ "Player profile – Tony Wilding". ESPN. 
  50. ^ Wallis Myers (1916), p. 50
  51. ^ Wilding (1913), p. 106
  52. ^ Wallis Myers (1916), p. 59
  53. ^ Captain Anthony Wilding (PDF). London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1916. pp. 133, 134. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  54. ^ "Lieut. Anthony Wilding – From Tennis to the Royal Marines". Feilding Star XI (2464). 5 October 1914. p. 2. 
  55. ^ a b c A. Wallis Myers (1916). Captain Anthony Wilding (PDF). London: Hodder and Stoughton. pp. 260–267. 
  56. ^ "Anthony Wilding Appointed Lieutenant". Wairarapa Daily Times LXVI (12098). 5 October 1914. p. 5. 
  57. ^ Captain Anthony Wilding (PDF). London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1916. p. 286. 
  58. ^ "Wilding's Heroic Death". Poverty Bay Herald XLII (13750). 31 July 1915. p. 3. 
  59. ^ "Wilding Foresaw Death.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 31 July 1915. p. 17. 
  60. ^ "Casualty Details – Wilding, Anthony Frederick". Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWCG). 
  61. ^ Anna Wilding (May 12, 2013) [August 19, 2008]. "The US Tennis Open and Anthony Wilding". Herald de Paris. 
  62. ^ "Net Inductees". Rome News-Tribune. Jul 12, 1978. 
  63. ^ Joseph Romanos. "Tennis – The development of tennis, 1870s to 1910s". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  64. ^ "Health". New Zealand Post. 
  65. ^ Harvey Arathon (22 June 2013). "Researching a Tennis Legacy, and Uncovering a Potential Injustice". The New York Times. 


External links[edit]