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Wilding honoured by Ryman Healthcare development

Anthony Wilding honoured by latest Ryman Healthcare development

It’s hardly surprising that Ryman Healthcare today named their 15th and latest retirement village after tennis legend Anthony Wilding.

Wilding is arguably the greatest New Zealand sports achiever ever. He won four successive Wimbledon titles, two Australian Open titles and four Davis Cup titles.

Wilding never drank alcohol and, unusually for the times, never smoked. At 31, Captain Wilding was killed in action at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in France on May 9, 1915.

Anthony Frederick Wilding, was born in Christchurch, on October 31, 1883. The family owned a property in Opawa called Fownhope.

Wilding became one of the great stars in tennis for nearly a decade. He attended Cambridge University and the British idolised him. He was a superb athlete and his sportsmanship was exemplary. He was handsome, chivalrous and was always on the lookout for adventure. He was tennis's first matinee idol and the idol of Wimbledon.

When he lost the 1914 Wimbledon final to Norman Brookes, it was reported: "There was a ripple of white throughout the stands as women took out their handkerchiefs and cried’’.

He played the classic game in vogue at the time. His drives were the strength of his attack and his defence was outstanding. He could hit with immense pace and overspin, but when prudence and judgment dictated security of stroke rather than speed. Wilding could temper his drives and play faultlessly from the baseline.

Onny Parun, one of the finest NZ tennis players of recent times, labelled Wilding as the greatest NZ tennis player ever.

``Wilding was NZ's first true world champion on the international sporting stage. His record speaks for itself and it remains the benchmark for all NZ tennis players who follow in his long shadow,’’ Parun said today.

Even from a different, gentler era, Wilding without dispute remains New Zealand’s greatest tennis player. The son of a New Zealand cricketer and cricket administrator, Frederick Wilding, Anthony Wilding learned his tennis at the family home in Opawa and won a series of national titles.

He went to Cambridge to study law but the tennis courts took more of his attention than the law books. He won the Wimbledon singles title 1910-13 when the defending champion had to play only a challenge round, he helped the combined team of Australasia win the Davis Cup and he won an Olympic Games bronze medal in the singles at Stockholm.

Wilding was a successful and popular figure on the world tennis circuit that was then centred on the tourist spots of Europe. Wilding was also an accomplished competitive motorcyclist and he learned to fly before the war.

As Wimbledon champion, he came to symbolise the sporting ideal of his age, according to Len and Shelley Richardson, the biographers of “Anthony Wilding – A Sporting Life”.

``As a soldier, and especially by his death on the Western Front, he was cast in the role of sportsman – heroic. These would seem to impose impossible burdens to carry in life or death.’’

Wilding qualified for the New Zealand bar, but was never a working lawyer. He'd rather be riding his motorcycle, or playing tennis with British Prime Minister Balfour or King Gustav of Sweden than appearing in court.

He had an infectious personality, and was ever-popular. But it was the quality of his tennis that really set him apart. Pete Sampras in 2000 was the first and only player to break Wilding's record of successive Wimbledon wins and now Roger Federer joins them as the only three men to ever achieve the tennis greatness.


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