Remembering Fred Perry

LONDON -- Late Friday night, after he won his semifinal, Andy Murray told a packed room of reporters he didn't know what he would ask the late, great Fred Perry or say to him, if he could bring him back.

Perry, who died in 1995, won three straight Wimbledon singles titles from 1934 to '36, and no British man had won one since, until Murray's triumph over Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

As for how Perry would react to Murray, Tony Mottram, a nonagenarian who says he saw Perry play 77 years ago, has one opinion: "I think he would be very delighted by Andy Murray."

Mottram, who was a Wimbledon doubles runner-up in 1947 and a singles quarterfinalist the following year, said he watched Perry play at Centre Court of the All England Club in 1936, when Great Britain hosted Australia for the Davis Cup.

"I paid three [shillings] and six pence [about the equivalent of a U.S. quarter] for a standing-room ticket, and I traveled three hours there and three hours back by train the same day from my home in Coventry," Mottram said. "I was fascinated by how Perry played and got all pumped up to make the trip."

Mottram, 93, recalled Perry "smothering" Aussie Jack Crawford in the decisive fifth rubber to give Britain its fourth consecutive Cup. "[Perry] was exciting to watch; he attacked all the time."

Perry was a mentor to the 1952 British Davis Cup team, and Mottram said he and the other players got to hit with Perry.

"Fred was a very unusual player, he played with one grip for all of his strokes because he was originally a champion table tennis player and thought if he could do that, he could do it in lawn tennis." Mottram said. "You need a lot of strength in your forearm to do that, and his was as wide as my bicep and very powerful."

Angela Buxton, who enjoyed her own success as a British competitor at Wimbledon, also knew Perry.

"He was a very outgoing, humorous guy and he was never short of a word," said Buxton, who won the 1956 women's doubles title with American Althea Gibson and lost in the singles final to Shirley Fry of the U.S.

Buxton said Murray's personality is different from Perry's, but "he's very down to earth; I like him."

Mottram said although Murray doesn't wear long white trousers and play with a wooden racket, as Perry did, there is one significant similarity.

"Above everything else, Fred was a competitor and Andy Murray is a competitor," Mottram said. "He has a great heart."