- Ask Steven
British openersSteven LynchJune 30, 2014
Who was the last Briton before Andy Murray to play in the first match at Wimbledon? Was it Fred Perry in 1937? asked Giles Harrison
It wasn't Fred Perry in 1937, because he'd turned professional by then so was not eligible to play at Wimbledon any more in those pre-Open days.
The first match on Centre Court that year actually featured Perry's British Davis Cup team-mate Bunny Austin, the fourth seed, who started with a four-set victory over George Rogers from Ireland in the first tennis match ever broadcast live on television.
The last British man involved in the first match on Centre Court was actually Alex Bogdanovic, who had the bad luck to draw defending champion Roger Federer in the first round in 2004. Bogdanovic, a wild-card entrant, was predictably swamped 6-3 6-3 6-0.
But the quirks of the draw threw up a more remarkable British first than that.
In 1946, with neither the defending champion from 1939, Bobby Riggs, nor the man he beat in the final, Elwood Cooke, taking part, a random draw pitted Britain's Don Butler against a Ceylonese player, Douglas Scharenguivel, in the first postwar match on Centre Court.
The following year, Butler drew the defending champion Yvon Petra, and played in the first match again. And he completed a remarkable hat-trick in 1948, opening proceedings again, this time against Tom Brown, the previous year's runner-up (champion Jack Kramer could not participate as he had turned pro).
Since then four other Britons featured in the Centre Court's opening match (before Bogdanovic in 2004): Geoff Cass drew the defending champion Vic Seixas in 1954; Geoff Owen took on top seed Ashley Cooper in 1958; Geoff Ward played Rod Laver in 1960; and John Lloyd drew the defending champion Jimmy Connors in 1975.
Ask Steven features a number of experts, headed by Steven Lynch, who answer your questions across a variety of sports