Captain Anthony Wilding – Wimbledon champion, killed in action 9 May 1915

Captain Anthony Wilding was the first and – so far – the only New Zealander to win a Wimbledon championship.

anthony-wilding
Anthony Frederick Wilding. Making New Zealand :Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-0971-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23104417

His record in the International Tennis Hall of Fame reads:

Career Achievements

Top Ranking

World No. 1 (1911)

Grand Slam Results
11-time major champion and 4-time finalist

Olympics

Bronze Medal in Men’s Indoor Singles at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games

Davis Cup

Member of the Australasian Davis Cup Team 1905-1909, 1914

Member of the Australasian Championship Davis Cup Team 1907-1909, 1914

In 1913, while dominating Wimbledon, Wilding won world titles on clay (World Hard Court Championships), grass (World Lawn Tennis Championships) and wood (World Covered Court Championship).

The ‘dashing’ sportsman

Tennis had been a sport for ‘wealthy gentlemen’, but Anthony Wilding helped it gain greater popularity through his dedication to training and fitness. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Bob

Fitzsimmons – another New Zealander – advised him on his fitness regime so that he ran two or three times a week, skipped, and went for brisk walks, as well as playing tennis. He was much fitter than his opponents, and neither smoked nor drank alcohol (which was unusual for the time).

Described as ‘dashing’ Tony Wilding had the female spectators swooning because of his ‘manly brand of tennis’. He was reported as tall and fair, as well as ‘handsome, chivalrous and was always on the lookout for adventure’.

Early Life

Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle.
Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle. Taken at Off to John O’Groats from Land’s End. Ref: 1/2-049754-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22429379

Wilding was born at Opawa on October 31, 1883, one of five children of Frederick and Julia Wilding. Frederick Wilding played cricket for New Zealand, was a good horseman, footballer, athlete and oarsman. Sporting interests were strongly encouraged at the family home, Fownhope, and Anthony’s sister Cora was also well-known in Christchurch circles as an artist and founder of the Sunlight League of New Zealand. Young Tony excelled at swimming, shooting, riding and cricket, but once he started at Cambridge University in 1902 he became a dedicated tennis player.

Wilding in Europe

Wilding qualified for the New Zealand bar, but didn’t work as a lawyer, preferring to motorcycle around Europe, playing in the great tennis tournaments of the Riviera, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, Sweden and Norway. Shortly before the first world war he became a pilot.

When war broke out the British-based Wilding joined the Royal Marines, rising to the rank of captain in the Armoured Car Division, where his pre-war experience of driving in Europe was valued. He was killed aged 31 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve Chapelle in northern France, and is buried in Rue-des-Berceaux military cemetery at Pas-de-Calais, France.

The home of Canterbury tennis is, of course, Wilding Park.

World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22325181
World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22325181

More readingCover of Anthony Wilding: A sporting life

The waywardness of the holiday reader

The first thing you seeI boarded the plane at the start of the hols with lists of Books That Must Be Read Now That I have The Time and stepped off QF139 a month later with a suitcase full of Books That Popped Up Quite By Chance. Here’s how it happened:

Even though my hand luggage contained a perfectly good aeroplane read, still the lure of Sydney Airport book store was too great to resist and I emerged with a book that I bought mainly because I love the cover and it has a compelling first sentence: “Arthur Dreyfuss liked big breasts.” It’s Gregoire Delacourt’s latest novel: the first thing you see and it turned out to be a perfect holiday read about looking beneath the surface – for the first thing you see isn’t always what you’d hoped to get.

The Carriage HouseI met my second holiday read in a bookshop attached to a café in my hometown – Durban. There is a happy sentence if ever there was one. It was a complete impulse buy, written by an author I’d never heard of (turns out it’s her first novel), with tennis (a game I deeply loathe) as a major theme, and about three sisters (I don’t even have one). Yet its siren call sucked me in, all within the space of a single cappuccino. The book is The Carriage House by Louisa Hall. Don’t be put off by the cover of the library copy, it is a great little holiday read.

GironimoMy third little find was at a local market in a small town on the west coast of South Africa at a second-hand book stall where, to my amazement, I spotted a book that more than one male colleague had recommended to me. (I have no idea why they would do this, as I have never ridden a bicycle in my life!) Gironimo by Tim Moore is the author’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong debacle which motivated Moore to redress the imbalance and do something totally authentic for cycling – ride the notorious 1914 Giro d’Italia (wearing period clothing) on a gearless, wooden-wheeled 1914 road bike:

What unfolds is the tale of one decrepit crock trying to ride another up a thousand lonely hills, then down them with only wine corks for brakes

So, like all good holidays, I started in one place and ended up somewhere completely different. I went with the flow. I was in the zone. And I had a terrific time.

Now back to my lists!