Don Budge - A Historic Davis Cup Match
A Historic Davis Cup Match
When Fred Perry turned pro in 1937, Budge became No. 1 in the amateur ranks. Armed with his newly developed hard and early stroke, the 22 year-old had perhaps the best month in tennis history. He dominated Wimbledon in 1937 becoming the first man to win the men's singles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles (playing with Gene Mako and Alice Marbles.) Along the way, he beat his friend and rival Von Cramm in three straight sets.
Just a couple of weeks later, at the Davis Cup, the rivalry with Von Cramm produced one of the most storied matches in tennis history. Needing a win to guarantee the U.S. a spot in the challenge round, Budge stepped onto the court the underdog. He lost the first two sets, came back for the next two and finally won the fifth set 8-6. Queen Mary of England was in attendance and so many Americans watched the match that activity on Wall Street slowed down. The match even attracted the attention of German dictator Adolph Hitler who listened intently to the radio broadcast.
Budge called it "the greatest match in which I ever played. It was competitive, long and close. It was fought hard but cleanly by two close friends. It was cast with the ultimate in rivals, the number-one ranked amateur player in the world and against the number two. I never played better and never played anyone as good as Cramm." Allison Danzig later wrote in the book Budge on Tennis, "The brilliance of the tennis was almost unbelievable. In game after game they sustained their amazing virtuosity without the slightest deviation or faltering on either side. Gradually, inch by inch, Budge picked up."
After that match, the following weekend's Challenge Round against England almost came as an after thought. Budge won three matches, ushering the U.S. to victory in the Davis Cup for the first time since 1926.
For his achievements that year, Budge won the Sullivan Award for most outstanding amateur athlete and was named Associated Press Athlete of the Year. "Playing tennis against him was like playing against a concrete wall," said Sidney Wood, a player who often faced Budge in competition, "There was nothing to attack."