The Professional Years
Ranked the number one amateur in 1937-38, Budge finally turned professional in 1939 after having spent four years in the world top ten and, five years in the U.S. top ten. In his professional debut at Madison Square Garden in New York, Budge beat Ellsworth 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 while 16,725 fans watched. On the professional tour, he beat Vines 21 to 18 matches and went 18 to 11 against his former coach, the celebrated Fred Perry. The flamboyant Bill Tilden, a formidable player in earlier years, joined the tour in 1941, but he was well past his prime at 48 years old and Budge handily beat him, 51-7.
Budge won the U.S. pro title in 1940 defeating Perry 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 and again in 1942 over Bobby Riggs, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. In 1942 he left the pro tour to join the Air Force. After the war, Budge's performance was affected by a shoulder injury suffered while in military training. Nevertheless, he made it to the U.S. professional finals in 1946, '47, '49, and '53, losing the first three matches to Riggs and the last to 25 year-old Pancho Gonzalez. Budge retired in 1938 and in 1964 he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.
Budge will forever be remembered as the first man to win all four major tennis championships completing the first ever tennis Grand Slam in 1937. However, those who watched him play or faced him in competition hold him in an even higher regard. Fred V. Phelps recapped Budge's career in the Biographical Dictionary of American Sports by writing, "Many experts have called this popular, skilled sportsman the greatest player since [Bill] Tillden, and some have ranked him the greatest. " Apparently, Tillden himself was among the latter group, calling Budge "the finest player 365 days a year who ever lived."
- Don Budge - Related Biography: Tennis Player Gottfried Von Cramm
- Don Budge - Won The Grand Slam
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