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Don Budge

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.

Related Biography: Tennis Player Gottfried Von Cramm

Gottfried Von Cramm, born on July 7, 1908, in Nettlingen, Hanover, Germany, into an aristocratic family, was one of the world's premier tennis players. Known on the court as "The Baron" for his good looks and courtesy, he won the French Cup in 1934 and 1936. Von Cramm played a total of 111 Davis Cup matches and won six German titles, the last of which, in 1948, at the age of 40.

With his tall Aryan good looks and his record as a champion, Von Cramm would have been an ideal standard bearer for the Nazi party. However, he made the courageous choice not to endorse Nazism during World War II.

Von Cramm never won at Wimbledon. In 1935 and 1936 he was runner-up to Fred Perry and in 1937 Don Budge bested him. He and Budge enjoyed a friendship and on-court rivalry that spanned many years and included the historic Davis Cup match of 1937.

Due to his defiance of the Nazi party Von Cramm was accused of homosexuality and spent most of 1938 in prison. Budge appealed to other professional athletes, gathering 25 signatures in protest.

Upon his release in May of 1939, the management of both Wimbledon and the Queens Tournament refused to allow Von Cramm to compete, being that he was a player recently released from prison and surrounded by the stigma of homosexuality. Finally, he was permitted to play and won the Queens Tournament, beating the man who would eventually win at Wimbledon. Many believe that had he been allowed to play he might have won Wimbledon.

After the war, Von Cramm began a successful cotton import business, in his native Hanover, and served as president of the Lawn Tennis Rot-Weiss in Berlin. He died in a car accident in Cairo, Egypt, in November of 1975 and was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame the next year.

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."

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Famous Sports StarsTennisDon Budge Biography - Baseball Leads To Tennis, Honing His Skills, A Historic Davis Cup Match, Chronology, Won The Grand Slam