Tennis Legends Revealed #1

This is the first in a series of examinations of tennis-related legends and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

TENNIS LEGEND: Stefan Edberg once killed a man with his tennis serve.

STATUS: Basically True

Stefan Edberg was one of the best tennis players of his generation, and was actually ranked #1 in the world at one point in the early 1990s.

stefanedberg

Edberg won the Australian Open twice (1985 and 1987), Wimbledon twice (1988 and 1990) and the U.S. Open twice (1991 and 1992), with the French Open being the only Grand Slam title he never won (he came in second in 1989).

However, when he was still in Juniors in the early 1980s, Edberg had an incident that almost made him quit tennis all together.

In the 1983 Boy’s Single Final of the U.S. Open (which Edberg would win, completing the Grand Slam of Juniors), the 17-year-old Edberg struck linesman Richard Wertheim in the groin with a serve.

Wertheim was already off balance trying to dodge the ball, so when he was struck he fell backward and hit his head on the court. He died in the hospital a week or so later of a subdural hematoma.

linesman

It was the blow to the head that killed him, not the injury to his groin, but still, Edberg was so shaken up (again, he was not even 18 years old at the time) that he seriously considered quitting.

However, he moved past the tragedy and became the great star we know today.

TENNIS LEGEND: A Wimbledon official (and past Wimbledon competitor) was asked to resign over his design of a female tennis player’s outfit.

STATUS: True

When Ted Tingling was 13, a bad case of asthma forced his parents to send him from their home in England to the French Riviera. It was there that he began playing tennis and began a friendship with Suzanne Lenglen, one of the most popular players in the world at the time.

Tingling actually played doubles at Wimbledon four times himself!

However, he was more adept at being friendly than he was at playing tennis, and soon, Wimbledon asked the 17-year-old Tingling if he could work as a sort of liaison between the Wimbledon tournament committee and the players. Soon, Tingling was effectively the master of ceremonies for Wimbledon, a position he would hold from the late 20s until the late 40s, and a position he would eventually be asked to resign at the height of a scandal that basically boiled down to a protest for color.

As you might imagine, being the emcee at Wimbledon is not a full-time occupation, so at 21 years of age (in 1931), Tingling began what would be his life-long career – he became a dressmaker.

After a burgeoning career where he debuted a number of dress lines, Tingling’s career was interrupted when World War II began. During the war, Tingling worked as a spy and an Intelligence officer. When he returned to his profession at war’s end, Tingling turned his design skills to a fairly new aspect of fashion – sportswear.

He designed his first Wimbledon dress in 1947 when he came up with a dress for Joy Gannon that had a small colored border on the hem. That, oddly enough, outraged people, as Wimbledon outfits were almost always entirely white.

In 1948, a similar design by Tingling for Betty Hilton (which she wore as she WON the Wightman Cup) was considered so outrageous that the Wimbledon Committee actually added a new rule – all Wimbledon dresses had to be all white.

Tingling anticipated such a move, so when Gertrude “Gorgeous Gussy” Moran wrote to him from California asking him to design her an outfit, he was prepared with a little protest.

Moran’s outfit was white, all right, but that did not mean that her panties couldn’t be a different color!

So Tingling made her purple lace panties that were fairly obvious every time Moran made a move…

Moran’s outfit drew worldwide attention, and in retaliation for his actions, Tingling was asked to resign from the Wimbledon Committee.

He went back to dress-making, making the dresses for basically all the major female tennis stars of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

tinling

In 1982, he was asked to return and he did so, and he continued in his old role as Master of Ceremonies until his death in 1990.

Even Wimbledon, over time, can appreciate a good dressmaker!

TENNIS LEGEND: Bjorn Borg had a pulse rate of 45 beats per minute.

STATUS: False

Often in our zeal to celebrate legendary athletes, we sometimes begin to, well, create legends about these legendary athletes, often exagerrating their physical abilities to the extreme.

One such popular legend is Björn Borg’s fabled pulse rate.

Björn Borg is unquestionably one of the greatest tennis players of all-time.

borg

He has a remarkable eleven Grand Slam singles titles, made even more remarkable by the fact that nine of the eleven were part of yearly winning streaks of four or more years, such as the four French Opens he won between 1978 and 1981 or the FIVE Wimbledons he won between 1976 and 1980!!

But what about that pulse rate of his?

A normal adult, when not doing anything in particular, typically has a pulse rate (which roughly measures your heart rate) of 60-100 beats per minute (BPM). When you sleep, it can get as low as 40 beats per minute. During exercise, it can get up to 150-200 BPM.

Björn Borg was rumored to have a pulse rate of ranging from a shocking 35 BPM to a still shocking 45 BPM.

Here is a sampling of places citing this…

Time Magazine in 1983:

Borg’s physical gifts alone would have been enough to make him extraordinary: regular pulse rate 35

The London Times:

As a player Borg was always perceived as being almost detached from reality. His pulse rate would slow to 39 beats a minute, to suggest his blood was almost chilled.

Plus a bunch of various web sites out there saying basically the same thing.

However, it is not true.

In his co-written biography with Borg, BJORN BORG: MY LIFE AND GAME, Eugene Scott explains that the myth arose based on a medical exam Borg took for military service when he was 18. That pulse rate WAS an extraordinary 39.

However, Borg’s true rate was a very normal “about 50 when he wakes up and around 60 in the afternoon.”

Just like other mortal men.

Thanks to Eugene Scott for the information!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

3 Responses to “Tennis Legends Revealed #1”

  1. “When Ted Tingling was 13, a bad case of forced his parents to send him from their home in England to the French Riviera.”

    A bad case of what?

  2. Brian Cronin on June 7th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Ha!

    I held off on typing the illness because I wanted to double-check to make sure I was getting it correct, and instead, I ended up never going back to fill it in! :)

    Thanks, Jack, I’ve edited it into the piece (it was just asthma).

  3. While Bjorn Borg may not have had such a low pulse rate, it is certainly true that others do, which you imply with your article that nobody can have.
    The Australian runner, Herb Elliot, has been recorded at multiple places at around 35-40. Miguel Indurain (cyclist who won 5 Tours de France, 2 Vueltas de Espana, and one Giro d’Italia) had a rate also at around 35, as did Lance Armstrong around ’99. There is a peer reviewed paper out there with Armstrong’s measurements done in a lab over the years.

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