What Lengths Did a Town Go to to Keep a Tennis Player From Going Pro?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about tennis and whether they are true or false.

TENNIS URBAN LEGEND: Frank Sedgman’s hometown had a collection to raise money to keep Sedgman from becoming a professional.

It’s hard sometimes to fully appreciate what professional tennis was like in the days before professionals competed in the major tournaments.

Nowadays, if you are a fan of a professional tennis player, you can follow him and her their whole career in the same tournaments year after year as they compete against the best of the best, so you can see guys like Roger Federer strive to win the career Grand Slam of Tennis.

That was not the case in the old days – the major tennis tournaments like the US Open and Wimbledon were amateur only.

If you became a professional, what you would do would go on tour with other professionals and just play each other, basically as an exhibition.

It’s really sort of amazing to see how long this business model lasted.

In any event, Melbourne, Australia native Frank Sedgman is one of the greatest tennis players to ever live, and in late 1951, after dominating the amateur ranks for a couple of years, decided it was time for him to turn professional.

However, his fans were distraught at the idea of losing him to professional tours, so led by Harry Hopman, a tennis journalist at the Melbourne Herald (and a devout hater of professional tennis), fans raised enough funds to purchase a gas station, then gave it to Sedgman’s fiancee!!!

Said purchase made enough money to keep Sedgman an amateur for the 1952 season. Yep, they basically PAID a guy so that he wouldn’t turn PROFESSIONAL. As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!!”

The gambit only worked for a year, though, as Sedgman became a pro in 1953 and became one of the highest paid professional tennis players in the world.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]

Leave a Reply