I had the benefit of sharing some life with Don Budge. Attending and working for his Tennis Academy for some years. It was the 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Final The Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played?
Mr. Budge had a moderate ego for a legend and I’d attended many anecdotes from his 1937 Davis Cup Men’s Final.
Don Budge vs Germany’s Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Mr. budge won in a stunning five-set classic referred to by many, including Mr. Budge, as the greatest match ever. The pressure on Baron Gottfried von Cramm was immense given the geopolitical turmoil in 1937.
American Bill Tilden was coaching the German Team compounding the pressure for Budge while von Cramm had Hitler on his back. Following Jesse Owen’s Olympic schooling Adolf the prior year in Berlin failing was not an alternative for the Barron.
So I’m watching the Borg, McEnroe Wimbledon Final with Don Budge and the other coaches drinking canned Bud. Following this stunning exhibition from Borg and McEnroe, Don Budge himself anointed this Borg, McEnroe stunner as “The Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played.”
This experience was like winning a Grand Slam. Sitting with Tennis Royalty drinking cheap beer, witnessing the transcendence of the game by McEnroe and Borg and his excellency conceding the progression of tennis superiority.
Well into his sixties, Mr. Budge still held mastery over the game. His athletic prowess was reflected in all his movements. He seemed to be always everywhere on the court. Invariably waiting on the ball, he was.
Playing as his occasional double partner over those summers I was; the wizard’s apprentice. A blessing those times were.
I was fortunate to have shared court time and significantly this Wimbledon landmark with Mr. Budge, Borg, and McEnroe.
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