Austin signing autographs
for two female admirers
Henry William "Bunny"
Austin (UK)

Version française - French version
French translation

Bunny Austin unfortunately goes into the annals of the grand slam as one of the great players NOT to have won in any of the three catagories, singles, mens or mixed doubles. Twice finalist at Wimbledon, he only managed to win a total of ten games across these two matches: he was unfortunate to have come up against two players at the very peak of their game, Ellsworth Vines in 1932 and then Donald Budge  in 1938. His luck was no better against the German Henkel at Roland-Garros in 1937...

Bunny did however prove to be a remarkable player in the Davis Cup, winning practically all of his matches between 1933 and 1936 and brilliantly supporting the great British champion Fred Perry. Over this period the British team initially wrestled the Cup from France, then holders for some 6 years, and went on to successfully defend in challenge rounds against the USA and Australia for the next 3 years. Austin scored accomplished victories over Budge, Crawford and Von Cramm. These victories amply demonstrated his status at the top of the sport and his ability to produce a strong quality of play when it mattered in decisive matches.

Bunny will particularly go down in history as the player who introduced playing in shorts rather than long trousers, see le short dans le tennis. Today's modern tennismen therefore have this most likeable of English champions to thank for having dared to be the very first person to break with one of the most sacrosanct laws of the Wimbledon establishment and present himself dressed in such a way in front of the Queen!

He didn't decide to take such a large step forward in the etiquette of the game without some initial preparation. He innovatively first played in shorts at Forest Hills in 1932. Wimbledon, of course, was something else. Queen Mary, whilst a passionate follower of the game, was renowned as a bastion of conservatism. Female players of the time, strictly obliged to wear heavy stockings throughout the twenties, were well aware of this...

Bunny Austin produced his shorts in front of the Queen in 1933. As it turned out, everything went rather well. There was at first a cold silence lasting several minutes, but then the Queen settled down to watch the match and stayed until the end. A good example of a good natured and friendly revolution!

Progressively, everybody, across the world followed suite.....thankfully. It is in fact now difficult to understand how all of the great champions were able to play for such a long time in long trousers, something we simply wouldn't accept today... However the transition wasn't overnight; practically all of the great players without exception continued to play on in long trousers until 1939: Perry, van Cramm, Budge, Riggs...

Forever in advance of his time, Bunny Austin was also the inventor of a curious tennis racket that had a handle comprising three segments. He used this racket with success throughout his career. He was therefore also the first tennis player to realise that materiels could be used to improve a player's performance. His invention was aerodynamically designed such as to both reduce air resistance and facilitate the player's hand movement. The sport clearly wasn't ready for such technological advances during this era and none of his contempories picked up on the idea. In fact, the invention was quickly forgotten after he stopped playing. However, his ideas were a strong precurser of times to come since wooden rackets would ultimately be replaced by metal and then, more latterly, by composite materials. We are also today quite used to the application of optimised aerodynamic racket heads...etc.  
Austin with his 3 segmented
racket at Wimbledon in 1938

Perry and Austin after their fourth and last victory
in the Davis Cup of 1936

Austin drinking a cup of tea whilst changing 
sides at Wimbledon during a Davis Cup match
The "Streamline", British racket with 3 segments as 
manufactured by Hazells and used by Austin in the thirties.


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Dernière mise à jour : 10 avril 2010
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Avril 2010. .