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Remembering the Gatsby-Style Kiwi Who Became the First Big Star of Tennis, But Was Killed in WW1

Christchurch's Anthony Wilding—who was killed in France in 1915—was arguably the first true superstar of tennis.

by Ben Stanley
26 April 2017, 4:33am

Bibliotheque nationale de France via WikiMedia Commons

Late in the afternoon of May 9, 1915, a German heavy artillery shell came crashing through the roof of a British officer's dugout near Neuve Chapelle, France, killing three of its four occupants.

The trio were just a handful of more than 11,000 British casualties from the Battle of Aubers Ridge, that began earlier that day.

Yet the death of the highest ranked victim - a 31-year-old captain from New Zealand who was in charge of a Royal Marines armoured car detachment - would be felt more keenly, and reverberate further, than many others on the early World War I battlefield.

Anthony Wilding, the best tennis player in the world, was dead.

During his time on tennis's top tier between 1906 and 1914, the Christchurch-born former lawyer won 11 Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles. Six of those were singles; four straight Wimbledon titles between 1910 and 1913, and two Australian Open victories in 1906 and 1909.

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Anthony Wilding