Holding court on Wimbledon

WITH the first ball to be served at Wimbledon next Monday we chatted to Arthur Marshall, a West Australian who took to the famous courts twice in the 1950s, about the experience.

SIXTY years ago a wide-eyed lad from Fremantle stepped onto the hallowed Wimbledon courts for the first time.

Arthur Marshall was just 20 years old, raw and nervous.

Marshall had trained under Harry Hopman and alongside future stars Ken Rosewall, Neale Fraser, Ashley Cooper, Roy Emerson, Mal Anderson and Lewis Hoad.

But he said nothing could truly prepare him for the most prestigious tournament in world tennis.

“If you ask any Australian they’ll say Wimbledon is the pinnacle,” he said.

“The courts are like billiard tables and all staff are skilled to the minute.

“I must admit, walking onto court six for my first match, I was really nervous.

“If you went overseas there wasn’t anything in the paper about Australia except golf and tennis results.

“It was a big deal.”It was 1955 and Marshall, a left handed serve and volleyer, was matched up with the late Danish star Kurt Nielsen in the first round, a player who would go on to lose to American Tony Trabert in the final.

Marshall fell in straight sets 6-2, 6-4, 7-5, but said his confidence grew as the match progressed.

“Nielson was a great player,” he said.

“It was my first year on tour so I went in cold, not having seen most of them play.

“I realised he didn’t have the best forehand, so I targeted that.

“I’ve got a photo of him and I from that match, which I tell everyone is a collectors item – the first round loser and the last round loser.

“That match bonded us as friends.”

Marshall said he had much to learn on and off the court during his first twelve months on tour.

He passed up the opportunity to hit-up at Wimbledon the weekend before the tournament, which he said was a mistake.

His hitting partner did not turn up and he was ‘too shy’ to go on his own.

“The first time I entered the change rooms there’s a bloke, George,” he said. “He says: ‘Mr Marshall I’m looking after you. You’ve got three lockers here. What drinks do you like? Here are your Wimbledon towels, you’re allowed to keep one of them. I’ll be washing your clothes and having them ironed for you for the next day’.”

“It was like, ‘wow – we had an assistant’.

“We’d never heard of it.”

Marshall’s inexperience with the perks of Wimbledon meant he did not tip his helper.

“When we were on the ship another Australian player, Jack Arkinstall, asked me how much I had given the attendant,” Marshall said.

“I said, nothing, because Australians don’t tip.

“He said, ‘oh, you should have Arthur, we always look after them’.

“So the next year I went back I apologised to him.

“As I reached the last 32 there was always something in my locker for him.”

Marshall rates Wimbledon as one of his best experiences.

“They do it well Wimbledon, the prestige of it, the white, the way the courts are marked to perfection, the cars,” he said.

“It’s amazing. It’s like a wedding. They care for the players. Wimbledon wants to make the players feel like they want to come back. They’re waited on like lords.”