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Jaroslav Drobný

For the Czech footballer, see Jaroslav Drobný (footballer).
Jaroslav Drobný
Jaroslav Drobný (left) and Hubert Wilton in 1958
Country 23x15px Czechoslovakia
23x15px Bohemia and Moravia
23x15px Egypt
23x15px United Kingdom
Born (1921-10-12)12 October 1921
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Died 13 September 2001(2001-09-13) (aged 79)
Tooting, London, UK, UK
Turned pro 1938 (amateur tour)</td></tr>
Retired 1969</td></tr>
Plays Left-handed (one-handed backhand)</td></tr>
Int. Tennis HoF 1983 (member page)</td></tr>
Career record 398–107</td></tr>
Career titles 140</td></tr>
Highest ranking No. 1 (1954, Lance Tingay)[1]</td></tr>
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open 2R (1950)</td></tr>
French Open W (1951, 1952)</td></tr>
Wimbledon W (1954)</td></tr>
US Open SF (1947, 1948)</td></tr>
Career record {{#property:P555}}</td></tr>
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open F (1950)</td></tr>
French Open W (1948)</td></tr>
Wimbledon F (1951)</td></tr>
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
French Open W (1948)</td></tr>

SF (1948)</td></tr></table>

Jaroslav Drobný
Medal record
Ice hockey
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1948 Team Competition
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1947 Team Competition

Jaroslav Drobný (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjaroslav ˈdrobniː];[2] 12 October 1921 in Prague, Czechoslovakia – 13 September 2001 in London, UK) was a former World No. 1 amateur tennis champion as well as being an ice hockey player. He left Czechoslovakia in 1949 and travelled as an Egyptian citizen before becoming a citizen of Great Britain in 1959, where he died in 2001. In 1954, he became the first and, to date, only player with African citizenship to win the Wimbledon Championships.

Tennis career

Drobný began playing tennis at age five and, as a ball-boy, watched world-class players including compatriot Karel Koželuh.[3] He played in his first Wimbledon Championship in 1938, losing in the first round to Alejandro Russell. After World War II Drobný was good enough to be able to beat Jack Kramer in the fourth round of the 1946 Wimbledon Championship before losing in the semi-finals.[4] In 1951 and 1952 he won the French Open, defeating in the final Eric Sturgess and then retaining the title the following year against Frank Sedgman.[5] Drobný was the losing finalist at Wimbledon in both 1949 and 1952 before finally winning it in 1954 by beating Ken Rosewall for the title, the first left-hander to capture Wimbledon since Norman Brookes.[6] Drobný was ranked World No. 1 in 1954 by Lance Tingay of the Daily Telegraph.[1] He has also won the French Open doubles title in 1948, playing with Lennart Bergelin, and he won the mixed doubles title paired with Patricia Canning Todd at 1948 French Open.

Drobný held the distinction of having competed at Wimbledon under four different national identities. In 1938, at the age of 16, he started for his native Czechoslovakia. A year later, following the German invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was officially representing the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. After World War II, he started at Wimbledon yet again as Czechoslovakian but chose to defect from the communist regime in 1949 – he left Czechoslovakia for good on 11 July 1949.[7]


After the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948, Drobný became increasingly dissatisfied with the way the communist propaganda used him for its purposes. At the time, he was Czechoslovakia's most renowned athlete together with the phenomenal long-distance runner Emil Zátopek. Increasingly, it was becoming apparent to Drobný that he was no longer able to travel freely to tournaments and he grew dissatisfied with the new regime. This ultimately resulted in his defection from his native land.

Drobný defected from Czechoslovakia together with a fellow Czech Davis Cup player Vladimír Černík while playing at a tennis tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland in July 1949. "All I had," he wrote later, "was a couple of shirts, the proverbial toothbrush and $50."[3] Drobný and Černík were the core of the Czechoslovakian Davis Cup team. Twice, the two of them had carried their country to the Davis Cup semifinals, losing to Australia in 1947 and in 1948. Drobný won 37 of his 43 Davis Cup matches.[5]

Becoming stateless, Drobný attempted to gain Swiss, US and Australian papers until finally Egypt offered him citizenship. He represented Egypt at Wimbledon from 1950 through 1959, including his title winning run in 1954. He is the only Egyptian citizen ever to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament. At the time of his Wimbledon win in 1954 Drobný was already living in the United Kingdom but only in his final appearance at Wimbledon in 1960, at the age of 38, did he represent his new homeland Great Britain.[8]


During his amateur career, Drobný won over 130 singles titles, and was world ranked in the top 10 from 1946–55. Drobný was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island in 1983. He is the only person to win the rare combination of Wimbledon in tennis and a world championship title in ice hockey.

In total, Drobný started in Wimbledon 17 times, always sporting his trademark tinted prescription glasses as an old hockey injury affected his eyesight.[8] Drobný is the only male tennis player who ever won a Wimbledon singles title while wearing glasses. Billie-Jean King and Martina Navratilova are the only female Wimbledon champions wearing glasses. Arthur Ashe, who was known for playing with spectacles, had switched to contact lenses by the time he won Wimbledon in 1975.

Drobný also has the distinction of winning the most clay court titles of anyone in history (over 90).[citation needed]

Ice hockey career

From 1938 to 1949 Drobný played center in the Czechoslovakian ice hockey league.[3] He was a Silver medalist with the Czechoslovakian ice hockey team in the 1948 Olympics. In the final match, Czechoslovakia and Canada tied goalless but Canada won the gold medal due to a better overall goal average. Drobný scored 9 goals in 8 games at the Olympics. Jaroslav Drobný was also a member of the Czechoslovakian national ice hockey team which won the gold medals at the 1947 World Ice Hockey Championships in Prague.[8] He scored 15 goals in 7 games in the tournament including a hat-trick in the decisive victory over USA which gave his country its first ever World Championships title. In 1997, Drobný was inducted in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame.[9] Drobný could have become the first ever European player to start in the National Hockey League when the Boston Bruins put him on their reserve in 1949. Apparently, he was offered $20,000 to come over to play for Boston but he refused, preferring to remain playing amateur ice hockey and retain the flexibility to play tennis during the summers.[10] The first European to play in the NHL eventually became Ulf Sterner from Sweden when he started for the New York Rangers for the first time on 27 January 1965.

File:Jaroslav Drobny Plague.jpg
Jaroslav Drobný's plaque at the 1st Czech Lawn Tennis Club in Prague


In 1955, Jaroslav Drobný published his autobiography titled Champion in Exile. He was married to Rita Anderson Jarvis, onetime English tournament player. He died 13 September 2001 in Tooting, London aged 79.[8][11]

Grand Slam finals

Singles: 8 (3 titles, 5 runner-ups)

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Runner-up 1946 French Championships Clay 23x15px Marcel Bernard 3–6, 2–6, 6–1, 6–4, 6–3
Runner-up 1948 French Championships Clay 23x15px Frank Parker 6–4, 7–5, 5–7, 8–6
Runner-up 1949 Wimbledon Grass 23x15px Ted Schroeder 3–6, 6–0, 6–3, 4–6, 6–4
Runner-up 1950 French Championships Clay 23x15px Budge Patty 6–1, 6–2, 3–6, 5–7, 7–5
Winner 1951 French Championships Clay 23x15px Eric Sturgess 6–3, 6–3, 6–3
Winner 1952 French Championships (2) Clay 23x15px Frank Sedgman 6–2, 6–0, 3–6, 6–4
Runner-up 1952 Wimbledon Grass 23x15px Frank Sedgman 4–6, 6–2, 6–3, 6–2
Winner 1954 Wimbledon Grass 23x15px Ken Rosewall 13–11, 4–6, 6–2, 9–7

Doubles: 4 (1 title, 3 runner-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents in the final Score in the final
Winner 1948 French Championships Clay 23x15px Lennart Bergelin 23x15px Harry Hopman
23x15px Frank Sedgman
8–6, 6–1, 12–10
Runner-up 1950 French Championships Clay 23x15px Bill Talbert 23x15px Tony Trabert
23x15px Eric Sturgess
6–2, 1–6, 10–8, 6–2
Runner-up 1950 Australian Championships Grass 23x15px Eric Sturgess 23x15px John Bromwich
23x15px Adrian Quist
6–3, 5–7, 4–6, 6–3, 8–6
Runner-up 1951 Wimbledon Grass 23x15px Eric Sturgess 23x15px Ken McGregor
23x15px Frank Sedgman
3–6, 6–2, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3

Mixed Doubles: 1 (1 title)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents in the final Score in the final
Winner 1948 French Championships Clay 23x15px Patricia Canning Todd 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Frank Sedgman
6–3, 3–6, 6–3

In popular culture

Ivan Blatný wrote a poem called Wimbledon which addresses Drobný.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ a b United States Lawn Tennis Association (1972). Official Encyclopedia of Tennis (First Edition), p. 426.
  2. ^ Jaroslav in isolation: [ˈjaroslaf].
  3. ^ a b c "Jaroslav Drobny". The Guardian. 5 September 2001. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Wimbledon – The Championships 1946 – Gentlemen's Singles" (PDF). AELTC. 
  5. ^ a b "Jaroslav Drobny, 79, a Star In Tennis and Olympic Hockey". The New York Times. 16 September 2001. 
  6. ^ "Wimbledon draws archive – 1954 Gentlemen's Singles". AELTC. 
  7. ^ Sarah Kirkham (7 August 2014). "Throwback Thursday: The many faces of Jaroslav Drobny". AELTC. 
  8. ^ a b c d Jaroslav Drobný.
  9. ^ "IIHF Hall of Fame". International Ice Hockey Federation. 
  10. ^ Grasso, John (2011). Historical Dictionary of Tennis. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. pp. 88,89. ISBN 978-0810872370. 
  11. ^ "Jaroslav Drobny". Telegraph Newspaper. 15 September 2001. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Martin Tharp, Rachel Mikos, David Vaughan (22 February 2004) Ivan Blatny: the strange story of a Czech poet in English exile.
  13. ^ Jaroslav Drobný. International Tennis Hall of Fame
  14. ^ Jaroslav Drobný. International Ice Hockey Federation

External links

Further reading

  • Wallechinsky, David and Jaime Loucky (2009). "Ice Hockey: Men". In The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics: 2010 Edition. London: Aurum Press Limited. p. 23.
  • Drobný, Jaroslav (1955). Champion in Exile: The Autobiography of Jaroslav Drobny. London: Hodder and Stoughton. OCLC 1115128. 

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