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Bunny Austin
Replace this image male.svg
Full name Henry Wilfred Austin
Nickname(s) Bunny
Country England
Date of birth August 26, 1906(1906-08-26)
Place of birth
Date of death August 26, 2000 (aged 94)
Last updated on: 19:32, 2 July 2009 (UTC).

Henry Wilfred "Bunny" Austin (26 August 1906 – 26 August 2000) was an English tennis player.

Austin was the last male tennis player from the United Kingdom to reach the final of the Gentlemen's Singles at Wimbledon, a feat he achieved in 1938 (having also been losing finalist in 1932). He was also a finalist at the 1937 French Open and a championship winner at Queen's Club. Along with Fred Perry, he was a vital part of the British team that won the Davis Cup three times from 1933-35. He is also remembered as the first tennis player to wear shorts.

Austin was brought up in South Norwood, London. The nickname Bunny came from a comic strip, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Encouraged by his father, who was determined that he become a sportsman, he joined Norhurst Tennis Club aged six.


Tennis career

While still an undergraduate at Cambridge University he reached the semi-finals of the men's doubles at Wimbledon in 1926. By the 1930s he was ranked in the world's top ten players. In his first Wimbledon men's singles final in 1932 he was beaten by Ellsworth Vines of the United States in three sets.

In 1932 he decided that the traditional tennis attire, cricket flannels, weighed him down too much. He bought a pair of shorts to use at Forest Hills and subsequently became the first player to wear them at Wimbledon.[1]

In the years 1933-6, he and Fred Perry helped win the Davis Cup for Britain.

Austin also pioneered the design of the modern tennis racquet by inventing the Streamline - a racquet with a shaft that splits into three segments - allowing for aerodynamic movement.[2] The design was manufactured by Hazells and at the time was mocked in the press for looking like a snow shoe. After Austin's retirement, the design was virtually forgotten until the reintroduction of the split shaft in the late 1960s.

In his Wimbledon career Austin reached the quarter-finals or better ten times. In 1938 he played Don Budge in the final, but won only four games. The next year he was seeded first but lost in an early round. It was the last time he played at Wimbledon.


He married the actress Phyllis Konstam in 1931, and together they were one of the celebrity couples of the age. Austin played tennis with Charlie Chaplin, was a friend of Daphne du Maurier, Ronald Colman and Harold Lloyd, and met both Queen Mary and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Austin and his wife worked for the cause of the Oxford Group. According to Austin's friend Peter Ustinov, Austin was "disgracefully ostracised by the All-England Club because he was a conscientious objector". In fact, he served as a private in the US Army Air Force, 1943-45. A voting member of the Membership Committee of the All-England Club had been removed from the Cambridge tennis team during Austin's captaincy, and used the excuse of Austin's alleged proselytism for the Oxford Group as an excuse for denying him reinstatement in the All-England Club after a lapse of dues payment. His membership of the club was restored in 1984, the year the obstructing member died.

It was only during Austin's tenure in the Air Force did he discover that he suffered from Gilbert's Syndrome, which explained his occasional and sudden fatigue on the court.[3]

Austin's autobiography, written with his wife, A Mixed Double, was published in 1969.

After a serious fall in 1995 Austin moved to a nursing home at Coulsdon, Surrey. He died in 2000 on his 94th birthday. Just a few months earlier, he had joined other past Wimbledon champions and finalists on Wimbledon's Centre Court for a Millennium-year parade of champions.

Austin was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, Rhode Island in 1997.

Grand Slam record

French Championships

  • Singles finalist: 1937
  • Mixed Doubles finalist: 1931

Wimbledon Championships

  • Singles finalist: 1932, 1938
  • Mixed Doubles finalist: 1934

U.S. Championships

  • Singles finalist: 1928, 1929

Grand Slam singles finals

Runner-ups (3)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1932 Wimbledon Championships United States Ellsworth Vines 4–6, 2–6, 0–6
1937 French Championships Nazi Germany Henner Henkel 1–6, 4–6, 3–6
1938 Wimbledon Championships United States Don Budge 1–6, 0–6, 3–6


  1. ^ Litsky, Frank (August 28, 2000). "Bunny Austin, 94, a Pioneer in Tennis Shorts". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2009.  
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2009-06-19.  
  3. ^ Austin, H.W.; Konstam, Phyllis (1969). A Mixed Double, p134. London: Chatto and Windus.

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