Jaroslav Drobný: The Exile Who Triumphed in Tennis Via Egypt
It was a searing day in June 1954, when a cool and picked up man in darkish sun shades triumphed in tennis. The London crowd couldn’t cease celebrating the brand new champion of Wimbledon. To the Western world, he was a beacon of democratic liberalism; to the East, he was an evil Communist exile. On paper, he was an Egyptian nationwide – to this present day, the one Egyptian to ever champion Wimbledon.
His title was Jaroslav Drobný. He was the furthest factor from being Egyptian, but solely discovered glory via his Egyptian naturalization.
Born as a Czechoslovakian in Prague in 1921, Drobný was a toddler of many athletic abilities. Moreover making his Wimbledon debut on the tender age of 16 in 1938, he was additionally a cornerstone of Czechoslovakia’s nationwide ice hockey workforce. Regardless of his clean abilities, his youth was not as clean.
The German invasion of Czechoslovakia launched the game prodigy to the horrors of warfare. Drobný spent World Battle Two working at a manufacturing unit in Prague, witnessing torture and segregation in his neighborhood.
By the top of the warfare in 1945, Drobný noticed a return to each tennis and ice hockey. He gained gold and silver medals within the World Championships and Olympics for ice hockey respectively however didn’t obtain the identical success in tennis throughout this time.
Political turmoil continued to distract Drobný, this time via the Communist coup d’etat of Czechoslovakia in 1948. Previous to the seismic Soviet shift of his motherland, Drobný had already visited Moscow in 1947, seeing “sufficient to make [him] understand that [he] might by no means reside below such a regime.”
“Fairly merely, I hated being informed by some Communist the place and when to play as a result of it suited their political goals and ambitions. On the time the Communists realized much better than Western democracies the large propaganda stage of worldwide sport,” he wrote in his autobiography, A Champion in Exile (1955).
Because the Communists in Prague started to serve Soviet dialectics onto tennis courts, Drobný refused to proceed. In 1949, Drobný was decided to defect, doing so throughout the Swiss Open in July.
“All I had was a few shirts, the proverbial toothbrush, and 50 USD (925 EGP),” he wrote.
Drobný was required to signify a rustic with the intention to take part in worldwide tournaments. He, first, defected to Switzerland, solely to be met with rejection. Then, America: rejected. Britain and Australia have been his final pictures – and as soon as extra, Drobný was rejected.
In a state of statelessness, Drobný desperately wanted a nationality to renew his tennis profession. Then, Egypt got here to the rescue in 1950, providing the citizenship to which Drobný fortunately accepted.
The Czechovoslakian exile was now reborn as an Egyptian. Culturally, he was as a lot an alien earlier than being Egyptian as he was after his naturalization. Now a veteran of tennis on the age of 29, it was evident that Egypt would by no means be Drobný’s house. Although for the meantime, Egypt was his rescue; his ticket to at least one final shot at glory in tennis.
Throughout his time in Cairo, the previous Czechkoslovakian would practice on the Gezira Sporting Membership to sharpen his expertise, taking part every year within the Egyptian Open event – successful consecutively from 1950 to 1953.
It was whereas representing Egypt that Drobný lastly started to develop into one of the best on this planet, successful Singles tournaments for the primary time in his profession after a long time of shedding finals and semi-finals. A back-to-back French Open victory in 1951 and 1952 was his first style of glory, however Drobný nonetheless coveted the illustrious Wimbledon trophy – shedding the finals as soon as in 1949 and in 1952.
In 1954, 33-years-old and on the swansong of his tennis profession, Drobný lastly achieved Wimbledon triumph. Generally known as ‘Previous Drob’ by that time, the Egyptian Czechoslovakian carried an air of cool confidence all through the event.
“[The Singles] is crucial title at Wimbledon and if I did get crushed early on then I might have a pleasing vacation watching the opposite gamers,” Drobný remarked throughout the begin of the event.
He by no means obtained the possibility to get pleasure from an early-elimination vacation like he joked, making all of it the way in which to the Wimbledon Singles closing for a 3rd time in his profession. This time, nevertheless, he gained it.
Whereas donning darkish sun shades, Drobný defeated the Australian, Ken Rosewall, to lastly carry the Wimbledon trophy. And he gained it as an Egyptian. The one African Wimbledon champion to this present day.
Drobný’s success story with Egypt would come to an finish after his naturalization to Britain in 1959. A 12 months later, on the ripe outdated age of 39, the person of many flags ended his tennis profession at one final Wimbledon event.
Drobný was all the time destined for greatness in tennis. It simply so occurred that he achieved all his glory as an Egyptian, as a consultant of the nation that supplied him the possibility to be a champion.
Subscribe to our e-newsletter