Wimbledon doubles champion Angela Buxton dies, aged 85

Injury put paid to a career of huge promise - and her non-admission to the All England Club remained a matter of controversy


Britain’s most famous Jewish sportswoman, Wimbledon doubles champion Angela Buxton, died at the weekend a day before her 86th birthday.

Although she was defeated in the Wimbledon singles final in 1956 – the first British player to reach the singles’ final since 1939 – she went on to take the doubles title with the American Althea Gibson.

The pair had won the French Open a few weeks earlier where Gibson had become the first black player to win a major championship by taking the singles’ title.

The JC reported at the time that no player in the world had “risen so quickly” as the 21-year-old Buxton and experts believed her appearance in a Wimbledon final would not be her last.

But a serious wrist injury cut her short her career and she was forced to retire the following year.

Her non-admission to the exclusive All England Club, however, remained a controversy more than 60 years later.

Writing in the JC last month, David Berry, author of A People’s History of Tennis, noted: “ It was — and is — customary for the All England Club to reward British success at Wimbledon by offering life membership of the club. Despite Buxton’s achievements, she was put on a waiting list for membership.”

Last year, Buxton told The Times: “It’s an unfortunate example of how the British really treat Jews in this country.”

She said that when she had last inquired about her membership back in 1988, the club had claimed she had refused it – which she denied. 

A Wimbledon spokeswoman told the newspaper: “While the decision-making process for membership of the All England Club is a private matter, we strongly refute any suggestion that race or religion plays a factor.”

When a statue of Gibson was unveiled at the US Open last year, Buxton was honoured for promoting her partner’s career and supporting her when she later fell on hard times.

Born in Liverpool in 1934, she began playing the game in South Africa where she spent the war years with her mother and brother. After the war, she went to a boarding school, Gloddaeth Hall, in Llandudno, North Wales, where her promise was recognised.

But when as a teenager, she applied to join one of the country’s top clubs, Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club in Hampstead, she was told they didn’t take Jews.

She won a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in 1953 and was one of the first to be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall in Netanya in 1981.

Despite her premature retirement, she remained connected to the game, writing several books on tennis and opening a centre in  Hampstead Garden Suburb, where a young John Bercow was one of her pupils.

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