Savitt First Jew to Win Wimbledon

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Sports coverage traditionally hasn’t been a major part of the Exponent, but a back-page sports column noted that Dick Savitt of Orange, N.J., was the first Jewish player to win Wimbledon.

There may have been anti-Semitism in tennis circles then, but Jewish players were thriving. Savitt beat fellow Jew Herb Flam from California in the semifinals. And in 1953, Philadelphia-born Vic Seixas, whose father was Jewish, won Wimbledon; he won the U.S. Open a year later as well.

As for Savitt, 1951 was a banner year. He also won the Australian Open, reached the semifinals in the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals in the French Open. He appeared on the cover of Time that year.

Savitt retired the following year, while still just 25, for reasons he never fully discussed. Some speculated a Davis Cup snub for being Jewish was the reason.

He later returned part-time to competitive tennis, winning the National Indoors title in both 1958 and 1961; he also won gold medals in both singles and doubles that year at the Maccabiah Games. Now 90, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1976.