Gottfried von Cramm (Gottfried von Cramm Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt Freiher von Cramm)
In 1932, Gottfried von Cramm earned a place in the German Davis Cup team and won the first of four straight German national tennis championships. During this time he also teamed up with Hilde Krahwinkel to win the 1933 Mixed Doubles title at Wimbledon. Noted for his gentlemanly conduct and fair play, he gained the admiration and respect of his fellow tennis players. He earned his first individual Grand Slam title in 1934, winning the French Open. His victory made him a national hero in his native Germany; however, it was by chance that he won just after Adolf Hitler had come to power. The handsome, blond Gottfried von Cramm fitted perfectly the Aryan race image of a Nazi ideology that put pressure on all German athletes to be superior. However, Gottfried von Cramm steadfastly refused to be a tool for Nazi propaganda. Germany effectively lost its 1935 Davis Cup Interzone Final against the US when Cramm refused to take a match point in the deciding game, by notifying the umpire that the ball had tipped his racket, and thus calling a point against himself, although no one had witnessed the error. For three straight years Cramm was the men’s singles runner-up at the Wimbledon Championships, losing memorable matches in the finals to England’s Fred Perry in 1935 and again in 1936. The following year he lost in the finals to American Don Budge, both at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open. In 1935, he was beaten in the French Open finals by Perry, but turned the tables the following year and defeated Perry, gaining his second French championship. In an attempt to get Cramm to be more cooperative ideologically, the Nazi government punished his previous unwillingness by not allowing him to compete in the 1937 French championship, even though he was the defending champion.
Despite his Grand Slam play, Gottfried von Cramm is most remembered in England for his deciding match against Don Budge during the 1937 Davis Cup. He was ahead 4–1 in the final set when Budge launched a comeback, eventually winning 8–6 in a match considered by many as the greatest battle in the annals of Davis Cup play and one of the pre-eminent matches in all of tennis history. In a later interview, Budge said that Cramm had received a phone call from Hitler minutes before the match started and had come out pale and serious and had played each point as though his life depended on winning. Others say that Budge believed a tale invented by Teddy Tinling (at the time the “call boy” who ushered players onto the Centre Court at Wimbledon) that Hitler had telephoned Cramm before the match. While on a business trip, Cramm and his driver were killed in an automobile accident near Cairo, Egypt, in 1976, when the baron’s car collided with a truck. Two roads were named in his honor, the Gottfried-von-Cramm-Weg in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, where the Rot-Weiss Tennis Club is located, and a similarly named road in the small town of Merzig.
- July, 07, 1909
- Nettlingen, Germany
- November, 08, 1976
- Cairo, Egypt
Cause of Death
- car accident