Stories of Wimbledon: Frank Shields


Francis Xavier Alexander ‘Frank’ Shields, has passed into the history of Wimbledon as the only player that has not been presented to dispute the final of the tournament. In 1931, after twisting the ankle in the semi-final against Jean Borotra, and under the pressures of the american federation (USTA), Frank, grandfather of the actress and first wife of Andre Agassi, Brooke Shields, reported to Francis Russell Burrow, referee of the tournament, their abandonment before contesting the final against his great friend Sidney Wood.

“It was very hard for Wimbledon, but the Davis Cup it was then the competition more transcendental, and the USTA did not want to risk a serious injury for Shields, because a week later we were facing Great Britain at Roland Garros for a place in the final against France,” explained Wood in his biography on the grounds of the absence of Frank in the end.

Sidney Wood came to Wimbledon that morning from the Grosvenor House Hotel in a Bentley driven by Gertrude Lawrence, the actress who in the 1930s was inspired of the famous song ‘Body and Soul’, performed among others by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Hollyday and Amy Winehouse, in 2011, in his famous duet with Tony Bennett. Wood and Shields spoke at length in the locker roomsince Frank wanted to play. But the strength of the USTA imposed. However, both came to a pact.

Wood and Shields spoke at length in the locker room, because Frank wanted to play. But the strength of the USTA imposed

After receiving the trophy, Wood took delivery of the same to Maud Barger-Wallach, champion at Forest Hills in 1908, the daughter of the president of the railroads of new york, and great friend of both players. Wood, who thought that Shields would have been widely favorite in the final, he told Maud that it will save the trophy. “Only I will put this trophy in my showcase if I defeat in the final of a big tournament on grass Frank”, he said. Three years later, Wood defeated Shields 6-4, 6-3 in the final of Queen s. On his return to the united States, Maud returned the trophy.

Frank Shields was born November 18, 1909 in the Bronx, New Yorkin the bosom of a middle-class family of irish origin, and of strong religious roots. He studied in the Roxbury School in Cheshire, where she met Sidney Wood, with which it would engage a friendship that lasted over the years, after deciding both that the tennis would be a part of their lives. But Frank was not done for study. When he entered the University of Pittsburgh, to the despair of his parents, abandoned the classrooms on the second day of classes.

Frank Shields during a game of tennis.

Frank Shields during a game of tennis.
(Third party.)

Shields grew up on the tennis court, admiring the great Bill Tilden, who regularly looked to play in Forest Hills. Also loved the díscola life of Tilden out of the tournament. He made his debut in the tracks of the great complex american with only 16 years old. In their first matches in the International Championships of the united States, was beaten in three sets by Tawara Tsumoru Takeshi, a member of the japanese team of Davis Cup.

Just two years later, Frank Shields reached the semi-finals of Forest Hills by beating players of the calibre of Harry Hopman, Edward Feibelman, Harris Coggeshall, and Jacques Bugnon. He lost to Henri Cochet in three sets, but since it became part of the elite of the mighty american tennis of those years. Had a excellent service, a great movement of the feetand a huge intuition in his punches, with a powerful skill in the volley.

“It was very hard for Wimbledon, but the Davis Cup was then the competition most momentous”

In 1929, Tilden defeated him in a great second-round match at Forest Hills, but in 1930 Shields he won his first five tournaments: Portland, Syracuse, Hartford, Cincinnati and Delaware. Finished off the great season reaching the final of the US Open in singles (lost to John Doeg) and doubles as a pair with Frank Parker (lost to George Lott and Lester Stoefen). In 1931Frank Shields was already the number one ranking in the u.s., and made his debut in the Davis Cup by winning the three points of the playoff against Mexico, the double next to Wood. In 1932 contracted marriage with Rebecca Wilimas Tenney.

Shields, beyond the tennis, it was a sort of ‘Gatsby’. Sleek, elegant and seductiveFrank had a life as intense outside of the tracks as within them. Hollywood and the bars were their favorite places. Not repaired in costs. Signed a seven year contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and quickly made a place in the circle of the famous. He made friends with Charles Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Lionel Barrymore, Jack Warner and, above all, Errol Flynn.

Frank Shields was not submitted to a Wimbledon final.

Frank Shields was not submitted to a Wimbledon final.
(Third party.)

Frank involved several of them in tennis, by organizing friendly matches and teaching them also the technique of the strokes. As a counterpart, apart from the business in marketing of films, Frank acted as the secondary in seven films, and earned good profits by selling insurance to the people with power that surrounded a Hollywood in absolute fullness. But the bars and the drink went out slowly your life tennis.

Each season that passed, Frank lost in earlier rounds of the tournaments in which he participated. Your last good performance in the Grand Slams it was in 1934when she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the the quarterfinals of the US Open. From there, and although he continued to compete until 1954 in the U.S. Open, the Shields just won two titles: in 1934 in Ojai, and in 1937 in the Coronado Hotel, both in California.

In 1940 it divorced Rebecca Tenney, and married with Marina Torlonia di Civitella-Cesithe daughter of the Prince of Civitella-Cesi. His brother, Alessandro Torlonia, was the husband of the Infanta Beatriz de Borbón. They had two sons, Christian and Marina Francis Xavier Alexander, the father of Brooke Shields. Divorced in 1948. A year later, Frank Shields he married Katherine Mortimerthe daughter of financier Stanley Grafton Mortimer, and of whom it was speculated that she had had a romance of youth with John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The bars and the drink went out slowly your life tennis

In 1951the USTA gave him a chance to relaunch his tennis career, and named him Davis Cup captain. With Vic Seixas, Ted Schroeder, Gony Trabert and Dick Savitt in the team, he reached the Challenge Round, but was exceeded by the australian team that was with Frank Sedgman, Ken McGregor, Lew Hoad and Mervyn Rose, under the eternal captain of the great Harry Hopman.

That lost final ended up with a great controversyas Savittwithout a doubt the best player on the team, not was lined by Shields. And not only that, but Shields said that he did not deserve the job for being a collaborator of Australia and do not have credit as the representative of the united States. People close to the USTA came to consider that, in reality, the problem was the condition of jewish of Dick Savittsomething that Shields could not stand. It was not his only problem with a player, because on several occasions, due to his alcoholismI had had incidents with players of the second level.

When the USTA, in spite of everything, she offered to renew his contract, Shields refused, saying that he lost between $ 20,000 and $ 40,000 of their income because of the captaincy. His problems with alcohol were becoming more and more evident. In 1962 he separated from Katherine, and two years later suffered a first heart attack. In 1964 came in andl International Tennis Hall of Fame. The August 19, 1975, a third heart attack ended his life while I was in a taxi in the direction of his home in Manhattan.