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Jaroslav Drobný: The Egyptian who won Wimbledon
This is the story of Jaroslav Drobný, the Egyptian citizen who won Wimbledon to become the only Egyptian to ever win a Grand Slam.
Egypt is renowned for its history in producing the finest Squash players from Mahmoud Karim to Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour and now Mohamed El-Shorbagy.
However, it is a very unknown fact that Egypt’s racquet sport prowess began much earlier in the 1950s with Egypt’s very own tennis champion, Jaroslav Drobný.
Jaroslav was a Czechoslovakian-born exile who not only played tennis but also ice hockey, winning an Olympic silver medal in the 1948 winter games and winning the Team World Championships the year before with Czechoslovakia.
Born in Prague in 1921, Drobný originally represented Czechoslovakia, playing his first Wimbledon Championships in 1938.
In 1948, after a coup in his native country that meant he was unable to travel freely, he decided to give up his nationality in search of another. After becoming stateless, Egypt offered him citizenship which he accepted, and in 1950, he became an Egyptian.
The following year he won his first Grand Slam, the French Open beating South African Eric Sturgess in three sets, in an all-African affair.
He managed to retain his French Championship title in 1952 this time beating Australian Frank Sedgman, this time in four sets, and in the same year the Egyptian was runner-up on Wimbledon’s grass court losing to the Australian.
Drobný had to wait until 1954 to win his first Wimbledon title, 15 years after making his debut in the tournament. Aged 33, Jaroslav went on to beat another Australian Ken Rosewall in four sets. Roswell went on to to win 8 Grand Slam titles in his career.
Jarolsav was primarily left handed but would often switch to his right hand to play during games. He was a regular at the Geizera Club in Cairo where he trained alongside Ismail El-Shafei.
He decided to move his wife and family to London and in 1960 he became a British citizen and began his own business, a sports shop in South Kensington, London and in 1983 he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Having won three Grand Slams and reaching five finals, Jaroslav Drobný was Egypt’s greatest ever tennis player.
It is worth noting that Egypt has one other Grand Slam winner albeit on the juniors level, Ismail El-Shafei, who won the the 1964 Boys Singles Championship at Wimbledon.