Very few professional tennis players wear sunglasses on court. Even fewer win Wimbledon wearing shades. But Jaroslav Drobný was no ordinary player.
Considered one of Eastern Europe’s greatest ever tennis players, Drobný overcame a multitude of mental, physical and political obstacles to become Wimbledon champion in 1954.
His incredible story as a political exile from the Soviet regime makes for a fascinating read. The dark spectacles only added to the mystery and intrigue which surrounded this talented player who became one of tennis’s breakthrough stars in the post-war era.
The reason for the dark spectacles were due to an eye injury sustained playing amateur ice hockey before embarking on his tennis career.
In fact Drobny first played in the Wimbledon championships at the tender age of 16 before the outbreak of WW2. During the war he worked in an ammunition factory but managed to keep his game in good enough shape to return to tennis once the war had concluded.
Wimbledon Final 1954 - Jaroslav Drobný (right) takes on Roseall (left)
However he became disillusioned by the Soviet Union’s propaganda attempts to utilise his growing profile. Such was his frustration that he decided to defect in 1948 and was offered citizenship by Egypt. To this day he is the only African citizen to have won Wimbledon.