Thomas P. "Tom" Brown, Jr. was one of the top amateur tennis players in the world in the 1940s and a consistent winner in veterans' and seniors' competitions. He was the son of Thomas P. Brown, a newspaper correspondent, later public relations director for a railroad, and Hilda Jane Fisher, who became a schoolteacher when Tom was a boy. Though born in Washington, D.C., Tom was considered a San Franciscan all his life, having been brought west by his parents (both native Californians) at the age of two.
Tom Brown, Jr. got his start playing tennis at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park where on weekends his parents would play and Tom would tag along. He quickly became intrigued with the sport, was soon beating his parents and winning citywide children’s championships. Growing up, he was captain of the tennis teams at both Lowell High School and the University of California-Berkeley.
For one for whom tennis was never the main event in life, he had a successful record in the sport, before devoting himself to a law practice and raising a family. At his best he had wins over top players of his era. As Private First Class Tom Brown he won the October 1945 singles title of the prestigious Pacific Coast Championships, the second oldest tennis tournament in the U.S., now known as the SAP Open. Brown won it four times, twice in singles, twice in doubles. Then, fresh out of an Army uniform after WWII, he waltzed easily into the 1946 Wimbledon semi finals, in which he led that year's eventual champion, France's Yvon Petra, by two sets before losing. Brown had his revenge the following year when he unseated reigning champion Petra in straight sets to reach the 1947 Wimbledon singles semi-finals, in which he defeated Budge Patty (who would win the French and Wimbledon singles titles in 1950) in straight sets to reach the final. In the final he lost in straight sets to Jack Kramer.
In demand as a doubles partner amongst the world's best, both men and women, Brown, with Jack Kramer, won the 1946 Wimbledon doubles against Australia's Geoff Brown and Dinny Pails. Tom also won its mixed doubles, teamed with Louise Brough, against Dorothy (Dodo) Bundy and Geoff Brown. That same year, at the French, he played the mixed finals with "Dodo". And at the U.S. Nationals he reached the Men's Singles finals by eliminating Fred Kovaleski, Tom Falkenburg, Bitsy Grant, Herbie Flam, Frank Parker and Gardnar Mulloy, before finally being defeated by Kramer.
In 1947 at Wimbledon, he played the singles finals against Kramer, and at the French was in the Men's Doubles finals with Billy Sidwell of Australia.
In 1948 at Wimbledon, he teamed with Gardnar Mulloy, losing the men's finals to the Australian duo, John Bromwich and Frank Sedgman. Brown also took the U.S. mixed doubles title with his favorite partner, Louise Brough.
It would be 16 years before Tom gave Wimbledon another shot. In both 1964 and '65 he was put out in the second round of the men's singles; in '65 by John Newcombe who, several years later, would become a 3-time Wimbledon champion. He played Men's Doubles those years, also, with (respectively) Hugh Stewart and Gene Scott. Both were first round losses, the '64 event lost to Arthur Ashe and partner.
Kramer wrote in his 1979 autobiography "The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis", that Brown "was known as 'The Frisco Flailer' (we had nicknames like that in those days), and he was strong off the ground with an excellent running forehand, but he was always my pigeon." Kramer was the only player who "owned" Brown, beating him nine straight matches without the loss of a set. But every other top man Brown faced was unable to escape without a knock-down, drag-out dogfight no matter who won it.
Brown was also on three U.S. Davis Cup teams, and in 1950, against Australia, playing his second Challenge Round singles, he won the U.S.'s only point in five hard-fought sets, defeating Ken McGregor, who would become the 1951 Wimbledon singles finalist and the 1952 Australian singles champion.
Brown had a lifelong passion for travel, a wanderlust he said he acquired as a two-year-old when he and his mother took a train ride out west from Washington, D.C. to Merced, California to join his father. The family then settled in San Francisco. During his law-practice years, whenever he got the chance to travel to a tennis tournament he took it, and well into his 30s he was still beating the world’s top amateur competition. During and well beyond his active playing career, Brown was ranked in the U.S. top 10 eight times between 1946 and '58, reaching as high as No. 3 in 1946. He was ranked World No. 7 for 1946 by Pierre Gillou and for 1947 by both John Olliff and Harry Hopman.
At ages 47 and 48, Brown won the National Men's 45-and-over Hard Court singles. He also took the U.S.National Doubles 45-and-over three times, once with Art Larsen, twice with Tony Trabert. Upon retirement from his law practice, he fully embraced senior tennis, and at the age of 65 in 1987, won the USTA National Grand Slam in the 65-and-over singles, triumphing on hard, clay, grass and indoor surfaces, an almost unique accomplishment in the annals of U.S. veterans’ tennis. In 1988, the International Tennis Federation named him Outstanding Veterans Player in the world.
Brown won numerous national titles as a senior player; 24 singles and 11 doubles, pairing with Bobby Riggs 3 times, Fred Kovaleski 8 times. Brown’s last national title was in 1998. In 2007 he published his memoirs titled "As Tom Goes By".
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