Wimbledon winner and ice hockey world champion Jaroslav Drobný born 100 years ago

Jaroslav Drobný (left) and Jack Arkinstall after the final match in Erlangen (1955)

Jaroslav Drobný was part of the Czechoslovak ice hockey team that won the country’s first World Championships in ice hockey in 1947. He would go on to win in the Wimbledon doubles in 1954 – as a citizen of Egypt.

Jaroslav Drobný | Photo: Joop van Bilsen,  Anefo,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

It was all-round talent and perfect technique that brought Jaroslav Drobný international success in two sports disciplines. He played in the Czech Ice Hockey League for the no longer existent team ČLTK Praha. He played as a centre forward and would be part of the national teams that won the gold at the World Championships in 1947 and silver at the Winter Olympic Games in 1948.

Just as he was into ice hockey, Drobný was also a lover of tennis. He would win the domestic tennis champion title 10 times and also saw major successes on the international stage. As a citizen of Egypt, he won the mens’ doubles finals in Wimbledon in July 1954. The reason, why he changed citizenship was his forced emigration after slapping a Communist functionary Jan Zelenka in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1949. Incidentally, Zelenka would later become the director of Czechoslovak Television. Drobný was afraid to return home after the incident and accepted an offer from the King of Egypt to play in his country’s national team. After 1955, Drobný acquired British citizenship and settled in London. Apart from Wimbledon, he would also go on to win the French Open twice. In 1983, Jaroslav Drobný was introduced into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He died shortly after turning 80 on September 13, 2001, in London.

Jaroslav Drobný,  Rob van Meegeren,  Huib Wilton and Bernard Destremau | Photo: van Duinen,  Anefo,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC0 1.0

Jaroslav Drobný first played at Wimbledon in 1938, aged 16. A year later, after the German invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia, he officially represented the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. After the Second World War he would again play in Wimbledon as a Czechoslovak citizen. He won the title as an Egyptian citizen and played his last Wimbledon as a citizen of the United Kingdom.