Located in London’s opulent Belgravia district, The Alfred Tennyson draws a diverse crowd—locals, tourists and passers-by frequent this elegant pub for a meal, conversation and, more often than not, a cold drink. On this day, the day before Wimbledon was to begin some six miles to the southwest, it also attracted tennis royalty.
Fred Stolle and Owen Davidson, owners of a combined 32 Grand Slam titles, were on hand to emcee a welcome dinner, and enjoy a few cold drinks of their own, with guests of Grand Slam Tennis Tours. Two of these guests had made the trip from the United States to England to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Another guest, a rabid tennis fan, had come solo. Others had brought their families. They were a diverse crowd, too, but everyone in attendance made the trans-Atlantic journey because they wanted to experience this year’s Wimbledon tournament from the lower bowl of Centre Court and the first 15 rows of No. 1 Court—rather than on their television screens and mobile devices.
“We’ve been watching Wimbledon all these years, and we said, ‘We’re going to get there one day,’” said one half of the couple now married for half a century. “For our 50th, we did it.”
But before the affable Australians could regale the crowd with intimate stories from their playing days and discuss this year’s Wimbledon contenders, there was the matter of an uninvited guest. At first, he blended in seamlessly, taking a seat at one of the dining room tables with actual guests. But something was off. He kept to himself. He couldn’t confirm what court he had tickets for on Monday. And he gave strange answers to simple questions—“Titanic” was one such bizarre reply to a question about his attire.
Stolle and Davidson’s legendary anecdotes only seemed like tall tales. This interloper actually was one. Before long, the jig was up.
“We’ve had a lot of things happen,” says Andrew Chmura, president of Grand Slam Tennis Tours and Topnotch Tennis Tours, “but never that.”