Players

Ian Harrison

Extract of an article by Peter Madge in the ETTA magazine in the 1960s.

IAN HARRISON,  Master Craftsman   " an appreciation "

T

he trouble with appreciations is that they sound like obituaries — which are easier to write because you can be reasonably certain that the subject is not going to object to anything you write about him— but Ian Harrison is alive and well and living in London. Ian towered over the game for England for so many years.

He was born in Tunbridge Wells, on June 28, 1939. 1956/57 saw him selected for the Swaythling Cup team at the World Championships in Stockholm. He stayed in the team for the next twelve years, playing in six World Championships and six European Championships— a fantastic record. He played 178 times for England, winning the English Open in 1960. It was the first time in 50 years that an English-born player had been English Open Champion.

At the height of his career Ian had beaten every top player in Europe and, best of all, had wins over World Champions Ogimura and Chuang-Tse-Tung. He toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

A little-realised fact is that Ian came unscathed through the greatest upheaval of technique in the history of the game, namely the transition from rubber through sponge to sandwich rubber as a bat covering. Around 1959 he changed to sandwich rubber, never having tried the thick sponge which was in vogue. This called for a change of game; sandwich gave the advantage to attackers and totally defensive players were doomed. Ian said "I didn't entirely succeed, you can't really change your basic character, but I kept my place at the top of the Ranking List." In some ways it was perhaps Ian Harrison's greatest triumph that he survived the upheaval without losing his place at the top. Richard Bergmann once described Ian as "the greatest English player he had ever seen." Ian was the last of the great all-round players, the last mastercraftsman. Ian made a famous quote "I decided to quit early before I started to slip. After all, Why did you retire? is a much nicer question than Why don't you retire?

Excerpted by Lily Johnson

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PS: ATP Sport Ltd. in England, in co-operation with YLT, plans to bring a copy of the distinctive Ian Harrison racket on the market.

See the Ian's distinctive backhand in a seven-picture series at this link.