Ladislav Hecht was, wrote the New York Times: “Perhaps
the best tennis player on the European continent immediately
before World War II”.
In his prime during the 1930's, Hecht was ranked 6th in the world. He defeated
celebrated players such as Bobby Riggs, Fred Perry and Jack Crawford. In 1938,
when Don Budge achieved a Grand Slam by winning the world's four major tournaments,
Hecht twice had him at match point at Wimbledon.
Hecht played in all major European tournaments and was captain of Czechoslovakia's
Davis Cup team, representing his country in consecutive Davis Cup competitions
from 1930 to 1939.
In 1932, he won the tennis championship at the first World Maccabiah Games
Hecht’s signature game featured a topspin forehand and underhit backhand.
He was a tactician who didn’t hesitate to use drop shots and lobs.
After Germany annexed part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, an aide to Adolf Hitler,
unaware Hecht was a Jew, invited him to play for the German Davis Cup team.
He declined the offer. Three days before the Nazis invaded his country, Hecht
escaped to the United States.
The Czech émigré worked in a U.S. munitions factory during World
War II. After the war, he returned to the court and became the No. 1 ranked
player in the eastern United States.
A Slovakian national hero, the City of Bratislava named its new multisport
stadium honoring Hecht in 1966.