Educated at Bridgend Grammar School Gerald Battrick showed considerable promise as a junior tennis player, and in 1962 aged 15 years he was awarded a scholarship to Millfield School, Somerset. Among his fellow pupils was the future rugby international J. P. R. Williams (b. 1949), also a Bridgend boy and a junior tennis champion who described Battrick as his role model.
In 1965 Battrick had his first major successes winning Junior Wimbledon, and the French and Belgian under 18 championships. He would soon develop into the most successful tennis player to come from Wales.
Although he was described by Jack Kramer, the former Wimbledon champion and BBC television commentator in 1968 as ‘awfully good’, perhaps Battrick did not really achieve his full potential. He lived in the shadow of Roger Taylor (b. 1941) and Mark Cox (b. 1943), achieving his highest British singles ranking of third which he retained for a period of five years. During that time he competed several times in all four major grand slam singles tournaments in the United States, Wimbledon and the French and Australian Open. A competitive right-handed player, his temperament occasionally let him down, and he was once forced to apologise to the Australian tennis authorities for using indecent language!
In doubles, Battrick reached the quarter-finals of the French Open in 1968 and 1970. He twice represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup in 1970 and 1974. In 1970 he won the prestigious British Hard Court Championship in Bournemouth defeating the Croatian željko Franulović (b. 1947) in four sets: 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-0. Perhaps his greatest successes were achieved in 1971 when he won the singles title at the Dutch Open in Hilversum, defeating Australian Ross Case (b. 1951) in the final in three straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 9-7. He also won the Dewar Cup indoor singles tournament in that year defeating the well-known Australian-born South African Bob Hewitt (b. 1940) 6-3, 6-4.
In 1971 Battrick married Carolyn A. Camp (b. 1947), a former Surrey county tennis player with whom he had one son James ‘Jamie’ Edward (1974) and a daughter Amanda Jane (1979).
In 1972 Battrick was caught up in the amateur / professional controversy that split the tennis world after he had turned professional and joined the circuit of Texan millionaire and sports promoter Lamar Hunt. But once that dispute was finally resolved Battrick returned to play at Wimbledon and was a quarter finalist in the doubles in 1975, partnering Graham Stilwell (b. 1945), with whom he had also won the USA hard court championships at Columbus, Ohio, in 1973.
After his semi-retirement in 1976, he played and coached in Hamburg, West Germany, where his daughter was born, before returning to Wales in 1981 to set up a tennis academy at his home in Waterton Hall, Bridgend. He continued to compete in the over 45s competitions at Wimbledon until 1996. He was also an excellent golfer and a regular player at the Royal Porth-cawl Golf Club.
Gerald Battrick was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997, and died at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend on 26 November 1998. His funeral service was held at Coychurch Crematorium, Bridgend, on 2 December 1998.
Richard E. Huws, MLib FLA, Aberystwyth
Published date: 2017