This is a book for anyone who has been shielded from the truth of their existence by those who love them. It took Felice Hardy seven years of research in seven countries to rebuild the fabric of her family. The result is The Tennis Champion Who Escaped The Nazis, Felice’s family memoir based around her grandparents’ lives and ultimately their escape, along with her mother, to London from Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1939. It also explores the terrible fate of those they left behind who died in the Holocaust.
The author’s grandmother, Liesl, was the 1930 Tennis Champion of Austria and later beat Tim Henman’s grandmother at Wimbledon. Liesl and her daughter (Felice’s mother) also played doubles at Wimbledon, the only mother and daughter ever to do so.
Woven throughout is the search for the author’s own identity. Felice was raised in an emotionally-ravaged family who suffered from survivor’s guilt. They buried their pre-war existence beneath a blanket of denial. For half of her life she remained unaware of her Jewish heritage or family history.
Her grandfather came from an impoverished rural background, but by the age of 21 he was a textile tycoon. Still in his 20s, he became president of the largest sports club in Europe. He took his football team to London where they beat West Ham 5-0 at Upton Park.
Felice’s mother was 12 years old when the family left everything behind. To arrive in Britain, part of her grandfather’s journey involved crawling for 18 miles through the snow across the Czech-Polish frontier.
In May 2021 Felice received Austrian citizenship, as did her children, so her family has come full circle.
Join her journey through the killing fields of the Third Reich to arrival on the hallowed turf of Wimbledon.
The book will be published on 1st June 2023 by Ad Lib