Heaven & Hell: Christine Truman Janes MBE

Christine Truman with the runner-up plate she won at the US Open in 1959

Christine Truman with the runner-up plate she won at the US Open in 1959 - Credit: Denise Bradley

One of the sporting highlights of 2021 was when 18-year-old Emma Raducanu shocked the world to lift the US Open tennis championships. For one East Anglian  former Grand Slam champion, it brought back many fond memories. Christine talks to Gina Long about her amazing tennis career and life....including winning the French Open in 1959, a Wimbledon final and meeting Winston Churchill...

How did it feel watching Emma Raducanu win the US Open in such sensational style?

I made my debut at Wimbledon when I was 16 and won the French Championships (now French Open) when I was 18, the same age as Emma. So I was able to use my own experiences and contrast what Emma has done. That made the whole experience even more fun for me.

How was tennis different when you played?

When I won a Grand Slam, I got £40. I played in the amateur days, but I still got to meet Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra and saw my waxwork model in Madame Tussauds. 

How were you treated by the fans and the media when you returned to England?

We were at the top of our game and when I won the Grand Slam at 18, I was treated like royalty. Not quite like Emma Raducanu, but I did become a household name. There was no money involved but one led a glamorous life – that is the best description.

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Which included Frank Sinatra…

I met Frank Sinatra in Hollywood, at the MGM Studios, and that was a very special moment. We were invited by Vincente Minnelli (Liza Minnelli’s father and Judy Garland’s husband) to his studio and the cast of his latest film included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley McClaine so I met them all.

I had a nice conversation with Frank Sinatra and we compared the fog in London with the smog in Los Angeles.

He was absolutely gorgeous and charming and everything one hoped he would be.

Christine with Winton Churchill

Christine with Winton Churchill - Credit: Contributed

And meeting Winston Churchill…

We were living in Woodford Green and he drove up our road in a huge open top car. He was sitting on the back seat with a rug over his knees. He was an MP and I think he was 80 or 81 and to be honest, for someone who was 18 at the time, he looked rather old.

Clementine (Winston Churchill’s wife) was there too and she told me to come into the car and say hello.

She was saying ‘Winston, it’s the tennis girl dear’. I hope when I shook hands with him that he knew it was the tennis girl who had received three telegrams from him to say congratulations on everything I had done. It was something that I will always remember.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I’m one of six children and my parents were looking for somewhere to go on holiday where there would be room for eight of us. A neighbour suggested Thorpeness and it turned out to be somewhere that worked for us. We came back year after year as families did then.

That was my first connection with Suffolk. I still think of myself as a Thorpeness girl even though I now live in Aldeburgh. 

When the children came along, we continued visiting the area and in the end we had enough money to get a cottage in Aldeburgh. 

We kept coming back to the cottage year after year and then after my husband retired at 61, we decided, as we both liked the coast, to live in Aldeburgh permanently.

What do you love about East Anglia?

I love the sea. I used to be an all round swimmer so to be able to walk down and swim in the sea is a huge attraction to me. It is a great way to start the day off and costs nothing. 

Christin Truman Janes MBE

Christin Truman Janes MBE - Credit: Contributed

Is there anything you dislike about East Anglia?

There is nothing I dislike about East Anglia, other than it is a long way from Wimbledon! 

What is your favourite landmark in East Anglia?

The House in the Clouds was always the first thing we looked for when we arrived in Thorpeness. That is what I would call my long-lasting landmark. Living in Aldeburgh, the Martello Tower is another landmark. The coast, for me, is always interesting, I never tire of watching the sea coming in and out.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Suffolk or Norfolk?

I like The Dolphin in Thorpeness and, being old fashioned, I like the Brudenell Hotel where you can sit and watch the sea.

Which places do you like in Norfolk?

I’m a great fan of Blakeney, my in-laws used to go there so when I was first engaged to my husband. It was a big treat to go and stay in the Blakeney Hotel – that was my first memory of Norfolk. I always saw it as a treat to have a weekend in Blakeney – it still is. I also like National Trust sites like Sandringham and Holkham.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

Musicals. That is my weakness. I had lunch with Elaine Page last week so we have that in common. She knows my favourite songs and we meet up every so often. 

What is in your fridge?

Milk, cheese, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber.

What is your simple philosophy of life?

Keep on keeping on.

What is your favourite film?

I watched a film with my grandchildren last night which never fails to amuse me. It’s called Planes, Trains and Automobiles. 

What was your first job?

I coached tennis at the school I went to as well as another high school nearby.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a tiny mini racket that was given to me on my wedding day by Slazenger. It was a replica of the racket I played with at Wimbledon.

Who do you admire most?

Winston Churchill, of course, and Maureen Connolly (the US tennis player who won nine major singles titles in the early 1950s). 

What is your biggest indulgence?

Local fudge.

What do you like most about yourself?

I like to think I’m happy and I always see the funny side.

What is your worst character trait?

I hope, now that I am 80, that I have ironed them all out.

Best day of your life?

Having the children – I have four, two boys and two girls.

What is your favourite breakfast?

Egg and bacon on fried bread.

What is your favourite tipple?

A sweet sherry.

What is your hidden talent?

Again at 80, I suppose they have all been exposed. I like writing children’s stories, maybe not a talent but something I have always enjoyed.

What is your earliest memory?

My older brothers and sisters telling me to get out of the way and not to interfere with their doubles match.

Tell us something people don’t already know about you

That I hardly have any sight in one eye. It is something I have had most of my life and I just adapted to it.

Can you recall the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

‘You are taller than you look on the court’.

Tell us why you live in East Anglia

Because my husband and I both felt this was where we would like to be when we retire. It was somewhere we felt familiar with, we had good friends here and we liked the atmosphere and people. 

What would you like to tell our readers the most?

Sport is not just for champions. It offers a great chance for people to meet like-minded people, make friends and enjoy some exercise. It has made such a difference to my life and to the life of my children.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you.