Robert “Bob” Falkenberg, who saved three championship points on his way to win the 1948 Wimbledon men’s singles final at the age of 22 and brought fast food to Brazil during his post-tennis entrepreneurial career, has died. He was 95 years old.
Falkenberg died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Santa Ynez, California, his daughter, Claudia, told the Associated Press in a phone interview on Monday.
In addition to his singles victories at the All England Club, Falkenberg won two Grand Slam men’s doubles titles during tennis’ amateur era: at Wimbledon in 1947 with partner Jack Kramer, and in 1944 at the US National Championships with Don McNeill.
Falkenberg was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1974.
Born in New York on January 29, 1926, Falkenberg was ranked among the top 10 American tennis players by age 17 and won college singles and doubles titles for the University of Southern California.
Their biggest win came at Wimbledon, where three times they were within one point of losing in the 1948 singles final, while trailing Australia’s John Bromwich 5–3 in the fifth set, before going 7–5. , came back to win 0-6. 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. Novak Djokovic pulled a pair of them apart after beating Roger Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the 2019 final until Novak Djokovic managed to erase the championship point and win the title match at Wimbledon.
Falkenberg entered his last Grand Slam tournament in 1955 after moving to Brazil with his wife Lourdes “Lou” Myrink Vega Machado, and founded a chain of fast-food and ice cream shops called Bobs. He later sold the franchise. Eventually, over 1,000 bobs were opened in Brazil.
“My father was never interested in becoming a professional (tennis player). He was an amateur, and he was. When I was growing up, my father didn’t play tennis; He played golf. Tennis was something from an early part of his life,” Claudia Falkenberg told the Associated Press. “My claim to fame was that I was ‘the owner of Bob’s daughter.’ … He introduced fast food to Brazil. He changed the way a culture operated.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Falkenberg is survived by his son, Robert II, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
More Associated Press Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports