Morpurgo, Umberto Louis de
A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Morpurgo was a member of the Italian tennis team at the 1924 Paris Olympics. After losing to eventual gold medalist Vincent Richards of the United States in the semifinals (3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6), Morpurgo won the bronze medal in the men's singles competition. In the third-place match, he defeated the reigning Wimbledon champion, France's Jean Borotra in a five sets (1-6, 6-1, 8-6, 4-6, 7-5).
Morpurgo also competed in the men's doubles event with partner Clemente Serventi. They won their second round match over a Belgian team (6-4, 7-5, 7-5) to reach the quarterfinals. The Italians were then eliminated from the competition after losing in straight sets (6-2, 6-4, 6-2) to France's Jacques Brugnon and Henri Cochet, the eventual silver medalists.
Following the Paris Games, tennis, which had been part of the Olympic program since the first Olympiad in 1896 (in Athens), was removed as an Olympic event. Arguments concerning the definition of professional or amateur players kept the sport from being fully readmitted until the 1988 Seoul Games (it was a demonstration sport in 1968 and 1984).
Nicknamed the "Baron," Umberto was Italy's No. 1 ranked tennis player in 1927, 1929-31, and was ranked in the world's top ten from 1928-30. A member of Italy's first Davis Cup team in 1922, Morpurgo was born in Trieste when it was part of Austria, but became Italian when the city changed hands after World War I; Umberto had served with the German Air Force during the war. Although he did not play in the 1922 Davis Cup (preference was given to players from Rome), he competed the following year.
In 1924, the American Lawn Tennis Magazine (which called him "the Tilden of his country") wrote: "...(Morpurgo) has a finely rounded game, a severe forehand drive, well-topped, as well as an accurate backhand. His service breaks with speed to an opponent's backhand, and he frequently follows it into the net with inexplorable sharpness. He has a fluent style and all-court game, and his worst fault seems to be his inability to devote himself seriously to tennis for long periods of time." A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Umberto was named Italian Commissioner of Tennis by Mussolini in 1929.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1886 - d. unknown
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)