The 'Friends' star was a lifelong tennis fan — and even trained to go pro as a teenager
Matthew Perry spent his last public appearance watching his favorite sport.
Photos from the iconic tennis tournament show the late actor smiling, laughing and clapping with friends in the stands as he watched a semifinal match.
Perry’s love of tennis is lifelong. Long before the star pursued acting — and landed his career-defining role as Chandler Bing on Friends — he was a competitive player.
The actor began hitting at age 4, and by 13 he was the No. 2 junior tennis player in his hometown of Ottawa, Canada. He loved the sport, and dedicated nearly 10 hours a day to his training, he told The New York Times in 2002.
“I needed to succeed at whatever I was doing so I could feel better about myself. I had this incredible drive on the tennis court, and that translated into acting,” he said at the time.
After moving to Los Angeles to live with his father, and test his tennis skills in new territory at 15, Perry faced harsh competition — and the reality that he would not make a living as a tennis star.
“My family came out to watch me, and I got killed,” Perry told PEOPLE in 1996. "After that, there was no question of a tennis career. I knew I wasn't good enough."
While discussing his early tennis career with Men's Health in 2012, Perry said that giving up the sport “wasn’t really a decision I had to make.”
“I was pretty great in Canada. Not so much in Los Angeles,” he told the outlet. “It was insane.”
Perry continued, “I realized I wouldn’t be playing tennis for a living, so I went for acting. Are tennis and acting alike? I don’t know. They’re both very mental games. They’re both very heavy things to be a part of.”
“I’m hoping the competitiveness that I had as a tennis player is gone now as I get older,” he added. “When I was in my 20s, I wanted to do better than everybody else. Now, I just sort of want everybody to be successful.”
Perry’s stepdad, Dateline's Keith Morrison, recalled the actor’s early intensity on the tennis court in a 2020 interview with PEOPLE.
“He's one of those people who always is the center of the room for a reason and it was so as a kid,” he said at the time. “He was extremely, extremely good on the tennis court and very intense.”
“He's an intense, talented, focused character,” Morrison added. “He's very bright. That was always the case as he was growing up.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Though Perry’s dreams of tennis stardom fell through when he was a teenager, his love of the sport stood the test of time. He continued to attend tennis tournaments, participate in charity games and laud the sport's top players on social media.
The actor also stayed in touch with his tennis roots by playing a similar court sport: pickleball.
Perry was a regular player until his final day, when he reportedly played a one-hour match, according to Extra host Billy Bush, who said he spoke with Perry’s pickleball partner following the star's death.
In an Instagram post dedicated to the late star, Bush shared that the game “regulated” the days leading up to Perry’s death — he played every day.
“Lately his greatest joy was the game of #pickleball,” Bush wrote, adding that the late actor “didn’t like the name but he LOVED the game."
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.