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The Art of Lawn Tennis By William T. Tilden Characters: 30060

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

Lawn tennis is the outgrowth of the old French game of the courts of the early Louis. It spread to England, where it gained a firm hold on public favour. The game divided; the original form being closely adhered to in the game known in America as "Court tennis," but which is called "Tennis" in England. Lawn tennis grew out of it.

The old style game was played over a net some 5 feet high, and the service was always from the same end, the players changing courts each game. It was more on the style of the present game of badminton or battledore and shuttlecock.

Gradually the desire for active play had its effect, in a lowered net and changed laws, and tennis, as we know it, grew into being. From its earliest period, which is deeply shrouded in mystery, came the terms of "love" for "nothing" and "deuce" for "40-all." What they meant originally, or how they gained their hold is unknown, but the terms are a tradition of the game and just as much a part of the scoring system as the "game" or "set" call.

In 1920 the Rules Committee of the American Tennis Association advocated a change in scoring that replaced love, 15, 30, 40 with the more comprehensive 1, 2, 3, 4. The real reason for the proposed change was the belief that the word "love" in tennis made the uninitiated consider the game effeminate and repelled possible supporters. The loyal adherents of the old customs of the game proved too strong, and defeated the proposed change in scoring by an overwhelming majority.

Personally, I think there is some slight claim to consideration for the removal of the word "love." It can do no good, and there are many substitutes for it. It can easily be eliminated without revolutionizing the whole scoring system. It is far easier to substitute the words "zero," "nothing," for "love" than cause such an upheaval as was proposed. In my opinion the best way to obviate the matter is to use the player's name in conjunction with the points won by him, when his opponent has none. If the first point is won by Williams, call the score "15, Williams" and, with his opponent scoring the next, the call would become "15-all."

If tennis loses one adherent, it could otherwise gain, simply by its retaining the word "love" in the score, I heartily advocate removing it. This removal was successfully accomplished in Chicago in 1919, with no confusion to players, umpires, or public.

However, returning from my little digression on the relative value of "love" and "nothing," let me continue my short history of the game. The playing of tennis sprang into public favour so quickly that in a comparatively short space of time it was universally played in England and France. The game was brought to America in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Its growth there in the past twenty-five years has been phenomenal. During the last half century tennis gained a firm foothold in all the colonies of the British Empire, and even found favour in the Orient, as is explained in another portion of this book.

Tennis fills many needs of mankind. It provides an outlet for physical energy, relaxation, mental stimulus, and healthful exercise. The moral tone is aided by tennis because the first law of tennis is that every player must be a good sportsman and inherently a gentleman.

Tennis was recognized by the Allied Governments as one of the most beneficial sports during the World War. Not only were the men in service encouraged to play whenever possible, but the Allied Governments lent official aid to the various service tournaments held in France following the signing of the Armistice. The importance of tennis in the eyes of the American Government may be gleaned from the fact that great numbers of hard courts were erected at the various big cantonments, and organized play offered to the soldiers.

Many of the leading players who were in training in America at the time of the National Championship, which was played solely to raise money for the Red Cross, were granted leave from their various stations to take part in the competition. Among the most notable were Wallace F. Johnson, Conrad B. Doyle, Harold Throckmorton, S. Howard Voshell, and myself, all of whom were granted leave of two weeks or a month. Captain R. N. Williams and Ensigns William M. Johnston and Maurice E. M'Loughlin, and many other stars, were overseas. Official recognition at such a time puts a stamp of approval on the game which goes far to justify its world-wide popularity.

The tennis world lost many of its best in that titanic struggle. The passing of so many from its ranks left gaps that will be hard to fill.

The gallant death of Anthony F. Wilding in Flanders cost the game one of its greatest players, and finest men. I had not the pleasure of knowing Wilding personally yet I, like all the tennis world, felt a sense of keen personal loss at his heroic passing. Wilding was a man whose sterling qualities gave even more to the game than his play, and tennis is better for his all too brief career.

America lost some of its finest manhood in the War, and tennis paid its toll. No player was a more likeable personality nor popular figure among the rising stars than John Plaffman, the young Harvard man who gave his life in Flanders fields. I cannot touch on the many heroes who made everlasting fame in a bigger game than that which they loved so well. Time is too short. It is sufficient to know that the tennis players of the world dropped their sport at the call of War, and played as well with death as ever they did on the tennis court.

The War is over, please God never to return, and the men are back from their marvellous task. The game of War is done, the games of Peace are again being played. Tennis suffered the world over from war's blight, but everywhere the game sprang up in renewed life at the close of hostilities. The season of 1919 was one of reconstruction after the devastation. New figures were standing in prominence where old stars were accustomed to be seen. The question on the lips of all the tennis players was whether the stars of pre-War days would return to their former greatness.

The Championship of the World for 1919 at Wimbledon was anxiously awaited. Who would stand forth as the shining light of that meeting? Gerald Patterson, the "Australian Hurricane," as the press called him, came through a notable field and successfully challenged Norman Brookes for the title. Gobert and Kingscote fell before him, and the press hailed him as a player of transcendent powers.

The Australian team of Brookes, Patterson, R. V. Thomas, and Randolph Lycett journeyed home to the Antipodes by way of America to compete in the American Championship. Meanwhile R. N. Williams, W. M. Johnston, and Maurice E. M'Loughlin were demobilized, and were again on the courts. The American Championships assumed an importance equal to that of the Wimbledon event.

The Australian team of Brookes and Patterson successfully challenged the American title-holders in doubles, Vincent Richards and myself, after defeating the best teams in America, including W. M. Johnston and C. J. Griffin, the former champions. Speculation was rife as to Patterson's ability to triumph in the Singles Championship, and public interest ran high.

The Singles Championship proved a notable triumph for W. M. Johnston, who won a decisive, clear-cut, and deserved victory from a field never equalled in the history of tennis. Johnston defeated Patterson in a marvellous 5-set struggle, while Brookes lost to me in four sets. M'Loughlin went down to Williams in a match that showed the famous Comet but a faint shadow of his former self. Williams was defeated in sequence sets by me. The final round found Johnston in miraculous form and complete master of the match from start to finish, and he defeated me in three sequence sets.

Immediately following the championship, the Australian-American team match took place. In this Brookes went down to defeat before Johnston in four close sets, while I succeeded in scoring another point by nosing out Patterson by the same score. Thus 1919 gave Johnston a clear claim to the title of the World's Premier Tennis Player. The whole season saw marked increase in tennis interest throughout the entire world.

I have gone into more detail concerning the season of 1919 than I otherwise would, to attempt to show the revival of the tennis game in the public interest, and why it is so.

The evolution of the tennis game is a natural logical one. There is a definite cycle of events that can be traced. The picture is clearest in America as the steps of advancements are more definitely defined. It is from America that I am going to analyse the growth of modern tennis.

The old saying, "Three generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves," may well be parodied to "Three decades from ground strokes to ground strokes." The game of tennis is one great circle that never quite closes. Progress will not allow a complete return to the old style. Yet the style, without the method of thirty years ago, is coming back in vogue. It is a polished, decorated version of the old type game. It is expanded and developed. History tells us that the civilization of the old Greeks and Romans held many so-called modern luxuries, but not the methods of acquiring them we have to-day. Just so with tennis; for the ground. stroke game was the style of the past, just as it will be the style of the future; but the modern method of making ground strokes is a very different thing from the one used by the old-time stars.

We are on the brink of the upheaval. The next few years will show results in the tennis game that were not thought of before the War. Tennis is becoming an organized sport, with skilled management. Modern methods, where efficiency is the watchword, is the new idea in tennis development.

Tennis is on the verge of the greatest increase in its history. Never before has tennis of all types been so universally played, nor by such great multitudes. Its drawing power is phenomenal, hundreds of thousands of people witnessing matches the world over, and played during the season of 1920.

There are more players of fame now before the public than at any previous time since tennis became established. The standard of play of the masses and quality of game of the stars have risen tremendously in the last decade. No less an authority than Norman E. Brookes, whose active playing days cover a period of twenty years, told me during the American Championships, last year at Forest Hills, that in his opinion the game in America had advanced fully "15" in ten years. He stated that he believed the leading players of to-day were the superior of the Larneds, Dohertys, and Pims of the past.

The most remarkable advance has been along the lines of junior play: the development of a large group of boys ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen, who will in time replace the Johnstons, Williams, and M'Loughlins of to-day.

American tennis has passed through a series, of revolutionary stages that have changed the complex of the game. English tennis has merely followed its natural development, unaffected by external influences or internal upheaval, so that the game today is a refined product of the game of twenty years ago. Refined but not vitalized. The World War alone placed its blight on the English game, and changed the even tenor of its way. Naturally the War had only a devastating effect. No good sprang from it. It is to the everlasting credit of the French and English that during those horrible four years of privation, suffering, and death the sports of the nations lived.

The true type of English tennis, from which American tennis has sprung, was the baseline driving game. It is still the same. Well-executed drives, hit leisurely and gracefully from the base- line, appealed to the temperament of the English people. They developed this style to a perfection well-nigh invincible to cope with from the same position. The English gave the tennis world its traditions, its Dohertys, and its Smiths.

Tennis development, just as tennis psychology, is largely a matter of geographical distribution. This is so well recognized now in America that the country is divided in various geographic districts by the national association, and sectional associations carry on the development of their locality under the supervision of the national body.

Naturally new countries, with different customs, would not develop along the same lines as England. America, Australia, and South Africa took the English style, and began their tennis career on the baseline game. Each of these has since had a distinct yet similar growth-a variance to the original style. American tennis followed the English baseline style through a period that developed Dr. Dwight, R. D. Sears, Henry Slocum, and other stars. Tennis, during this time, was gaining a firm hold among the boys and young men who found the deep-driving game devoid of the excitement they desired. Americans always enjoy experiments, so the rising players tried coming to the net at any reasonable opening. Gradually this plan became popular, until Dwight Davis and Holcombe Ward surprised the tennis world with their new service, now the American twist, and used it as an opening gun in a net attack.

This new system gave us besides Davis and Ward, the Wrenn brothers, George and Robert, Malcolm Whitman, M. G. Chace, and finally Beals C. Wright. The baseline game had its firm adherents who followed it loyally, and it reached its crest in the person of William A. Larned. Previous to this time, speed, cyclonic hitting and furious smashing were unknown, although rumours of some player named M'Loughlin combining these qualities were floating East from the Pacific Coast. Not much stock was taken in this phenomenon until 1908, when Maurice Evans M'Loughlin burst upon the tennis world with a flash of brilliancy that earned him his popular nickname, "The California Comet."

M'Loughlin was the turning-point in American tennis. He made a lasting impression on the game that can never be erased. His personality gained him a following and fame, both in America and England, that have seldom been equalled in the sporting world.

M'Loughlin was the disciple of speed. Cyclonic, dynamic energy, embodied in a fiery-headed boy, transformed tennis to a game of brawn as well as brains. America went crazy over "Red Mac," and all the rising young players sought to emulate his game. No man has brought a more striking personality, or more generous sportsmanship, into tennis than M'Loughlin. The game owes him a great personal debt; but this very personal charm that was his made many players strive to copy his style and methods, which unfortunately were not fundamentally of the best. M'Loughlin was a unique tennis player. His whole game was built up on service and overhead. His ground strokes were very faulty. By his personal popularity M'Loughlin

dwarfed the importance of ground strokes, and unduly emphasized the importance of service. M'Loughlin gave us speed, dash, and verve in our tennis. It remained for R. N. Williams and W. M. Johnston to restore the balance of the modern game by solving the riddle of the Californian's service. Brookes and Wilding led the way by first meeting the ball as it came off the ground. Yet neither of these two wizards of the court successfully handled M'Loughlin's service as did Williams and Johnston.

M'Loughlin swept Brookes and Wilding into the discard on those memorable days in 1914, when the dynamic game of the fiery-headed Californian rose to heights it had never attained previously, and he defeated both men in the Davis Cup. Less than one month later Williams, playing as only Williams can, annihilated that mighty delivery and crushed M'Loughlin in the final of the National Championship. It was the beginning of the end for M'Loughlin, for once his attack was repulsed he had no sound defence to fall back on.

Williams and then Johnston triumphed by the wonderful ground strokes that held back M'Loughlin's attack.

To-day we are still in the period of service and net attack, with the cycle closing toward the ground- stroke game. Yet the circle will never close, for the net game is the final word in attack, and only attack will succeed. The evolution means that the ground stroke is again established as the only modern defence against the net player.

Modern tennis should be an attacking service, not necessarily epoch-making, as was M'Loughlin's, but powerfully offensive, with the main portion of the play from the baseline in sparring for openings to advance to the net. Once the opening is made the advance should follow quickly, and the point ended by a decisive kill. That is the modern American game. It is the game of Australia as typified by Patterson schooled under the Brookes tutelage. It is the game of France, played by Gobert, Laurentz, and Brugnon. It has spread to South Africa, and is used by Winslow, Norton, and Raymond. Japan sees its possibilities, and Kumagae and Shimidzu are even now learning the net attack to combine with the baseline game. England alone remains obstinate in her loyalty to her old standby, and even there signs of the joint attack are found in the game of Kingscote.

Tennis has spread so rapidly that the old idea of class and class game has passed away with so many other ancient, yet snobbish, traditions. Tennis is universally played. The need of proper development of the game became so great in America that the American Lawn Tennis Association organized, in 1917, a system of developing the boys under eighteen years of age all over the United States.

The fundamental idea in the system, which had its origin in the able brain of Julian S. Myrick, President of the United States Lawn Tennis Association, was to arouse and sustain interest in the various sections by dealing with local conditions. This was successfully done through a system of local open tournaments, that qualified boys to a sectional championship. These sectional championships in turn qualified the winners for the National junior Championship, which is held annually in conjunction with the men's event at Forest Hills.

The success of the system has been stupendous. The growth of tennis in certain localities has been phenomenal. In Philadelphia alone over 500 boys compete in sanctioned play annually, while the city ranking for 1919 contained the names of 88 boys under eighteen, and 30 under fifteen, all of whom had competed in at least three sanctioned events. The school leagues of the city hold a schedule of 726 individual matches a year. The success of the Philadelphia junior system is due to the many large clubs who give the use of their courts and the balls for an open tournament. Among these clubs are Germantown Cricket Club, Cynwyd Club, Philadelphia Cricket, Overbrook Golf Club, Belfield Country Club, Stenton A. C., Green Point Tennis Clubs and at times Merion Cricket Club. The movement has been fostered and built up by the efforts of a small group of men, the most important of whom is Paul W. Gibbons, President of the Philadelphia Tennis Association, together with Wm. H. Connell of Germantown, the late Hosmer W. Hanna of Stenton, whose untiring efforts aided greatly in obtaining a real start, Dr. Chuton A. Strong, President of the Interscholastic League, Albert L. Hoskins, for years Vice-President of the U.S.L.T.A., and others. This plan brought great results. It developed such players as Rodney M. Beck, H. F. Domkin, G. B. Pfingst, Carl Fischer, the most promising boy in the city, who has graduated from the junior age limit, and Charles Watson (third), who, in 1920, is the Philadelphia junior Champion, and one of the most remarkable players for a boy of sixteen I have ever seen.

New York City was fortunate in having F. B. Alexander, the famous Internationalist, to handle the junior tennis there. He, together with Julian S. Myrick, and several other men, built up a series of tournaments around New York that produced some remarkable young players. It is largely due to the junior system that Vincent Richards has become the marvellous player that he is, at such an early age. Second only to Richards, and but a shade behind, are Harold Taylor and Cecil Donaldson, who have just passed out of the junior age limit. Charles Wood, the Indoor Boys Champion, is a remarkable youngster.

In New England, particularly in Providence, through the efforts of J. D. E. Jones, junior tennis is rapidly assuming an important place, and many young stars who will be heard of in the future are coming to the fore. By a strange coincidence the list is headed by the two sons of Jones. They seem to have inherited their father's ability. Arnold W. Jones, the National Boy Champion, is a player of marked ability, with a fine all-around game. Following closely on his heels come J. D. E. Jones, Jr., and Wm. W. Ingraham. From the South one finds John E. Howard. Around Chicago a group of men, led by Samuel Hardy, captain of the 1920 Davis Cup team, and assisted by R. T. Van Arsdale, built up a magnificent system of tournaments and coaching. Hardy left Chicago and came to New York in 1919; but the work which he so ably organized will continue under the supervision of the Western Association. The leading juniors developed in Chicago were Lucian Williams and the Weber brothers, James and Jerry.

From the Pacific Coast, the pioneer in junior development, wonderful boys are continually coming East. A boy's tennis game matures early in California. M'Loughlin was about eighteen when he first came East; Johnston less than twenty-one when he won the national title the first time; Marvin Griffin and Morgan Fottrell are in 1920 the leading youngsters in California.

The success of the Californians is due largely to the efforts of Dr. Sumner Hardy, brother of Samuel Hardy, and one of the most remarkable figures in the tennis world. Dr. Hardy practically carries the California Association single handed. He is a big factor in American tennis success.

From up in Washington State, a fine young player, Marshall Allen, has come to the fore.

Charles S. Garland, the Davis Cup star, is a former junior

Champion of America, and a product of the junior system in

Pittsburg, which is so ably handled by his father, Charles

Garland. Other young stars developing include George Moreland and

Leonard Reed.

Most of the foregoing is irrelevant, I suppose, but I have gone into detail because I want to prove that America has gone into the matter of junior developments, carefully, systematically, and has produced results.

It has been proved conclusively that it is in the schools that the most favourable progress could be made. Once tennis is placed on the basis of importance it deserves, the boys will take it up. At present there is a tendency to discount tennis and golf in school. This is a big mistake, as these two games are the only ones that a man can play regularly after he leaves college and enters, into business. The school can keep a sport alive. It is schools that kept cricket alive in England, and lack of scholastic support that killed it in America. The future of tennis in England, France, Australia, Japan, etc., rests in the hands of the boys. If the game is to grow, tennis must be encouraged among the youngsters and played in the schools.

England is faced with a serious problem. Eton and Harrow, the two big schools, are firm set against tennis. The other institutions naturally follow in the lead of these famous schools. The younger generation is growing up with little or no knowledge of tennis. One thing that forcibly bore in on my mind, during my trip in 1920, was the complete absence of boys of all ages at the various tournaments. In America youngsters from ten years of age up swarm all over the grounds at big tennis events. I saw very few of either at Queen's Club, Wimbledon, Eastbourne, or Edgbaston where I played. The boys do not understand tennis in England, and naturally do not care to play it.

The English Lawn Tennis Association is very desirous of building up tennis in the schools; but so far has not yet succeeded in breaking down the old prejudice. It is really a question of life or death with English tennis at this time. Major A. R. F. Kingscote, the youngest of the leading players in England, is older than any man in the American First ten, with the single exception of Walter T. Hayes. J. C. Parke has stated definitely that 1920 marked his retirement from the game. He is just under forty. Young players must be found to replace the waning stars. The danger is not immediate, for all the players who proved so good in 1920 seemed certain of several more years of first- class play; but what of the next ten years?

The future development of tennis is dependent largely upon the type of court that will become the standard. All big fixtures to-day are played on grass wherever possible. There is little question but that the grass game is the best. In the first place, it is the old-established custom, and should be maintained if possible. Secondly, the game is more skilful and more interesting on turf. Thirdly, grass is far easier on the eyes and feet of the players than any other surface.

There are drawbacks to grass courts. Grass cannot grow in all climates. The grass season opens late and closes early. The expense of upkeep is very great, and skilled groundsmen are required at all clubs that have grass courts.

The hard court of clay or dirt, cinder, en-tout-cas, or asphalt allows more continuous play and uniform conditions in more kinds of weather. The bound is truer and higher, but the light and surface are harder on the player. The balls wear light very rapidly, while racquets wear through quite soon.

The advantages are a much longer season on hard courts, with less chance of weather interrupting important meetings. The courts require far less care in upkeep than grass.

What has been the actual tendency in the last decade? In America the hard courts erected have been approximately nine to one grass. America is rapidly become a hard-court country. France is entirely on a hard-court basis; there are no grass courts at all. Play in South Africa is entirely on hard courts. Australia and the British Isles have successfully repelled the hard-court invasion thus far, although during the past two years the number of hard courts put up in England has exceeded grass.

The en-tout-cas court of peculiar red surface is the most popular composition in England and the Continent.

There seems little doubt but that the hard court is the coming surface in the next decade. Grass will continue to be used for the most important events, but the great majority of the tennis played, exclusive of the championships, will be on hard courts.

The result on the game will be one of increasing the value of the ground stroke and partially cutting down the net attack, since the surface of a hard court is slippery and tends to make it hard to reach the net to volley. Thus the natural attack will become a drive and not a volley. Hard-court play speeds up the ground strokes, and makes the game more orthodox.

The installation of hard courts universally should spread tennis rapidly, since it will afford more chance to play over a longer period. The growth of public courts in the parks and the municipal play grounds in America has been a big factor in the spread of the game's popularity. Formerly a man or boy had to belong to a club in order to have an opportunity to play tennis. Now all he needs is a racquet and balls, and he may play on a public court in his own city. This movement will spread, not only in America but throughout the world. England and France have some public courts; but their systems are not quite as well organized as the American.

The branch of tennis which England and France foster, and in which America is woefully lax, is the indoor game. Unfortunately the majority of the courts abroad have wood surfaces, true but lightning fast. The perfect indoor court should retain its true bound, but slow up the skid of the ball. The most successful surface I have ever played upon is battleship linoleum-the heavy covering used on men-of-war. This gives a true, slightly retarded bound, not unlike a very fast grass court.

Indoor play in America is sadly crippled by reason of no adequate facilities for play. The so-called National Indoor Championship is held at the Seventh Regiment Armoury in New York City on a wood floor, with such frightful lighting that it is impossible to play real tennis. The two covered courts at Longwood Club, Boston, are very fine, well lighted, with plenty of space. There is a magnificent court at Providence, and another at Buffalo. Utica boasts of another, while there are several fine courts, privately owned, on Long Island. New York City uses the big armouries for indoor play; but the surface and light in these are not fit for real tennis. The Brooklyn Heights Casino has the only adequate court in the Metropolitan district.

Philadelphia and Chicago, cities of enormous populations and great tennis interest, have no courts or facilities for indoor play. This condition must be rectified in America if we wish to keep our supremacy in the tennis world. The French players are remarkable on wood. Gobert is said to be the superior of any player in the world, when playing under good conditions indoors. The game of tennis is worthy of having all types of play within reach of its devotees. Why should a player drop his sport in October because the weather is cold? Indoor play during the winter means an improvement from season to season. Lack of it is practically stagnation or retrogression.

The future will see a growth of hard-court play the world over. Grass must fight to hold its position. Indoor play will come more and more into vogue.

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