(Note to readers: Earlier segments of the authors history of the pro tennis wars told of the first pro tour in 1926; the subsequent eminence of European Karel Kozeluh and American Vincent Richards; and of Tildens Year of Triumph in 1931.)
The supremacy of Bill Tilden on the courts of pro tennis would fade only
slowly amid the toll of age and Bills almost superhuman level of activity.
The apparent successor was young Hans Nusslein, who had pressed Bill in
Europe in late 1931 and would now face Tilden regularly in events on both
sides of the Atlantic. The sports history during 1932 and 1933 would mainly
follow the odysseys of Tilden and Nusslein.
The new season began with a first-time venture--the Indoor Professional
Championship of the United States, staged by the U.S. Professional Tennis
Association. The event attracted 23 pros to the board courts at 71st Regiment
Armory, New York. On the first day, December 31, 1931, the field was reduced
to eight, and the next afternoon to four. That evening, teaching pro Charles
Wood upset touring pro Albert Burke in five sets, and Vincent Richards,
benefiting from the super-fast courts, defeated Emmett Pare. Richards won the
final on January 2, 1932 in straight sets, overcoming Woods unaccustomed but
determined attacking. The New York Times called Richardss performance "a
masterful exhibition." Tilden did not compete but attended the final. An
extra attraction was top amateur Frank Shields, who played several exhibition
sets against other amateurs.
Meanwhile Tilden Tennis Tours, Inc. and Jack Curley planned a five-city
series featuring competition among ten pros to crown the worlds indoor pro
champion. On the first night, January 4, on the Madison Square Garden canvas,
Tilden defeated Albert Burke and Richards defeated Frank Hunter. The crowd
was very small, but two nights later about 6,000 turned out including major
celebrities Babe Ruth and Max Schmeling to watch Tilden against Richards.
Bill was now nearly 39 and had played earlier in the day, but he dominated
Vinnie 6-2 6-3 6-1. Richards was constantly on the run, finding the net
untenable against Tildens hard hitting. Allison Danzig wrote that Bill was
again "the marvel of yore..., with the vigor of youth still in his long legs."
Attendees were especially interested in the American debut of the young
German player Hans Nusslein, who had just arrived in the U.S. and played only
in the doubles. Nusslein and his partner, Roman Najuch, lost to Hunter-Tilden
in a reversal of the recent outcomes in Berlin and Paris. Both Danzig of the
Times and Fred Hawthorne of Herald-Tribune judged Nusslein favorably,
however, commenting on his quickness. The play "had the gallery cheering
deliriously until after midnight."
The warriors then moved to Convention Hall, Philadelphia, for a three-day,
eight-player tournament called the Eastern Pro Championships. Both Tilden and
Nusslein advanced comfortably on January 7 and 8, Bill in turn defeating
Roman Najuch and Albert Burke, Nusslein defeating New Yorker Allen Behr and
Emmett Pare. Attendance was dismal, in the low hundreds.
The final on Sunday, January 9, "completely satisfied" the 3,500 spectators,
wrote reporter Dora Lurie of the Inquirer. For two sets Nusslein "had Tilden
dashing from side to side trying to return Nussleins drives, amid blinding
rallies almost too swift to follow." Down by two sets, Tilden fought back.
Sets three and four were close, Tilden winning, but at the end Nusslein
became helpless. Tilden won 25 of the last 32 points. Lurie concluded:
"Nusslein lived up to expectations. He handled everything Big Bill shot over
but those deadly service aces which floored him in crucial spots."
Bill again defeated Nusslein in Chicago, January 12, again in five sets
before an audience held to about 2,000 by bad weather. Hans led early but at
the end Bill produced "all his mastery." A week later Nusslein defeated Bill
for the first time, in four sets, before a good crowd of 3,000 in Trenton. A
local writer told in detail how Nusslein concentrated on keeping the ball in
play, sweating and running hard in reply to Tildens hammering from back
court. The same formula failed a week later, however, in Boston Garden before
5,000, when Tilden, at first erratic, opened up after two sets to claim his
third victory in four American meetings with Nusslein. By now the earlier
notion to stage an extended round-robin among ten pros had been forgotten,
and at each stop a Nusslein-Tilden match was featured, preceded by a singles
match between two other pros and followed by doubles. Tilden won in New Haven
on February 8, again in Madison Square Garden in five sets on February 20,
and again at New York Coliseum five days later.
The troupe next traveled from New York to Florida and back, during which
Nusslein won five times, Tilden eight. Nusslein did better in matches
outdoors, probably because Tildens hard serves were less effective on dirt
than on indoor canvas. During mid-March, the two headliners along with
Najuch, Burke, and Bruce Barnes performed in Birmingham, Nashville, and
Chattanooga. To cut travel costs, Tilden Tours purchased a large Lincoln
automobile at bargain price. After the Chattanooga appearance, Tilden drove
for 24 hours northward as far as New Jersey, where a bearing failed "because
Bill drove so fast." Tilden played that night at Hamilton.
The gladiators were back in Atlanta for outdoor play in early April. By
winning, Tilden now led Nusslein in 1932 play, 32 matches to 12, reported
Atlanta Journal. Then it was on to Augusta, Columbus, Chapel Hill, and
Raleigh. Galleries showed their usual satisfaction in the quality of the
tennis and, especially, their pleasure in the doubles. On April 17 Allison
Danzig watched Tilden and Nusslein play on outdoor clay at Briarcliff Manor,
New York. Nusslein contended well against a barrage of slices from Tilden in
the chilly wind and eventually led 3-1 in the third and deciding set. Tilden
then stepped up his serving power and consistency, Danzig reported, closing
out the final five games. Danzig nevertheless judged that Nusslein had shown
himself a fine clay-courter.
Indeed, most watchers deemed that Nusslein, just 21, was a satisfactory
opponent for Bill. Hans had grown up in Nuremberg, where he earned money as a
ballboy and then teacher. He was declared a pro for accepting clothing as
prize for winning a local tournament, and he thereafter declined
reinstatement as an amateur. He trained many months with master pro Najuch.
Nussleins strengths were the depth and firmness of his ground-strokes,
though they had not quite the penetration of Bills, along with his good
court speed. He seldom came to net, and his serve was not severe. But during
matches he could move Tilden about the court for long periods that ended only
if and when Bill found control of his superior power. Hans was better than
most at returning Tildens serve, often taking it on the rise from inside the
baseline. Nusslein was no pure defender like Kozeluh, but whenever Hans
defeated Tilden observers usually attributed it to his superior steadiness.
He was shorter and stockier than Bill, and was unfailingly pleasant in manner
both on-court and off. A Berlin writer in 1931 saw in him qualities of a
champion--"wise without being self-important, level-headed without being mean."
Other leading European pros spent the winter of 1932 as usual on the Riviera,
where the cast came together in January for the annual pro tournament at
Beaulieu. The winner for the seventh straight time was Karel Kozeluh, now 36,
Tildens main opponent the past two years and now, by winning, the permanent
holder of Bristol Cup. The master baseliner lost a set in an early round to
Edmund Burke, brother of Albert, and had momentary trouble in a straight-set
win over Franz Schmidt of Budapest. Then in the final, French player Martin
Plaa carried Kozeluh to four sets, all of them close. Plaa at first tried
coming to net but failed to persist, largely remaining in back court allowing
Kozeluhs steadiness and agility to prevail. Our observer, writing in
American Lawn Tennis, admired Kozeluhs lightning-like speed in retrieving,
and also liked the younger player Robert Ramillon, who lost to Plaa in the
semis but showed good depth, power, and net ability, despite, the writer
judged, a lack of competitive play. But the highest praise from our unnamed
witness was for the event itself--"an artistic treat for all lovers of
Kozeluh returned to America in late spring, losing to Tilden in matches at
the Hamilton Courts in New York on May 18 and 19, then defeating Richards a
few days later on Long Island. The New York area had become home base for
Tilden Tours, Inc., and in early summer, the pros staged a prolonged
round-robin at Hamilton, scheduling play around other engagements in the
region. Tilden played twice at Asbury Park on Saturday July 2, for example,
then drove to Trenton to play Nusslein on Sunday and to Hamilton for a match
that evening, all preceding a Monday match at Briarcliff and more play at
Hamilton. The Hamilton round-robin ended on July 10 with Tilden declared the
winner, having defeated Richards, Pare, Najuch, Burke, and Nusslein. But in
the next week Tilden lost matches to Najuch, Nusslein, and Kozeluh. A witness
was publisher Merrihew, who wrote, "Bill needs a rest as no other player has
ever needed one."
THE U.S PRO CHAMPIONSHIP
The U.S. Pro, previously held on the grass at Forest Hills, in 1932 moved to
the ground-brick dirt surface at South Shore Country Club, Chicago. The tour
players advanced comfortably in the early rounds, July 23-25. Tilden lost his
first set to local pro Ellis Klingeman, who played aggressively until Bill
inevitably raised his game. Bobby Seller, who had been dropped by Tilden
Tours recently and probably wanted redemption badly, won his first match but
then defaulted with back trouble to Kozeluh. Seller would later sue Tilden
Tours for contract breach. Paul Heston, winner of the years pro tournament
at Palm Beach, lost in the second round to Bruce Barnes, in straight sets.
Albert Burke defeated Charles Wood, and Richards defeated Robert Murray, age
22. Nusslein defeated Bennett, coach at Northwestern.
The quarter-finals began with Najuch unexpectedly defeating Richards in four
sets. George Christie, reporting in American Lawn Tennis, wrote that the
"pudgy" European amazed the gallery with his mobility and stamina. Richards
took the third set with forceful sallies to the net, but the accuracy of
Najuchs backhand passing shots and Richardss own inconsistency wrecked the
Americans chances thereafter. Still, Christie concluded, it had been a
"furious and splendid" match. Meanwhile Emmett Pare--a fine player on
clay--staged "what looked like a winning fight" against Kozeluh, but the
European prevailed in four. As expected Tilden prevailed over Albert Burke in
straight sets, as did Nusslein over Barnes.
The auspices were not encouraging for Big Bill for his semi against Kozeluh.
The slow, outdoor surface unquestionably favored Kozeluh and, as Merrihew had
noted, Bill was probably worn down from over-activity. Tilden lost the first
set, then won the second with superb control of his power drives from back
court. Bills was brilliant tennis, recorded the Sun-Tribune writer, but
somehow not enough to subdue "his dogged little opponent," who persisted in
returning the ball and awaiting an error. Christie too marveled at Kozeluhs
"phenomenally steady ability to keep the ball in play." The heavily contested
third set ended with a foot-fault call against Tilden, 7-5 for Kozeluh. Words
from Tilden angered the intrepid linesman, who stepped toward Tilden. Bill
defused the situation by extending his hand, but Tilden thereafter played
carelessly, and Kozeluh prevailed easily, 6-1 in the fourth and final set.
Nusslein defeated his former mentor, Najuch, now 39, in the other semi. Our
observer from Sun-Tribune attributed the outcome to Hanss depth and power,
while Christie deemed it Nussleins speed and court-covering ability. Najuch
came within one point of winning a long second set but tired thereafter.
In the Sunday final, July 31, Kozeluhs foot speed and shot-making accuracy
were too much for the young German star, 6-2 6-3 7-5. Both men played primarily
in back court except to cover drop shots, and the gallery of 2,600 watchers
offered only mild applause, in contrast to the noisy enthusiasm during
Tildens match with Kozeluh. The doubles went to the recent pairing
Barnes-Tilden, who defeated Najuch-Nusslein in the semis, then Albert
Burke-Kozeluh in the final, both in three straight sets.
Tilden and colleagues sailed for Europe on September 8, arriving to perform
in the Netherlands with several Dutch players on September 17-18. The
preliminaries included some mixed doubles, Najuch and Barnes participating.
In the main match, a four-setter, Tilden defeated Nusslein. The troupe then
traveled to Berlin for the Worlds Pro Championship on the red dirt at
Rot-Weiss Club in the Grunewald, September 20-26. The event had been
previously called the German International Championships and had been won in
1931 by Nusslein, who defeated Ramillon, Plaa, and Najuch. The 1932 event
clearly ranked with the U.S. Pro as the year's foremost pro tournament,
listing 82 entrants in singles.
As in Chicago, the favorites moved easily through the early rounds amid many
one-sided scores. In the quarters, Tilden defeated Robert Ramillon in
straight sets, turning back the French players good surge in set two. Barnes
won the first set against Nusslein but was outmatched thereafter. Albert
Burke defeated German pro Heinz Messerschmidt, and Martin Plaa defeated
Najuch, by comfortable scores. Kozeluh was present but played doubles only.
The four survivors then played a round-robin over the next three days. A
major surprise came the first day, Friday, September 23. In a match delayed
by the lateness of Martin Plaa, favored Tilden started slowly, indeed
"carelessly," as one writer saw it. Plaa closed out the first set 6-0. Tilden
then took the early lead in the second set, but "the stout little Frenchman
rallied" and Tildens precision again faded. Down by two sets, Tilden fought
back to lead 6-5 in the third set, serving. At set point, "a sleepy official"
(the words are from the Berlin paper Der Abend) failed to make the out call
of a clearly errant shot by Plaa. Plaa did not yield the point, as the local
writer seemed to expect, whereupon Tilden succumbed to his temper and, once
play was resumed, blew the match 6-0 7-5 8-6. Another writer, from the Berliner
Tageblatt, saw the events similarly, deeming Plaa "lucky," but also pointed
out that the French player had already achieved a two-set lead.
Despite his defeat Tildens chances were not finished, as the remainder of
the round-robin lay ahead. Bill did his part. He defeated Albert Burke the
next day, Saturday, and Nusslein on Sunday, both in straight sets. It
remained for Plaa to claim the championship by defeating the same two
opponents--Nusslein on Saturday and Burke on Sunday. Both matches were
five-setters. Nusslein, who had defeated Burke on the first day of the
round-robin, seemed the more dangerous foe. The score was indeed tight--Plaa
over Nusslein, 11-9 3-6 1-6 7-5 9-7. One writer noted that Plaa, although no
better technically, showed the superior fighting spirit. Burke on Sunday also
pressed the pleasant Frenchman, but at the end it was Plaa, 6-1 6-2 1-6 3-6 6-4.
Thus the tournament winner was Plaa. Tilden was second, Nusslein third, and
Burke fourth. Ramillon and Messerschmidt tied for fifth.
The leading players also dominated the doubles. Barnes-Tilden defeated the
French pair Plaa-Ramillon in a straight-set semi. Meanwhile Albert
Burke-Kozeluh defeated Najuch-Nusslein in four. Burke-Kozeluh then won the
tournament by beating Barnes-Tilden in straight sets.
It was a rare triumph for Martin Plaa. Martin, now in his mid-thirties, had
sometimes been called the Fifth Musketeer for his past role in helping train
the great French national teams. Now, he was met by reporters and cameramen
on his return at Gare Nord. There was talk that he, the "Basque professor,"
would open a school with Suzanne Lenglen or perhaps tour with Her Highness.
Short and somewhat heavy-set, Plaa was known for his smiling countenance
during play. A Berlin writer admired his invincible, indeed swashbuckling,
manner on court and his despair upon losing. (The writer noticed Martins
habit of gazing at girls in the galleries.) After that weekend of miracles in
Berlin, Plaas short stature and his non-threatening baseline game would
almost always prove inadequate against Tilden and the leading headliners to
The troupe toured much of central Europe during late 1932 under Najuchs
management. Najuch, who was president of the International Pro Tennis
Federation, was able to arrange with the amateur bodies of several countries
to allow amateurs to participate in some pro performances. A Romanian reader
of American Lawn Tennis offered an account of an appearance in Bucharest in
mid-October. Barnes looked good in defeating Najuch, he reported, showing
excellent court speed. Nusslein led Tilden by two sets, showing "machine-like
accuracy" and good use of drop shots, which Tilden usually did not chase. (It
was said that Tilden had a bad ankle.) But Bill finally found his game, and
his heavy serving and stroking enabled him eventually to prevail. The
evenings doubles followed, where Barnes-Tilden defeated Najuch-Nusslein,
11-9 in the fifth set, bringing the gallery to "near-hysterics." Amid the
heavy tour schedule thereafter Tilden lost frequently, but in a last
appearance in Berlin on November 27, Bill once again defeated Nusslein, in
Tildens dominance in the years first half and his near-successes in the
Chicago and Berlin tournaments place him first in our ranking of pros for
1932. Second place goes to Kozeluh for his triumphs in Chicago and Beaulieu,
and third to Plaa, who narrowly won the most prestigious title (Berlin) and
was runner-up at Beaulieu. Nusslein places fourth. The most successful
secondary players on the American tour were Albert Burke, Najuch, and Pare,
where Burke defeated the others about two-thirds of the time and Najuch and
Pare played each other roughly evenly. We place Albert Burke, who reached the
final eight at Chicago and final four at Berlin, in fifth place, followed by
Najuch and Richards, who won the U.S. Indoors. Eighth place is shared by
improving Barnes, who reached the final eight at both Chicago and Berlin, and
In our combined pro-amateur ranking, first place belongs to Wimbledon and
U.S. amateur champion Ellsworth Vines. The margins thereafter are extremely
close in and across both domains. We alternate in merging the amateur and pro
lists, placing pro Tilden second, then amateur Cochet, pro Kozeluh, amateur
Borotra, pro Plaa, amateur Allison, and, in eighth place, professional
Barnes-Tilden won the doubles in Chicago and were second in Berlin. We accord
them co-equal ranking among the pros with Berlin winners Burke-Kozeluh.
Tilden and colleagues traveled north from Florida in late January 1933. They
performed on January 24 in Augusta where, as often happened, Nusslein
initially dominated over Bill but then wilted before a Tilden avalanche. A
few days later they played at the 7th and 71st Regiment Armories in New York.
Tilden defeated Nusslein at both locations amid "long rallies and hard
hitting," while Barnes and Pare each won a match from Frank Hunter, who had
now recovered from a serious auto accident the previous March.
The new tour began February 1 in New Haven before 900 watchers. Tildens top
game disappeared after the first set, Nusslein taking the next two to win the
match. Barnes defeated Pare. During the full month of February, the foursome
performed a total of 14 one-night engagements. Tilden regularly defeated Hans
during the first half of the month, including dates in Chicago, Milwaukee,
and Cleveland, and Nusslein won later in Detroit, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and
Fargo. Then it was on to Montana, the Pacific Northwest, and, on March 15,
San Francisco. Bill had been troubled with a flu-like sickness, and prior to
San Francisco had lost five of the last eight matches and been down match
point in two others. Hans, who knew no English a year ago, now spoke a
pleasant "Teutonic English." Bill regularly confirmed to reporters his
intention to retire within a year, so each performance became a local
"farewell appearance." Most travel was by train. Hefty and red-headed Bill
OBrien came along as business manager. As before, the cork undersurface and
canvas court were transported for use at most sites.
Tilden won in San Francisco and again before a capacity crowd of 5,000
including movie celebrities at the Winter Garden in Los Angeles on March 18.
Former tour member Harvey Snodgrass, now pro at Beverly Hills, played in the
doubles at L.A. Bruce Barnes continued his recent success against Pare at
both locations. Writers increasingly took note of Barness hard serving, firm
strokes, and aggressive net play. From California, the troupe moved on to a
rare outdoor engagement at Dallas Country Club, April 5-7, before shivering
galleries. On Wednesday afternoon, Nusslein defeated Pare, and Tilden
defeated a net-rushing Barnes, both in three split sets. On Thursday Nusslein
held five match points but Tilden somehow prevailed, as usual playing from
back court except on critical points. Barnes defeated Pare, moving often to
net and working his serve "with brilliant effectiveness." On Friday, Tilden
again defeated Nusslein. Two days later before a good crowd on city courts in
Jackson, Mississippi, Nusslein and Pare turned the tables, defeating Tilden
and Barnes, respectively.
Local writers sometimes wondered whether Bill might be allowing Nusslein to
do well in order to improve future gate receipts. Such speculations were
dangerous for the young sport and were hard to erase. People realized that
Bill sometimes used the tennis court as a stage and that he sometimes played
at less than full energy. Indeed, the preliminary singles matches on tour
were sometimes not concluded, and the late-evening doubles were usually
played in a light vein.
Tilden and the others would endlessly profess the integrity of tour matches.
Strengthening their case was Tildens obvious hatred of losing, reflected in
his often unpleasant on-court behavior toward officials. Such conduct showed
that, as a Jackson writer saw it, "his heart was in the business of winning."
Tilden afterwards told the reporter that the public wanted to see two
opponents fighting their hearts out, and he cited the recent matches in
Dallas where the play had been sloppy but the competition superb. "And thats
what we are going to give them, fighting tennis...." The players were not
there to show off trick shots, he said.
Still, gate receipts were down about 20 percent from 1932, and in early
spring Martin Plaa, who had planned to join the group for several weeks, was
advised to remain in Europe. Following a two-day engagement in Winnipeg, the
principals were back East in early May. Data from more than half their 1933
matches to date indicate that Tilden won two-thirds of the meetings with
Nusslein, while Barnes won three-fourths of his with Pare.
Meanwhile the idea of a tournament open to both pros and amateurs once again
came and went. The USLTA, meeting in New York in February 1933, with little
discussion voted to stage an open championship later in the year at
Germantown Cricket Club, outside Philadelphia. But officials already realized
that there were no suitable dates given the existing amateur schedule and
Tildens European plans. As expected, delegates to the March ILTF meeting in
Paris one-sidedly voted that the American plan was contrary to the
Regulations. Soon afterwards the executive committee of the USLTA officially
abandoned the idea.
An episode in April 1933 soiled Germanys place in world tennis. The
countrys top amateur player was Daniel Prenn, ranked #6 in Myerss world
list for 1932. Prenn was a naturalized German, born in Poland of Jewish
ancestry. Nazi officials in April 1933 decreed that Prenn as a "non-Aryan"
could no longer play for the nations Cup team. The German tennis authorities
went along and, although amateur stars Perry and Austin of Britain protested
in a strong letter published in London Times, the ILTF took no action. Prenn
soon moved to Britain and departed from the amateur game. Nor did the pros
take a stand or bring Prenn into their ranks--probably not surprisingly, as
Germany had become an important venue for the pro game. Responding to the
times, the Meister of pro tennis in Germany, Roman Najuch, shortly resigned
as coach of Polands Davis Cup team because of "Polands anti-German
Tilden, Nusslein, and Barnes sailed for Europe aboard the Bremen on June 8.
Their forthcoming tour would feature several team events organized on
national lines. At the Blau-Weiss Club outside Berlin in early July, the
American team of Tilden and Barnes defeated a German team of Nusslein,
Najuch, and Hermann Bartels by 4 matches to 1 under the Davis Cup format. The
only German point came from a four-set win by Nusslein over Barnes. The
closest match was Barness five-set win over Najuch. Afterwards the Berliner
Morgenpost reported that Najuch should have won but for a wrong call. Josef
Goebbels and his wife attended the matches. Later in the month at Koln,
Nusslein defeated Tilden but the American team won again, 3 matches to 2. At
Dusseldorf in early August, Tilden and Barnes defeated German and French
teams by score U.S. 8, Germany 4, France 2. Nusslein and Najuch played for
Germany, Plaa and Estrabeau for France.
A rare sanctioned meeting of pro and amateur stars occurred at the Berlin
Rot-Weiss Club on August 17 before a gallery of 5,000. Tilden, now 40,
defeated Gottfried von Cramm, who was #8 in the world amateur rankings for
1932 and had just won the German national amateur tournament in Hamburg. The
scores were 6-4 6-3 6-3. The Berliner Morgenpost admired Tildens artistry, but
also reported that "our champion was not in best form, and gave in to
tiredness from the Hamburg championships." The event had been
The pros were back in Berlin for the World Pro Championships starting
September 12 at the Blau-Weiss. Advancing to the four-player round-robin were
favorites Tilden, Kozeluh, Nusslein, and Najuch. On Friday and Saturday,
Tilden and Nusslein each defeated both Kozeluh and Najuch. All four matches
were decided in straight sets. The stage was thus set for a Sunday meeting
between Tilden and Nusslein to decide the tournament winner.
Writer Quentin Reynolds afterwards described the showdown, held under burning
sun on the Blau-Weiss clay. For two sets Tildens racket was "tipped in
magic," wrote Reynolds, while Nusslein looked like "an uninspired punching
bag." The crowd seemed to favor neither player, offering polite silence to
Tildens "ill-tempered" complaining. "There is no audience in the world as
fair as a German sport public," wrote Reynolds. But Nusslein was better than
he seemed, Reynolds continued, and little by little the young man began to
blunt Tildens shot-making. With Tilden tiring, Nusslein pushed closer into
court, sometimes trapping half-volleys at the service line and moving in,
often behind drop shots. The German star gradually added pace and confidence,
eventually dominating play and finally winning 1-6 6-4 7-5 6-3. Afterwards an
exhausted Tilden spoke to Reynolds in the dressing room: "Fritz is awfully
good. He is the greatest player in the world today. No one can beat him."
(Reynolds explained that Nussleins name was Hans but that everyone called
Kozeluh defeated Najuch for third place, Ramillon defeated Barnes for fifth,
and in the doubles final Barnes-Tilden defeated Najuch-Nusslein 7-5 6-1 6-2. The
Morgenpost writer concluded that it had been "a tournament that would long
remain in memory."
COCHETS PRO DEBUT
Musketeer Henri Cochet, now age 31, had been #1 in Myerss amateur rankings
for four consecutive years, slipping to #2 behind Vines in 1932. In Frances
six Davis Cup triumphs 1927-1932, the 5-foot-6 French star achieved a
remarkable 10-2 Challenge Round record in singles including three wins in
four matches against Tilden. Lightning-fast, Cochet was not a heavy hitter or
server, but his short backswing on both sides enabled him to pounce catlike
on weak balls, typically taking them on the rise at mid-court in order to
come forward. His half-volleying and volleying abilities were excellent, his
overhead legendary. Though his was an attacking game, Henri was very
effective on the Garros clay.
Rumors that Cochet was ready to turn pro had circulated for several years.
Promoters Jeff Dickson and Jack Curley were believed to have made offers. In
late August 1933 Cochet confirmed his intention to turn, saying that although
pro tennis had little appeal for him the offers were too substantial to
reject. His signing with Tilden was announced at a press gathering in Paris
on September 9. His first pro appearance would be in a team event on Garros
clay, September 22-24, where he and Martin Plaa would face Americans Tilden
Speculating on the likely outcome, all writers recognized that because of his
limited activity Cochet had passed his peak, and most conceded that Tilden,
though older than Cochet, remained close to his best form. Still, Cochet was
the only player with a lifetime winning record over Bill, who in his
autobiography called him "my nemesis." Henri was generally deemed a slight
favorite to win their coming match-up.
Cochet defeated Bruce Barnes in the opening match at Garros, Friday,
September 22, in five sets before several thousand watchers. One observer
wrote that Barnes drove well but that Cochet kept him on the run. Another
wrote that toward the end, "the little Frenchman found a reserve of energy on
which to draw." A Reuters reporter thought that Henris play equaled his
recent form in Davis Cup play. But despite Cochets win, it was Big Bill who
that day was the most impressive, defeating "portly" Plaa 6-3 6-4 6-2. Plaa
fought hard, but Tildens strong serve and his variety in pace and depth,
including some deft drop shots from deep, kept Plaa always in trouble.
The doubles match began on Saturday but rains throughout the weekend
prevented its completion. Monday began with the reverse singles before a
quiet crowd of over 5,000. Bruce Barnes defeated Plaa in four sets, the young
American moving easily over the slippery court, outhitting and outlasting his
tiring opponent. But the most anticipated action remained next ahead--Tilden
To one watcher, Bill seemed as good as in years past but now with added guile
from experience. The New York Times writer described how Tildens big serve
and forehand kept old rival Cochet ever on the run. The French superstar
could seldom get to net before Bills heavy fire and depth. Bill, who usually
used his nearly flat, cannonball serve sparingly, on this day employed it
regularly. A writer for International Herald Tribune wrote that as Tildens
confidence rose, Henris evaporated until he was "a mere shadow of the once
great Musketeer, while Bill was perhaps greater than ever." It took only 55
minutes for Tilden to complete the demolition, 6-3 6-4 6-2. A fine ovation for
Having won three of the four singles, the Americans then closed out the
doubles, winning in four sets. Afterwards Bill told a reporter that he had
been suffering arm trouble during most of the European tour, but that just
before the Garros matches an osteopath in Paris had relieved the problem.
Quentin Reynolds several months later talked with Nusslein, Kozeluh, and
amateurs Shields, George Lott, and others. All agreed that Tilden was still
the worlds greatest player for a single important match, and that his
victory over Cochet at Garros had been the proof.
Though the tour once again avoided Britain, pro tennis remained alive there.
Don Maskell for the sixth straight year captured the annual professional
tournament, held in London in late October 1933, defeating T. C. Jeffery.
Maskell was widely known and respected for his role working with British
Davis Cup players. He and other British pros played in occasional team events
against the nations amateurs, an activity sanctioned in several European
With the main headliners not yet back from Europe, the entry list for the
1933 U.S. Pro Championship in late September was weaker than usual. The event
was held on grass at Rye, New York, where the courts clearly favored net
artist Vincent Richards. Vinnie indeed won the tournament without losing a
set. Frank Hunter also did well, defeating Charles Wood in the quarters and
Paul Heston in the semis. Richards in his semi defeated Robert Murray, now a
pro on Long Island, who had won the Southern Pro at Palm Beach in March by
defeating the 1932 winner, Heston. Murray in early rounds showed good variety
and shot-making skills along with effective twist and slice serves but could
not withstand Richardss forehand and volleying strengths. One observer
wrote: "It was the Vinnie of nearly a decade ago, seeking the net always in
his inimitable manner...." The Hunter-vs.-Richards final on October 1 was
similar, Richards winning in less than an hour, invincible once established
Matches October 7-8 removed some of the shine from Richardss victory. Tilden
and Barnes, now back from Paris, joined Hunter and Richards in a two-day
round-robin indoors at Park Avenue Tennis Club. The announced purpose was to
choose the forthcoming opponent for Cochet in New York. On Saturday Tilden
easily defeated both Barnes and Hunter, winning four sets with loss of only
two games. Then on Sunday afternoon Bills depth and power, especially his
forehand to the corners, wholly dominated Richards. Vinnie tried hard before
the good-sized gallery and occasionally flashed his old brilliance at net,
but the verdict was conclusive, 6-3 6-2 6-2.
World pro tennis now came to South America. The continents best pro players
were the Chileans--the brothers Pilo and Perico Facondi, former ballboys said
to be unschooled and unable to read or write, and Horatio Placencio. The
Chileans had established their credentials at matches in Buenos Aires in late
1932. On October 28, 1933 in Santiago, newly arrived European pros Kozeluh
and Nusslein lost close contests against the brothers. A few days later the
Europeans turned the tables, Kozeluh defeating the stronger brother Pilo in
five sets and Kozeluh-Nusslein winning in doubles. Kozeluh and Nusslein then
traveled by air to Buenos Aires, where they proved far superior to several
A pro tournament at Buenos Aires Tennis Club began November 21. The two
Europeans along with the Facondi brothers became the last-surviving four. In
very hot weather Pilo Facondi then upset Nusslein in five sets, commencing
the round-robin phase. Nusslein later won a five-setter over Kozeluh, and the
round-robin eventually ended in a three-way tie among Pilo, Kozeluh, and
Nusslein. Nusslein was deemed the winner by counting sets and games won. The
Argentine tennis association awarded Nusslein the title Pro Champion of South
America. Just a week later Henri Cochet and Martin Plaa, who had been playing
each other in a tour of France, sailed from the Riviera for appearances in
early 1934 at Rio de Janeiro and points south.
Nusslein earned 1933s top ranking over Tilden by strong play especially late
in the year and his triumph in the Berlin championship--by far the years
most significant pro tournament. Behind Hans, we place Tilden second, Kozeluh
third. The margins are thereafter thin. We give fourth place to Vincent
Richards, winner of the depleted U.S. Pro, and fifth place to Cochet, who
defeated Barnes in Paris. Barnes is sixth, ahead of Najuch and Ramillon,
seventh and eighth, respectively. Very close behind are Pilo Facondi, Emmett
Pare, and Martin Plaa.
We accord the top place in our combined pro-am ranking to amateur Jack
Crawford, honoring his winning three of the four Slams and nearly winning at
Forest Hills. Fred Perrys winning the U.S. Nationals and his fine Davis Cup
performance likewise trump any claim of the pros. But Tildens wins over
Cochet and von Cramm, both of whom were in Myerss second five--supported by
opinions of Ellsworth Vines in November and Fred Perry in an autobiography a
few months later--require that the pro ladder come next. We place Nusslein,
Tilden, and Kozeluh in third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively. Myerss
amateurs Satoh, Austin, and Vines complete our eight.
The victory of Barnes-Tilden over Najuch-Nusslein in the Berlin final
establishes the #1 and #2 pro doubles pairs for the year, respectively.
Although distinctly secondary at tour events and tournaments, doubles
continued to win lively reaction from galleries.
THE SIGNING OF VINES
Davis Cup standout, champion of Wimbledon and Forest Hills, Ellsworth Vines
was the unquestioned amateur champion of the world in 1932. But the young
Californians on-court results declined in 1933. There were rumors during the
year that he had already agreed to turn pro, and in actuality a prospective
financial arrangement with Tilden Tours had been worked out. After Vines lost
early at the U.S. Nationals and in Los Angeles in late summer, Tilden and his
associates nevertheless honored their unwritten commitment made earlier to
Tilden on October 10, 1933 announced that Vines had signed a pro contract, to
appear in Madison Square Garden in January and make extended tours of North
America and Europe thereafter. Vines in California confirmed the news,
explaining that for him it was a relief that the decision was now behind. He
predicted that he would "be able to play the best tennis of my life now that
some of the strain and worry is over."
With Vines and Cochet now joining Nusslein, Tilden, Kozeluh, and rising star
Barnes, the list of top pros was for the first time stronger than the
comparable list of amateurs. A new entity, Bill OBrien Sports Promotion,
Inc., planned an ambitious array of events ahead, including new tournaments
and international team competitions. If the sport had struggled in 1933, the
future of pro tennis--as when Tilden signed at the close of 1930--again looked