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December 1, 2003 Article

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Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
 
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Forgotten Victories:
History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter VI: Vines's Second Year: 1935

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

(Note to readers: Earlier segments of the author’s 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; of Tilden’s Year of Triumph in 1931; of Tilden and Nusslein, 1932-1933; and of The Early Ascendancy of Vines, 1934.)


Chapter VI, Vines's Second Year: 1935

Vines, Nusslein, and Tilden would stay atop pro tennis for a second year, 1935, with Vines again clearly above the other two. An annual rhythm of events continued to develop, starting with a Garden opener and an extended tour of North America. Then came summer events in Europe, followed in the fall by the U.S. Pro and the German, the indoor showdown at Wembley, and an immediate sequel in Paris. The year brought an interesting experiment featuring doubles on the tour, and a new team competition patterned on Davis Cup. Promoters of the pro sport unsuccessfully wooed the current amateur champion, Fred Perry, and the game's top women, Helen Wills Moody and Helen Jacobs. Amid hard economic times, the game did well to preserve its health.

FEATURING DOUBLES

Everyone now knew that Ellsworth Vines was superior to the other pros in indoor singles play. It therefore seemed unlikely that another Tilden-Vines series, for example, could produce big crowds. The signing of Lott and Stoefen, the current amateur doubles champions, thus came with the notion of making doubles the centerpiece of the winter tour. Indeed, past galleries had often responded well to doubles action.

George Lott, feisty at age 28, was generally regarded the best doubles player in tennis. He had grown up in Chicago and played baseball at University of Chicago. Lott was not a powerful hitter but was skilled in volleying, lobbing, spin-serving, and serve-returning. A five-time U.S. national champion in doubles, he showed a career 11-0 W-L record in Davis Cup doubles. Writers told of his tactical ingenuity in using short angles, dipping low shots, and deceptive lobs. In singles he had broken into the U.S. top ten regularly, attaining #2 behind Vines in 1931. Allison Danzig in 1934 called him the "Chief Jester of Tennis," where George's bent for humor sometimes superseded his tennis. Lott told how he once faked a telegram from the great writer's editor, asking Danzig to write a long piece about "the coming tennis wonder, George Lott." Danzig dutifully did the interview and the draft. Lotts's humor greatly irritated Tilden, thus assuring that Bill would became a regular victim.

Lott later told how his partnership with Stoefen began. Watching Stoefen playing at Newport in 1933, Lott, who needed a new partner, realized how Lester's powerful serve and overhead might ideally complement Lott's tactical skills. Lott pulled strings to arrange an official decision pairing Lott and Stoefen for the forthcoming U.S. national doubles tournament, which the new combination won.

Raised in California, Lester Stoefen was a rangy 6-4 in height and a practitioner of weight training. He brought to the partnership not only his big serve but also a knack for roaming and dominating the net area. Stoefen at #5 in the U.S. singles list for 1934 outranked Lott by one position. Like the early Ellsworth Vines, Lester's power game came with considerable inconsistency. Lott once said that of all his past partners, for the long term he preferred Stoefen. Lester, who was sometimes known by his middle name, Rollo, occasionally called George, who was 6-0, Little Rollo.

The Bills--O'Brien and Tilden--were by now expert in generating publicity in advance of a Madison Square Garden opening. Practice sessions were opened to the press, a dinner was staged at the Hotel Astor, and the principals attended a press luncheon in Philadelphia, where the troupe would perform the night after the Garden. O'Brien publicly offered to pay $500 if any amateur pair could defeat his newest renegades. Tilden told New York reporters that Vines was superior to any other player of recent times and that Bill himself at 42 was now playing better than in his amateur days. O'Brien created more news by insisting that Fred Perry and Helen Jacobs would soon turn pro, a notion denied within hours by both stars.

Most talk centered on the coming doubles match-up pitting Lott-Stoefen against Tilden-Vines. Neither Tilden nor Vines, natural back-court players, were renowned for their doubles play--Tilden called himself "world's worst doubles player." But they had played together sometimes in 1934, and both had superior serving and serve-returning abilities. Still, Lott and Stoefen had top credentials from amateur tennis, and even Vines admitted that Lott-Stoefen could win the tour. Lott was characteristically confident, saying that he understood Tilden's doubles game "inside out" from amateur days and that Vines would "miss enough to let us win." But Lott lacked the serving and hitting power of the other three, and Stoefen's consistency seemed questionable amid such company.

The opener on January 9, 1935, was nearly a sell-out, producing over 14,000 paid admissions. Tilden won the preliminary singles match, defeating Lott in two sets, 6-4 7-5. Lott came to net behind almost everything and Tilden usually stayed at the baseline. Lott's early play earned good applause, as his spin serve sometimes opened the court for an effective first volley. But George never solved Bill's serve, and once Tilden began pinpointing his passing shots, the younger man's net game faltered.

The doubles came next, best of five sets. On hand were a host of the sport's top writers, all of whom described in superlatives the quality and power of the play. The crowd was highly involved, and the collective emotion grew as the match lengthened. Lott-Stoefen won the first set, 6-3. Allison Danzig wrote of Lott-Stoefen's play: "They were the perfect team, coordinating beautifully, alert for the opening, quick to make their kill, and crowding their opponents relentlessly." Stoefen was at his best, serving at peak power and producing devastating net play. The rookies concentrated on Tilden, who seemed tired from his singles. Lott received serve in left court for the newcomers, Vines for his twosome.

Sets two and three were long and hard. Each of the players contributed stretches of spectacular play, regularly stirring the audience. Vines was especially strong, though it was his errors that were costly at the end of the long second set, won by Lott-Stoefen, 14-12. But although his side was now two sets down, Tilden in the third set seemed to be shedding his tiredness. Lott continued to show his quickness and his close-in angular game, but it was George's serving that finally faltered. When Vines then served out the third set, at 13-11, the crowd sensed that a turning point had been reached and gave a two-minute standing ovation.

Danzig of the Times, Hawthorne of Herald-Tribune, Allan of the Post, Merrihew of American Lawn Tennis--all saw that the dominant player in the last two sets had become the old master. Big Bill, who had been on court the entire evening, was now at his best--"a raging, tearing, hammering superman," wrote Hawthorne. Relentlessly, the firepower of the senior pros, often directed down the center, broke down the now discouraged Lott and the no-longer-dependable Stoefen. Lester, who had held serve throughout, was broken at love late in the fourth set, won by Tilden-Vines, 8-6. Finally at 25 minutes past midnight, with most of the crowd still present and still utterly engaged, Tilden-Vines closed out their victory, 6-4 in the fifth.

George Daley, sports editor of Herald-Tribune, felt privileged to have been present. "It was tennis carried to the highest possible point.... The best of all time was on display," he wrote.

WINTER TOUR 1935

The lateness prevented Vines and Stoefen from playing their scheduled singles in New York. Thus their first pro match-up came early the next evening, at Convention Hall in Philadelphia. The crowd reached 6,300--slightly more than for the Tilden-Vines match-up in Philly the year before. As expected, both men produced extreme velocity in serving. Vines proved superior in the depth and consistency of his ground strokes. Watchers deemed that Stoefen showed himself a formidable opponent, but Elly inexorably prevailed, 7-5 6-3.

The featured doubles became another five-set nail-biter. The first set reached ten games all before Tilden-Vines broke Lott's serve at love. Several watchers judged that the play of Vines was dominating, his bullet-like stroking seemingly carrying Bill. Tilden-Vines won the fifth set behind two breaks of Lott's serve. Perry Lewis, writing in the Inquirer, deemed that it was by far the best tennis ever played in Philadelphia. Late in the evening, a fiery George Lott defeated an irritated and apparently weary Tilden, two sets to one.

Lott won again in the opening match the next night before an unruly crowd packing the gym at Catholic University in Washington. The floor-level seating was very close to the sidelines, and Bill complained when George served wide. Predictably, George served ever-wider slices. Vines then defeated Stoefen again, playing "unbelievable tennis," and Tilden-Vines again won the doubles, in two overtime sets.

All matches were now best-of-three. In Pittsburgh on January 12, Lott-Stoefen won a close split-setter for their first pro doubles victory. In Boston two nights later, the recent amateurs captured the first set by score 31-29, the longest set in known history. One watcher deemed the marathon monotonous, marred by ineffective serve-returning. Tilden-Vines won the next two sets to claim the win. Attendance was 5,500--only half that of the previous year in Boston.

Still, the tour had been off to a good start. O'Brien announced that gross receipts for the first six engagements (including January 15 in Providence) totaled $49,000--down only 21 percent from Vines's first pro appearances in 1934.

In the coming weeks Tilden's rocketry regularly prevailed in singles over Lott and his net-attacking strategy. Meanwhile Vines proved invariably superior to Stoefen in their back-court slugging duels, though towering Lester was able to stay close on nights when his serve was working well. In the doubles, Lott-Stoefen lost in Buffalo and Chicago but otherwise seemed to be improving amid always intensive play. One writer was appalled by the ugly talk overheard between Tilden and Lott during changeovers. Consecutive wins by Lott-Stoefen in Indianapolis and St. Louis brought the tally of wins and losses to a 7-7 deadlock, whereupon Tilden-Vines again moved ahead in Lincoln on January 31. Vines at that point led Stoefen in singles 14-0, while Tilden led Lott 11-3 not counting a tie in Buffalo.

A footnote to the early tour was the work of one Dr. J.F. Strawinski. The Philadelphian devised an apparatus to time the ball's travel from service impact to opponent's service line, a distance of sixty feet. Measurements were taken during the January 10 matches in Convention Hall, and each player's ten fastest serves were averaged. Bill's score was 128.4 mph, Vines's was 130.2 mph, Stoefen's 131.4, and Lott's 108.0. Tilden's serve had been clocked faster several years before, and Bill now complained that the old and new measurements should not be compared, as he now seldom used full velocity. Also, he had not been aware when the new measurements were being taken.

CALIFORNIA AND BACK

The troupe spent most of February on the West Coast. Stoefen was troubled by a flu-like stomach sickness, and Lott-Stoefen began losing regularly in the doubles. The rookie pros won a three-setter in San Diego on February 10, but Tilden-Vines won the remaining five encounters in southern California. Despite his infirmity Stoefen, playing impossibly well, defeated Vines for the first time in singles, oddly in Pasadena, Elly's home town. Lott-Stoefen then won two of three doubles in the San Francisco area. But Lester's symptoms were worsening, and in Portland, February 25, the singles match-ups were switched. Stoefen played against Lott, Tilden against Vines. Two nights later in Tacoma, Stoefen played doubles only. A very sick Lester left the tour at this point and returned to California to recover.

Upon his departure the W-L tally stood 20-10 in favor of Tilden-Vines over Lott-Stoefen in doubles, 25-1 in favor of Vines over Stoefen in singles, 20-4 for Tilden over Lott counting a win in Seattle on March 3. Stoefen's replacement was promptly announced. Hans Nusslein would join the troupe in Minneapolis on March 7.

In its logistics the 1935 tour was much like past ones. Travel was mostly by train, except that Bill often drove himself from place to place accompanied by the head ball-boy. Tilden cut down on his public appearances, explaining that he needed more rest. The canvas court owned by the tour was often used, stretched out over the local flooring. Attendance was only slightly lower than the year before. The mutual dislike between Tilden and Lott persisted. Lott sometimes called Bill "Tilly," which Bill hated. Sometimes during performances when Bill's back was turned, Lott would mimick Tilden's mincing walk. It was entertaining to the crowd but it always enflamed Bill. Lott said that O'Brien encouraged the parody. Years later in his biography, Bill discussed the antipathy between the two men. He also told of his admiration for Lott's doubles skills, but he added that Lott as a pro began acting out his reputation, playing too aggressively too often.

During late February those pros wintering in Florida staged a first-time tournament, called the Pan American, at the Everglades Club in Miami Beach. Former tour pros Nusslein, Kozeluh, Bruce Barnes, and Vincent Richards were the prime attractions. Some twenty teaching pros also competed, many of them familiar as fodder in past events. Attracting notice in early play were 19-year-old Joe Whalen of Miami and former national boys' champion Bill Einsman. The four primes, however, comfortably reached the semi-finals, where Kozeluh defeated Barnes in four sets, and Nusslein defeated Richards in three. In the final on February 24, Kozeluh won the first set behind many spectacular drop-shots, but after that Hans, playing patiently, kept the veteran warrior deep and on the run with firm and accurate hitting. Nusslein won the next three sets. One reporter deemed that the two baseliners had given "a great exhibition of continental tennis."

Nusslein now departed for Minnesota to join the tour, but most of the Miami cast moved to Palm Beach for the annual Southern Pro championship, billed as the oldest pro tournament in America. Kozeluh, the defending champion, won the event without serious challenge.

Nusslein started poorly in Minneapolis, losing to Vines 6-0, 6-2 before 4,000. Vines won again on March 10 in Milwaukee though the scores were closer. Then the next night in Chicago Hans defeated Elly in a split-setter, returning Vines's strong serves very well. Meanwhile Hans was proving a good doubles partner for Lott, although Tilden-Vines usually prevailed mainly thanks to their superior serves. One writer who attended both the late-January and the March appearances in Chicago wrote that Nusslein's presence seemed to pick up the quality of everyone's play.

The tour went on for another five weeks. Sometimes Vines's opponent was Tilden instead of Nusslein, as the Tilden-Vines match-up seemed a better draw. A late swing through the cold country went well. In Rochester, New York, on April 16, Nusslein defeated Lott, Vines out-cannonballed Tilden, and Lott-Nusslein captured a "thrilling" split-set win in doubles. Results were the same three nights later before a good-sized, responsive crowd in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto except that Tilden-Vines narrowly prevailed in the doubles. Next, at the Forum in Montreal Tilden beat Lott 6-1, 6-1, Nusslein defeated Vines 6-1, 6-4, and Tilden-Vines won an extended two-setter in doubles. Several appearances near New York City then followed, where Nusslein and Tilden took turns in severely extending a tired Vines. Watchers Allison Danzig and Merrihew of American Lawn Tennis attested that the quality of the tennis remained excellent, indeed furious.

At tour's end Nusslein had proven Elly's most difficult foe, having won more than a quarter of the time. Tilden's wins over Vines came at slightly less frequency. George Lott's later recollection that he defeated Tilden 27 times in 1935 was grossly exaggerated. The strong baseline games of both Tilden and Nusslein regularly and comfortably prevailed over Lott.

OUTDOOR SEASON IN AMERICA

A new phase began on May 9 upon the arrival in New York of French pros Martin Plaa and Robert Ramillon. Plaa, smiling as always, spoke to reporters in broken English and gave his age as 34. The slender Ramillon, 27, used precise English with Oxford accent.

Their American appearances began in a six-player event called the Mason-Dixon pro championships, outside Norfolk, Virginia. In the semi-final round on Saturday May 18, Plaa defeated Tilden and Bruce Barnes defeated Ramillon, both in two close sets. Barnes won the next day's final, departing from his usual power game to feed Plaa a diet of soft shots. The same cast played a similar event in Atlanta the next weekend. Plaa reversed his previous loss to Barnes, showing superior stroke production, while Tilden, playing forcefully, defeated Ramillon. In the Sunday final, May 26, Bill prevailed in four sets, keeping Plaa on the run. Frank Hunter and Tilden won the doubles in both events, twice defeating Plaa-Ramillon.

The next week brought a first-time tournament, the American Championships of the International Pro Players Association, held outdoors on clay at Orange Lawn Tennis Club, New Jersey. A good field of teaching pros entered, along with George Lott and the recent principals at Norfolk and Atlanta. Nusslein was away, working with the U.S. Davis Cuppers in Pennsylvania. In a rain-delayed quarter-final on Friday, Bruce Barnes again faced Martin Plaa. The French star was slightly ahead when darkness intervened, but Barnes took full command on Saturday to close out a five-set win. George Lott, slicing down the middle in attacking net, then defeated Ramillon in a semi-final troubled by cross-winds. Meanwhile Tilden, playing softly and using many drop-shots, defeated a net-rushing Barnes. In the Sunday final, June 3, before 1,500, Lott played aggressively to capture five of the first eight games against Bill. But Tilden then reasserted his accustomed supremacy, running out a straight-set triumph. Plaa-Ramillon won the doubles, defeating Lott-Barnes in five sets and then Hunter-Tilden in three.

PRO TENNIS POLITICS

Having seen that the club pros added little to the success of pro events, Tilden in 1934 led in founding the International Pro Players Association, which excluded the teachers. Bill then resigned from the older Professional Lawn Tennis Association, where the teaching pros were in the majority under its president George Agutter, veteran pro at Forest Hills. Vines and some of the other tour pros remained members of both groups. In April 1935, in a meeting chaired by the USLTA president, Walter Merrill Hall, the two groups "agreed to combine their interests." Both sanctioned the IPPA tournament at Orange, detailed above, and the IPPA members agreed to participate in the U.S. Pro tournament in the fall.

Hall's role in arranging the agreement was a case of effective relations between the pro and amateur establishments. Discouraging such cooperation, however, was wide knowledge that the pros were out to sign Perry and the two Helens, as well as other amateur stars. For several years now, the pro and amateur player lists had been comparable in talent, the pros gaining with every fresh signing. If things went much further, how long would the public support big-time amateur tennis?

Thus the hostility of the national tennis associations stiffened, though not in the United States where Hall was a voice for conciliation. The international federation (ILTF) voted that national associations should not allow clubs to hold pro events, a difficult position once clubs learned that such ventures could be profitable. An early-1935 proposal pressed by the British to liberalize amateur rules preventing players from working in movies was a clear effort to keep Fred Perry from defecting. Herbert Roper-Barrett, captain of the British Davis Cup team, declared that the pros "are only playing tennis to put money in their pockets and are not doing anything toward imparting skill to youngsters." In the ensuing war of words, the last point was refutable by citing the teaching sessions conducted by Tilden and the other pros at nearly all tour stops. The U.S. delegation led in opposing the proposed change, which was narrowly defeated at ILTF.

Press accounts typically stated that O'Brien was the tour promoter, but Tilden, who feared that outside promoters would try to manage the outcomes of matches, later wrote that control had never been fully vested in O'Brien's hands. Nusslein called Tilden and O'Brien the co-promoters. The top tour players sometimes earned a stated percentage of the receipts, which usually applied toward a guaranteed amount established at the time of signing. After expenses and payments to local promoters, the remaining revenue went to Tilden and O'Brien for tour expenses and their own income. Non-regulars like Barnes and Chapin might receive a stated monetary amount for a specific period of service. Tilden, whose earning potential as an attraction and from endorsements had been huge, failed to secure his wealth and apparently used most of it trying to build the pro tennis enterprise.

As the stresses gathered and his own prestige faded, there were suggestions that Tilden's influence was fading. A reporter described watching Bill personally go through the stands at Orange to seek out persons who had entered without paying. Bill had first tried to get an unwilling O'Brien to do the task. The reporter told how the younger pros were now tired of Bill's ways and were talking about staging a future tour with Vines and without Bill.

BONNARDEL CUP

Tilden had high ambitions for a team event modeled on Davis Cup. In 1933 he announced the donation of the Bonnardel Cup trophy by a Parisian benefactor, and later the IPPA became the organizer of the competition. In early 1935, the French team defeated Holland and Ireland. The final round, pitting the French team of Plaa and Ramillon against the U.S. was scheduled for red clay at Westchester Country Club, Rye, New York, June 8-9, 1935.

As often seemed to happen amid ambitious pro events, bad weather intervened. Opening day on Saturday was a complete wash-out, and the court thereafter remained soggy, slippery, and subject to damage during play. Allison Danzig and Fred Hawthorne watched the initial matches on Sunday, June 9, joining a crowd that was surprisingly large considering the day's dampness and chill.

In the opening match Bruce Barnes rushed net persistently to recover from two sets down, finally defeating Ramillon. Then Martin Plaa, "playing beautifully," defeated Tilden in four sets. Danzig wrote that Tilden "was loading the mud-stained ball with spin," but that the sturdy French player answered Bill's pressure with flat, severe drives, keeping the ball deep. The two men split the first two sets and Tilden led 3-1 in the third, but Plaa, driving for the lines with "uncanny accuracy," won the next eleven games to close out the match. The doubles followed in early evening, the French pair defeating Barnes-Tilden in five sets.

With the French team now ahead, two matches to one, rains prevented play on Monday. On Tuesday, Plaa defeated Barnes in three quick sets. Danzig reported that Bruce clearly had no chance in back court and that when he was at net, Plaa passed him readily. With the team verdict now decided, Tilden, "in wretched form," lost in four sets to an accurate Ramillon. Thus France won the initial Bonnardel Cup, four matches to one.

PRO vs. AMATEUR MEETINGS

Hans Nusslein served for several weeks as coach with the U.S. Davis Cup team outside Philadelphia. As a final exercise, a "sham" Davis Cup meet was arranged at the grass courts at Merion Cricket Club. The singles players for the presumed Cup team were Wilmer Allison and Sidney Wood, #5 and #6, respectively, in Myers's world amateur rankings for 1934. Playing singles for the opposing team would be Nusslein and the rising Californian Donald Budge, 19. Admission was free.

Pro Nusslein, age 25, faced amateur Allison, 30, in the opening match, May 30, 1935. The amateur star, who would win the U.S. Nationals a few months later, had been advised to take the offensive. Allison accordingly hit with more than his usual power and came to net regularly, reaching two sets all. In the final set Allison fought furiously but with declining accuracy, and, according to Dora Lurie of Philadelphia Inquirer, "could not match the steady pace and brilliant pick-up shots of Nusslein." Another writer observed that Nusslein, in winning, was also the fresher at the end.

In the reversed singles several days later, Nusslein defeated Sidney Wood in straight sets, again from the baseline. Lurie again admired Hans's steady, effortless stroking, which moved Wood from corner to corner, relentlessly breaking down his game. The Inquirer reporter judged that Nusslein must be "the world's best coach." (In the event's other singles matches, Budge lost to Wood and, in five sets, defeated Allison.) For pro tennis, Nusslein's wins over Allison and Wood came as a welcome offset to his loss to von Cramm the previous summer.

Later, in July, Tilden and Vines offered to play practice matches against the American Davis Cuppers, then in London. The offer was officially declined in the view that the styles of the pros were very different from those of the forthcoming Cup opponents. It was reported, however, that Tilden and Wood divided four practice sets on public courts. Later, in October, Nusslein and Tilden held a "high tennis school" in Berlin with some dozen aspiring German Davis Cuppers. The pros did some hard practice play with von Cramm, Henkel, and others. One watcher called it beautiful tennis, but outcomes were not reported.

EUROPEAN SUMMER

Winter and spring in America had shown that Ellsworth Vines was tops among the pros and that Nusslein and Tilden made up the second echelon, with Nusslein slightly ahead. The main exception to the dominance of the first three had been Bill's losses to Plaa and Ramillon in Bonnardel Cup. In mid-June, the just-named five headliners crossed the Atlantic, looking to continue the tests on outdoor courts in Europe. The season began in Strasbourg, where Vines inexplicably lost early to Ramillon. In the semis Ramillon defeated Plaa and Nusslein beat Tilden, in both cases two sets to one. Nusslein then won the tournament by defeating Ramillon on July 1 in three straight sets.

The French Professional Championships immediately followed, on clay at Roland Garros. The cast consisted of the aforementioned Five plus the Burkes, French player Estrabeau, and a dozen or so lesser European pros. The Five dominated, where only Ramillon failed to reach the semis, having again lost to Nusslein. Vines then beat Plaa in three straight sets, and Nusslein defeated Tilden. Bill won the first two sets from Hans, keeping his opponent on the defensive. Bill then weakened but surged again to reach three games all in the fifth set. A reporter from Le Figaro wrote that the arbiter in Nusslein's win had been "la fatigue." Then in a four-set final Vines defeated Nusslein, retaining command most of the way despite Hans's methodical pressure. Le Journal called it "a marvelous battle," and Le Figaro proclaimed Vines "the incontestable champion of the world of pros." Elly's win over Nusslein on clay was a clear validation of his improving all-around game.

The prime performers now moved to Southport, outside Liverpool, for the International Pro Championship of Britain, held on outdoor hard courts. Nusslein early dispatched Albert Burke, who could not answer Hans's control and pace. Then against Tilden, Martin Plaa showed consistent, firm tennis, moving Bill well to reach several early set points. But Plaa missed two easy smashes and, upset by crowd noise amid Bill's retrieving, the French star--who ordinarily played the crowd well--now "flopped," losing the final sixteen games.

In the first semi-final, July 11, Vines was badly off form against Ramillon, who mixed flat drives with heavily sliced backhands to feed what was this day an erratic Vines forehand. Ramillon's twist serves were also effective. Ramillon won the first two sets and led mid-way in the third before Vines's control returned. As seen by the Daily Telegraph writer, presumably Myers himself, Ramillon slowed in the fourth set, but the French star recovered to lead 3-1 in set five. But Vines then produced some aces and got his "annihilating drives" working. Vines closed out by winning the last five games. In the other semi, July 12, Nusslein started well against Tilden, offering a diet of many drop shots and forcing Bill to do most of the running. But Hans injured a leg muscle late in the first set and was thereafter in much pain. Bill won in straight sets.

Nearly 5,000 watchers filled the Southport stands for the Saturday final, July 13, amid unusually high temperatures. A British writer noted that Vines had filled out physically and now mixed more finesse into his former all-out hitting game. Vines played "beautifully" to capture the first set easily, but Tilden took the second and third, returning serve with good power and using slices to break Elly's rhythm. Several writers noted that Bill surrendered the fourth set with little effort. But the strategy failed, as on this warm day Bill could not summon the energy for a strong effort in the fifth, won by Vines, 6-2.

Tilden-Vines won the doubles final in five sets over Plaa-Ramillon. Ramillon played magnificently, according to the Telegram, but the Americans lobbed regularly over Plaa, whose overhead repeatedly proved inadequate.

Southport had been a fine event aesthetically, reasonably well attended and noticed by the world sporting press. Expenses had roughly equaled revenues, while substantial separate prize money had been provided by Dunlop Rubber Company. The American writer Al Laney, however, told how the pros had bickered among themselves in dividing the money. The decision had prevailed to prearrange how the funds were to be split. To Laney, this confirmed that the stars were interested only in immediate personal income and had little heed for the long-term development of the sport. Commenting on Laney's column, venerable Merrihew took the view that one should not bewail this happening, as it was inherent in the notion of professional tennis.

The pros then swung by Amsterdam for a team event pitting Plaa and Ramillon against several Netherlands pros and Vines, July 28-29. In the only singles match between two headliners, Vines defeated Plaa in four sets. August brought several tournaments on the Normandy coast featuring Vines and Tilden. Vines won the events at La Boule, August 6, and Deauville, August 11. Tilden then won a four-player round-robin at Le Touquet, defeating Vines, Plaa, and Ramillon. Ramillon was second.

NATIONAL PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS

The three elites--Vines, Nusslein, and Tilden--all competed at Garros and Southport, enhancing the stature of these events. Next came the pro championships of Britain, Germany, and the U.S., all potential growing places for the sport. None of these events, however, attracted more than one of the three elites.

Dan Maskell won the Professional Championships of Britain for the eighth time, defeating perennial opponent F. H. Poulson in a four-set final at Eastbourne, August 17. Lawn Tennis Association promoted the event. The German championships were held at the Blau-Weiss in Berlin in September before crowds reaching 4,000. Hans Nusslein claimed the triumph, defeating E. Goritschnig of Hamburg in straight sets on the last day, September 23. Nusslein also won the doubles with old master Najuch.

Tilden returned to America after Le Touquet, appearing at several eastern sites where he scored wins over Stoefen. Bill also made good his commitment to play in the U.S. Pro tournament, held at the Terrace Club, Brooklyn, New York, September 11-15, 1935. Also on hand were Lott, Stoefen, Alfred Chapin, Hunter, and Kozeluh, along with about twenty of the better known teaching pros. The only early upset was by youthful Joe Whalen, who defeated John Cardegna before losing to Chapin. Stoefen beat Hunter before wilting in the semis under Kozeluh's pressure, while Lott beat Chapin before losing to Tilden in four. In the final on September 15, Tilden defeated Kozeluh in five sets. Kozeluh won the first three games of the deciding set, having seemingly gained the upper hand by his consistent retrieving. But Tilden then picked up his serving and net attacking, pushing Kozeluh into the corners, and finally captured the set and the championship, 7-5. A two-night program directly followed at the Concourse Club, where Vines, Lott, Stoefen, and Tilden all finished equal in a partial round-robin in singles, and Lott-Stoefen twice defeated Tilden-Vines in doubles. All four then sailed for Britain and Wembley.

WEMBLEY AND PARIS

The World Indoor Pro Championships at Empire Pool, Wembley, began on September 30. In a mild surprise, Dan Maskell defeated Robert Ramillon in straight sets. Avoiding the renowned Ramillon backhand, Maskell conducted a varied and forcing attack on his opponent's forehand, using many volleys and half-volleys. The French star's renowned spins lacked effectiveness on the fast boards. Later, Vines easily beat Albert Burke. Both matches were straight-setters.

Stoefen defeated Plaa the second night in three close sets, exploiting his own serving and net skills to overcome his baseliner opponent. The London Times writer observed that Stoefen's ground strokes "were a great help to his opponent." But Plaa was slowed by an ankle injury incurred late in the first set. The next night, October 2, Tilden easily defeated Edmund Burke, using only an occasional cannonball but punishing any weak shot with well-directed power. Our Times observer wrote that the match was too one-sided to be interesting.

Thursday night further shortened the field in this 10-man elimination. Whether he was in forecourt or back, George Lott was helpless against Nusslein's relentless probing. Stoefen then relied heavily on his own serving ability to reach one set all against Maskell. As Myers saw it, Maskell was forever forced to parry Stoefen's power. By the third set, Stoefen also commanded the net. Plainly, wood was Lester's surface. Interesting match-ups thus emerged for the semis--Vines against Stoefen and Nusslein against Tilden.

The two tall Californians provided two hours of "whole-hearted bashing," where both serves were dominating. In the fifth set, Stoefen led by 3-0, then 4-2, and finally 7-6 with match point in hand. But Vines survived with a fine volley, and then broke through the next game-- "playing like a champion," the Times reported. Elly thus took the win, 9-7 in the fifth. In contrast, the Nusslein-Tilden semi featured well-controlled ground strokes and long rallies. Tilden had the early edge as it became clear that Nusslein's serving was no threat. But Tilden's stamina was gradually weakening, Myers observed. Ahead by two sets, Bill let the third set go. Then, playing furiously as if to avoid a fifth set, Bill pulled ahead from three games all, serving and driving superbly, to claim the victory.

Thus it became another Tilden-Vines Wembley final, before more than 7,000 on Saturday, October 6. Myers criticized the lighting and surface, which were far below Wimbledon quality and, in Myers's opinion, contributed to many errors. Still, the famous writer acknowledged, watchers were not deterred from applauding regularly. Vines's strong serving was as usual a foremost factor. Tilden stayed almost exclusively in back court, as did Vines once it became clear that Bill's passing shots were succeeding more often than not. Down by two sets, Tilden found his backhand, which gradually became a dominating stroke, according to the Times writer. Now, Bill's driving from both sides came with "unceasing power and accuracy." Vines, however, managed an early service break in the fifth set. Tilden held serve thereafter, but he could not again break Elly's. "Youth got its reward," wrote Myers. It was Vines's second triumph in Wembley's two-year history.

Lott-Stoefen won a place in the doubles final by defeating Plaa-Ramillon in four sets. But they then played erratically in losing to Tilden-Vines in straight sets. Stoefen, Myers deemed, "found the court too small for his exuberant play," thereby spoiling Lott's tactical schemes. Myers noted that lobbing over Tilden proved an ineffective strategy, as Bill usually managed to place his reply well. High-powered serving was the order of the day.

The good attendance, the luster of the field, the London location, and the late-year timing all argued that Wembley was now the most important pro event.

The year's final attraction, in Paris October 9-10, imitated a Bonnardel Cup meeting. The playing surface inside the Palais des Sports, cement covered with red paint, was said to be very fast. Tilden defeated Plaa the first evening, and Vines defeated Ramillon. The French players won the opening sets of both matches, but in both cases the power game of the American player then prevailed comfortably. The American team thus had a 2-0 lead. To close the evening Lott-Stoefen then played Tilden-Vines in doubles--a warm-up for the team doubles the second night. Tilden-Vines won two of three sets. On the second night, Tilden and Vines both won in singles, though the French players again started well. Plaa-Ramillon then defeated Lott-Stoefen in two sets. The crowds were excellent--9,000 the first evening, 10,000 the second. Venerable writer Sparrow Robertson of the Herald-Tribune in Paris, who had sometimes disparaged pro tennis, termed the event a success. He added that the sport now seemed on its way to permanent success.

PRO TENNIS IN AUSTRALIA

Henri Cochet, now 34, spent most of the year on an international tour sponsored by the French government. Henri left Europe in February 1935 with wife and manager for an itinerary reaching Egypt, India, East Indies, the Philippines, and China. Henri arrived in Australia in November, commencing what became a first pro tour in that vibrant tennis nation.

Cochet's prime opponent would be R.O. Cummings, a recent star player in Australia's interstate competition, who turned pro for Henri's visit. In their first meeting, the two played before some 600 watchers in Brisbane on November 23. Cummings prevailed in four sets, outstroking Henri who, it was said, was not yet familiar with Australian conditions. Two days later at the same location, Cochet defeated Cummings in three comfortable sets. Fred Perry attended.

Henri then traveled to Sydney and briefly practiced at the Rushcutters Bay tennis complex nearby. On December 1, Cochet gave "a masterly display" in defeating J. Willard, a former Davis Cup team member, in four sets. Willard and his brother then defeated Cochet and his partner--the renowned James O. Anderson, former international star and long-time teaching pro in Sydney. Anderson had been too long absent from competition and, as a sympathetic local reporter put it, "could do little right." Our observer judged that the well-satisfied crowd of 2,000 would always remember this first pro tennis in New South Wales.

Cochet and his newly formed troupe, variously consisting of Cummings, the Willards, several other Australian pros, and occasionally Anderson as Cochet's doubles partner, then embarked on almost daily performances throughout southeastern Australia. Cochet invariably won his singles, but often lost in doubles. The ensemble played before 3,000 at Kooyong, in Melbourne, on January 4, 1936, where Cochet defeated Cummings in five sets, and again on January 7 at Exhibition Building, Melbourne, on wood. Henri's early game had been developed on wood surface, and the Lyonnaise now prevailed in two straight sets.

The Australian writers were uniformly perceptive in analyzing Henri's game, dissecting his unusual stroke production and court tactics featuring attack off the half volley. The Australian tennis association was at first unfriendly to Cochet's activities but later gave active cooperation. The change coincided with Norman Brookes's return from abroad.

Cochet sailed for New Zealand on February 5. James Anderson wrote to Merrihew in America that Cochet seemed at the top of his game, and that his visit had done a lot for tennis in Australia.

YEAR-END RANKINGS

There can be little doubt that the 1935 pro champion was Ellsworth Vines. Elly swept the winter tour in America and won premier international events at Garros, Southport, and Wembley. It was equally clear that the next tier consisted of Nusslein and Tilden, whose credentials were of almost equal weight. Hans defeated Bill at Garros, but Bill won head-to-heads at Southport, when Hans was injured, and on Wembley wood. We give the narrow edge to Tilden, weighting heavily the prestige of his win at Wembley.

The margins are also very narrow within the next group. For fourth place we choose Kozeluh, who extended Nusslein in Miami, won at Palm Beach, and who defeated Stoefen and extended Tilden at U.S. Pro. Martin Plaa is fifth in recognition of his Bonnardel Cup triumph. At #6 is Stoefen, reflecting his strong performance at Wembley, and at #7 is Ramillon, who twice defeated Vines during the summer and extended him at Southport. Sharing #8 position are George Lott and Bruce Barnes, both of whom merit inclusion in our eight.

For help in merging the pros and amateurs we again rely on Myers's amateur list, headed in 1935 by Fred Perry, who won Wimbledon, Garros, and led Britain's successful Davis Cup defense. Perry was two years older than Vines, whose tennis had advanced strongly since his amateur days. I cannot choose between the two and therefore make them co-equal atop our combined ranking. We then accord third and fourth places to amateurs Crawford and von Cramm, respectively, followed by pros Tilden and Nusslein. Completing our first eight are amateurs Allison and Austin. Vines in late October voiced the plausible case that indoors the top pros would be much better than the top amateurs. Our list, however, seeks an all-surface ranking.

Combining pros and amateurs in one list is of course speculative and was seldom ventured. The French amateur federation, however, emitted such a list in April 1935. Though it preceded most of the year's results, the list has interesting similarities to ours. Both lists place Vines and Perry at the top, though the French put Vines ahead. In both, amateurs Crawford and von Cramm are next, ahead of pros Tilden and Nusslein. No other pros are in the first eight of either list.

The doubles game claimed greater attention in 1935 than ever before. Lott and Stoefen plainly lifted pro doubles, but they did not earn our top ranking. This honor unquestionably belongs to Tilden-Vines. Lott-Stoefen are second in our order, narrowly ahead of Plaa-Ramillon whom they defeated at Wembley. Albert Burke-Nusslein, the runner-up pair at Garros, share fourth place with Lott-Nusslein.

Tilden wrote that 1935 had been an enormously successful year for pro tennis, only slightly less so than the year before. Bill's mild exaggeration was excusable. Vines's second pro year had come with an encouraging mix of new and old promotions. The Bonnardel Cup matches in America had been tepid, but the late-year imitation in Paris showed the potential appeal of team competition. Doubles as the tour's chief attraction had been delightful, at least until Stoefen's illness. Tilden's gate appeal was probably slipping, but the former champion's playing ability at age 43 and his tireless role in advancing the game's growth remained worthy of great respect. The year was a bad one, however, for the pioneering pro Vincent Richards, still just 32. Vinnie's right arm was shattered in an auto accident in May, apparently ending his playing career. At year's end, however, he was again seen on a practice court. Ellsworth Vines also was hurt in a car accident. The injury, a chipped knee-cap, hampered Elly during the fall.

Against Tilden's rosy outlook was the reality that the sport's appeal depended on new infusions annually. Perry, who was recovering slowly from an injury at Forest Hills, would stay with the amateurs yet another year. Signing with O'Brien in December 1935 was Berkeley Bell of Texas, who at #7 had been just behind Stoefen and Lott in the U.S. amateur rankings for 1934. It also seemed likely that Cochet would soon return to the pro wars. Meanwhile the idea of open tournaments remained alive. Meeting in New York in November 1935, the national pro association voted to support Richards's call to plan such an event in the near future.

The aloofness of the two Helens seemed to forestall a strong women's role in pro tennis. But in November 1935 O'Brien announced the signing of the diminutive Californian Ethel Burkhardt Arnold, #2 in the soon-to-be-announced U.S. amateur list. Signing as her tour opponent was fellow Californian Jane Sharp. Thus the new year would begin with an experiment returning women players to the pro sport, from which they had been absent since Suzanne.

--Ray Bowers

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Between The Lines Archives:
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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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