(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; of Tildens 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.
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Tennis," where George's bent for humor sometimes superseded his tennis.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.