(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; of The Early Ascendancy of Vines, 1934; Vines's Second Year: 1935; Awaiting Perry, 1936; and Perry and Vines, 1937.)
The coming of a new superstar--Tilden in 1931, Vines in 1934, and Perry in
1937--always invigorated pro tennis. But the general rule was that the gains in
attendance and news coverage slipped away after a year or so. The same happened
in 1938, Perry's second year as a pro, even amid the first Grand Slam in
amateur tennis history, by American Don Budge. Although expected, the phenomenon
was disappointing for the pros, as other than Budge the world's best players
were all professionals--Vines, Perry, and Nusslein. Coloring everything during
the year was the growing likelihood of war in Europe amid intolerance in Nazi
Germany, seen in the imprisoning of amateur tennis superstar Gottfried von
TILDEN, COCHET IN INDIA
Wandering pros Tilden and Cochet, with Robert Ramillon and Albert Burke,
arrived in India in mid-December 1937 for a six-week tour of the subcontinent.
Tilden later wrote of the difficult travel in that fascinating land, the heat
everywhere, the water often not good. Court surfaces ranged from excellent grass
around Calcutta to extremely fast, hard-packed clay in the South. Some courts
were of asphalt or cement, sometimes of poor quality. Amid play at New Delhi
it was discovered that the service line on one side of the court was three feet
too close to net, and at Ajmer the courts were laid out east-west, making the
Sun impossibly difficult from one side. Bill misbehaved unusually badly at
Ahmedabad, blaming bad light, a bad court surface, and bad line-calling. But
outweighing all the negatives, to Tilden, were the large, enthusiastic, and
friendly Indian crowds, which totaled 60,000 people in the 29 engagements. All in
all, Bill deemed the India experience "wonderful."
Bill wrote columns for Times of India, published in Bombay, offering rare
first-person descriptions of the flow of certain matches. In their opener at
Madras, December 19, Bill wrote that his opponent, Cochet, played mainly
defensively, waiting for errors from Tilden, who was rusty from the recent sea and
train journey. Before 3,500 on January 2, 1938 at Calcutta, Bill started at his
very best, he wrote, but became taxed by the severe heat and Henri's pressure.
Henri, who won in four sets, looked muscular and wiry photographed in tight
shirt. Cochet won six of their first seven matches in India. Bill doubted that
Henri had ever played better.
Matters turned to favor Bill after Calcutta. Ellsworth Vines, who thought
highly of Tilden's volleying ability, believed that against Henri, Bill was
customarily too wedded to backcourt. Bill, however, wrote that his India
turnaround came because of Henri's weariness under the strenuous schedule and
Bill's regaining his usual strengths in serving and baseline play. On January 9 at
New Delhi, according to Bill, Cochet was "unable to break up the fury of my
attack," and on January 19 Bill equalized the tally at seven wins each.
Meanwhile Ramillon remained third-best of the group, the firmness of his backhand
regularly too much for Burke. Many of the engagements were organized as team
matches, France against U.S., where the "U.S." team consisted of Tilden and Burke
(who was from an Irish family and lived in France). The doubles typically
became the decider, where the winning pair was usually Cochet-Ramillon who, Bill
wrote, were superior in volleying power.
After performing at Trivandrum near the southern tip of India on January 31,
the troupe moved on to engagements in Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and
several sites in Java. The grass court at Kuala Lumpur was "perfect," wrote Bill,
but he noted that only the Europeans and a few Chinese in the gallery seemed
knowledgeable about tennis. Having completed the planned schedule in late
March, Cochet returned to Europe via a Dutch airline. Tilden, too, would soon be
back in Europe.
The 1938 Perry-Vines tour of North America drew smaller crowds than in the
previous year but gave comparable sporting and entertainment value. Impresario
Jack Harris, who earlier roamed the continent setting up the bookings, now
traveled with the troupe as overall manager. Both Perry and Vines were among the
investors. Elly had undergone tonsil and back surgeries in late 1937 and now
pronounced himself "streamlined." Often it was stated that the tour winner would
win the right to defend the pro crown in 1939 against the expected
Again in the supporting cast would be Berkeley Bell--the Tumbling Texan--a
scrawny crowd-pleaser for his high-energy scrambling. Bell's singles opponent
each night would be Walter Senior of San Francisco, who as an amateur in 1937
won several tournaments including the Canadian, showing wins over Riggs,
Allison, and Kovacs. Senior was a heavy server and stroker at a gangling but athletic
6-3. He would usually pair with fellow Californian Vines in the doubles
against Bell and Perry.
The tour opened on January 11, 1938, in Pan-Pacific auditorium, Los Angeles,
before a less-than-capacity crowd of 7,500 studded with movie and sports
celebrities. Vines had overwhelmed Perry in the same arena in 1937. In the
preliminary match, Bell won the first set from Senior and the second was stopped at
5-all. In the main event both Perry and Vines were erratic in their shot-making,
each struggling against himself on the canvas-covered wood floor. But the
product was a five-set thriller, where Vines prevailed at the end, though he
seemed the more tired. The doubles was shortened to one set, ending long after
midnight, Senior-Vines winning, few watchers remaining. Bill Henry of L.A. Times
summarized the evening: "If not the world's best tennis, it was exciting and
there was plenty of it."
Vines won again two nights later, capturing two of three sets before a
disappointing turn-out of 2,000 at Dreamland auditorium, San Francisco. The play of
the headliners was inconsistent, reminiscent of the opener in L.A. The troupe
then played four engagements in the Pacific Northwest, each headliner winning
Outcomes between the two varied unpredictably in the next weeks. In Salt
Lake City on January 27, reporter Mark Corbett marveled at the speed and
placement of Elly's serves. Vines delivered these "handkerchief placements" almost at
will, wrote Corbett, against which Perry was almost helpless. Vines won the
match 11-9, 11-9, despite ferocious efforts by Perry, who kept many points going
long enough to yield a Vines error. It made for "some of the most dazzling
tennis ever played here." But the next evening in Sacramento, Perry produced
what writer Kurt McBride called a smooth, well-polished destruction of Vines,
whose backhand was sadly off form. Vines afterwards said he lost his timing in
trying to rush Perry excessively.
Back in southern California at the end of January, Perry and Vines were
exactly even at five wins each. Bell and Senior had also shown themselves closely
matched, as had the doubles pairs. Vines then won the next three matches
through February 3 in Pasadena, taking a lead over Fred that he would never
relinquish. Engagements followed in Arizona, Texas, and New Orleans, where former tour
player Emmett Pare joined the cast for one night. The wanderers reached
Florida in late February.
The on-court battles were sometimes intense. Bruce Barnes officiated at a
performance in Texas. Both men squawked plenty, Barnes reported, and both used
every trick in the trade to win. Against Vines's strong serving Perry usually
stood in close, blocking back the rockets, often winning praise from watchers at
his ability in doing so. But on nights when Elly's first serves were working
well and when his ground-stroke screamers cleared the net and clipped the
lines consistently, there wasn't much Fred could do. Elly occasionally came to net
behind his forcing power, showing his excellent volleying and overhead
ability. Fred too sometimes came forward, typically behind an attack of a rising
ball--his signature tactic as an amateur. But usually both men stayed in back
court out of respect for his opponent's passing ability. Jack Harris noted that
Perry's game usually deteriorated when Fred became upset mentally, which
explained some of Elly's victories. In contrast, Elly's calm concentration never
From Florida the troupe made their way west and north to Minneapolis and
further wanderings across the Midwest and Northeast, traveling mainly by car.
Walter Senior said he had signed up to see the country, but that all he ever saw
were road signs. For Jack Harris, every day meant 16-20 hours of, in his words,
The running tally of match wins was provided to newsmen by the advance man,
Al Ennis. The count was regularly given in pre-match news stories, though
sometimes erroneously. Vines stayed ahead in the reported counts, leading by two
wins at the end of February, by seven a month later, and by ten in late April.
Several Perry victories in the Northeast cut Elly's reported lead to seven at
the end of April.
Perry was usually the talkative one with the press, almost always in good
humor. He told reporters that in England "we have an expression for American
tennis, B.F. and B.I.--Brute Force and Bloody Ignorance." (Fred didn't explicitly
tie the remark to Elly's style.) But as he fell behind in the tally, Fred grew
increasingly edgy. He said he resented the notion that he, Fred, could only
win when Elly was off his game, and he told one reporter that Vines could not
beat him in Europe (i.e., on clay), where the bounces are lower and slower and
where smashes lose their force. The European balls are slower, Fred continued,
and the atmospheric conditions are different. "Vines is lucky," he asserted.
Berkeley Bell seemed to agree, adding that Fred's superior ability in
generating angles was hindered in indoor arenas. Indeed, Vines's low-trajectory
rockets often smacked the net cords, which were usually loose, and dropped over for
There were many signs of friction between the principals, who spent little
time together off court. Elly once let it be known that he heard and disliked
Fred's disparaging remarks during changeovers. In public Elly sometimes lavishly
praised Fred's retrieving ability. (Was this a comment on Fred's lesser
offensive power?) Late in the tour Vines pointed out to a reporter that he, Elly,
led in the series outdoors as well as overall.
Both men wore down toward the end. Fred, who was delightful when ahead and
could be nasty when losing, now seemed disinterested, apathetic. Perry, in one
radio interview, contrasted the pleasures of amateur play, where each
tournament meant several easy matches, with his situation in facing Elly's thunder
night after night. Angry after a hard-fought loss in early May, Fred said that he
wished he'd never turned pro. Meanwhile Elly often said that he preferred golf
to tennis, and that he intended to play in the U.S. amateur golf
championships later in the year. Near tour's end he told one reporter that he would
forsake pro tennis if Budge beat him in a 1939 tour.
The tour ended in Chicago on May 30, 1938. Elly moved firmly ahead during the
final month, though there is slight disagreement as to the final margin of
victories. I believe the best information is from Jack Harris, who accompanied
the players and kept count. His tally made the final score 49-35 in Vines's
favor, though most newspapers reported 48-35, probably using information from
Ennis. Either way, Vines narrowly missed his announced objective of winning by at
least 15, said to be subject of a substantial side bet. (Of those matches
where I can document date, place, and score, Vines won 42, Perry 32.)
In the preliminary matches Walter Senior's strong forcing game generally
prevailed against Berkeley Bell. Both men were crowd-pleasers--Senior with his
power and Bell with his energy and court antics. Both took their matches
seriously. Vines, who was often seen courtside encouraging his doubles partner, called
their matches the "little world's series." The playing styles made interesting
contrast, Senior slugging away and Bell hanging in tenaciously--a pattern
resembling that of the headliners. My incomplete count shows Senior winning or
ahead on 25 occasions, Bell on 12, and 19 ties. Meanwhile, press accounts make
clear that all four players took the doubles as primarily entertainment. My
tally shows Senior-Vines winning or leading 33 times, Bell-Perry 21 times, with 5
Although the paid attendances had been smaller than hoped for, the long tour
was profitable for the headliners and kept the public interested in the
prospects of Budge, who attended several of the engagements. At tour's end, Harris
wrote that both Perry and Vines were playing their best ever, especially Vines,
and that Senior had grown his game greatly. In finishing ahead of Fred, Vines
made an irrefutable case for recognition as world's pro champion. Satisfied
with these laurels, Elly returned to California to work on his golf. Fred spent
much of the summer with his wife in the Northeast, occasionally joining in
exhibitions arranged by Berkeley Bell.
TOURNAMENTS IN AMERICA
Two tournaments in April kept alive the idea of a pro tournament circuit.
Joining the usual cast in such events were two Californians, newcomers to the pro
wars--Richard Skeen and John Faunce. Skeen was a pro in Hollywood, said to
have a clientele of movie celebrities.
The North and South tournament, for amateurs only, had been an annual fixture
at Pinehurst, North Carolina. An event for pros was added in 1938 with
several dozen entries, mainly teaching pros, commencing April 17. The newcomers
started off well. Faunce defeated George Lott in five sets, Skeen defeated Joe
Whalen in five sets, and Jan Kozeluh, younger brother of Karel, defeated Vincent
Richards in four. In the semis, Karel Kozeluh, now representing Boca Raton
Tennis Club, Florida, defeated Skeen in three short sets, and Jan advanced when
Faunce won the first set but hurt his ankle and withdrew. In the final on April
21 Karel easily defeated his brother to win the $200 first-place prize.
Richards-Whalen won the doubles, defeating the Kozeluhs in straight sets. The great
writer Fred Hawthorne watched the doubles final, noting that Vinnie was
insistent in urging his net-shy partner to "get up there." Hawthorne deemed Vinnie
easily the outstanding player, his volleying on this date "remindful of
The same warriors, joined by Bruce Barnes, reassembled a few days later for
the second U.S. Open, usually called the Greenbrier open, at the Greenbrier
Golf and Country Club, West Virginia. The event offered $2,000 total prize
money--twice that at Pinehurst. A half-dozen amateurs entered, none of them well
known except for pro golfer Sam Snead. Several women sent entries but were not
accepted. The playing surface was an artificial green-colored clay called Har-Tru.
George Lott won two first-day matches, April 25, though one of them required
five sets. Al Chapin lost to teaching pro Herman Peterson on day two, but
otherwise the favorites advanced easily. Golfer Snead had the misfortune of
drawing Karel Kozeluh, who at age 42 was the tournament's defending champion. Sam
won a total of three games in three sets. Whalen then eliminated Skeen in five
sets, Karel outclassed Hunter, and a nimble Jan defeated Lott in five. In the
semis Karel defeated brother Jan in four sets, while Barnes won from Whalen in
Thus the final-round, April 30, would again pit Barnes and Kozeluh. The
recently married American reversed the previous year's result, winning 57 62 64 36
64. Play followed a three-hour rain delay and lasted nearly three hours. An
Associated Press reporter wrote that Barnes was handicapped by foot and hand
blisters but won by means of superior power and, toward the end, "an exhibition
of precise volleying." In the doubles final, delayed to the next day,
Barnes-Lott defeated the Kozeluhs in four sets. The new open doubles champions
proclaimed a challenge to all comers.
Amid the tournament the players assembled to discuss how to make pro tennis
profitable--"like golf." A week later Hawthorne, writing in New York Herald
Tribune, deplored the absence of Vines and Perry from the recent events and their
general lack of cooperation with P.L.T.A. The main problem, he deemed, was
that prize money was far too small to interest the superstars. Hawthorne urged
appointment of an overall manager/promoter for pro tennis and nominated Robert
E. Harlow, of Pinehurst, who had "raised pro golf from practically nothing."
Harlow had previously told Hawthorne that he could do the same for tennis. A few
weeks later, Harlow was officially given this charge by P.L.T.A., with an
immediate task of promoting pro events in the coming fall season.
The U.S. Pro tournament, not played in 1937 unless the open at Greenbrier is
viewed as its replacement, reappeared in Chicago in early fall 1938. With
Chicago Times as a sponsor, the announced total prize money was $3,000 for
singles, $1,800 for doubles. Joining the usual cast were members of the 1938 tour
Perry, Bell, and Senior, making a field of two dozen. Teaching pro Lloyd Budge,
older brother of Donald, competed, along with Art Hendrix, lately a promising
amateur who had been named coach at U.S. Naval Academy. It was an impressive
field, full of implications for the year's pro rankings. Absent were Vines, now
busy with golf, and Kozeluh.
It was Perry's first appearance in a pro tournament. Fred, a late entrant,
upon reaching Chicago learned that his wife had been hurt in a traffic accident.
He at once tried to fly back to New York but missed the plane. Learning that
Helen's injuries were minor, he decided to stay on and compete. Play began on
September 28, on the canvas-covered indoor courts at Chicago Arena.
All eight favorites made it to the quarter-finals. Enroute, Skeen lost a set
in defeating Richards, Whalen a set in defeating Hendrix. Then in the quarters
Bell defeated Lott, and Barnes defeated Whalen, both in four sets. Dick Skeen
defeated Senior in straight sets. One observer thought that the lithe Skeen
showed a superb backhand comparable to Budge's but a somewhat cramped forehand
and a weakness in volleying. These flaws became vulnerable in the semis,
according to our American Lawn Tennis observer, against the well-rounded game of
Bruce Barnes. The Texan, Barnes, beat the Californian in four.
But it was clear from the start that Perry was in a class by himself. Fred
easily won his first two matches, then lost only six games in defeating his
quarter-final opponent, Faunce. His next victim, Berkeley Bell, did a little
better, but in the final on October 2 Fred ripped through Barnes, 63 62 64. It was
an impressive validation of Perry's credentials and, indirectly, those of
Vines as well. Perry and Vincent Richards then won the doubles, defeating
Barnes-Bell in four tough sets. Perry won $450 for the singles crown, another $240 for
the doubles. The tournament's success was auspicious.
EUROPEAN SEASON -- SOUTHPORT
Tilden and Cochet resumed their cordial competition May 26-28 at the
Fitzwilliam courts in Dublin, Ireland. The cast was the same as in India except that
Edmund Burke replaced brother Albert as the weakest member of the foursome. The
two headliners both defeated Edmond and Ramillon in the early action, though
Henri needed three sets to defeat Robert. Henri played unaggressively, content
to win by superior steadiness. Then on the third day. before a nice crowd of
3,000 in bright sunshine, Tilden and Cochet awakened the previously sedate
crowd with a fine display of baseline tennis, Bill winning in three straight
sets. All play had been on a dirt court, the dampness ruling out using the
With Henri now preparing for another visit to Russia, Hans Nusslein and
Martin Plaa joined Bill and Ramillon at Glasgow, July 6-8, in a tune-up for
Southport. Nusslein and Tilden both won on the first day, Wednesday. After all-day
rain on Thursday, on Friday Tilden captured the event by defeating Nusslein in
straight sets. Our observer from Glasgow Herald saw the difference in Tilden's
"powerful and well-timed drives to the sidelines," for which Hanne had no
answer. Bill easily handled Hanne's many drop shots, sweeping them deep to the
At Southport, Bill and Hanne headed a field of six pro veterans in eight days
of round-robin play, July 9-16. It was the fifth year of a major event at
Southport, in the north of England. Again the court surface was of En-tout-cas,
"all-weather" artificial clay. Rain hampered play on nearly all dates and
scarcely helped the cold symptoms of Tilden and Plaa said to stem from the chill
rain in Glasgow. Total attendance was 5,400 (including 2,400 on final-round
Saturday), up from the previous year's 4,800. Copies of the daily Southport
Visiter, provided by Austrian writer Robert Geist, give us detailed eyewitness
accounts of the action.
Clearly out of place in the round-robin was Edmund Burke, who lost to all
five opponents. The Irish-French veteran never won more than four games in any
set. Also losing in straight sets to each member of the top three were Dan
Maskell and Martin Plaa. Plaa defeated Maskell for fourth place, though our
anonymous reporter praised Maskell for playing aggressively and moving to net often.
But it was the battles among the tournament's top three--the familiar
Nusslein, Tilden, and Ramillon--that became the week's prime attractions.
The Tilden-Ramillon match-up came on opening day, Saturday, just after
tea-time. Error-making cost Bill the first four games, but after that he steadied.
The games became long with many deuces, but Bill won most of them. Robert's
"artistic" serving generated heavy spin, but Bill was able to return the
offerings low over the net and with good pace. Meanwhile Tilden's serves usually
elicited looped returns, which Bill could readily drive to a corner. The French
star played "fine tennis" to win the third set, but the severe hitting and
drop-shot artistry that Robert would display later in the week were absent as Bill,
behind his superior power, claimed his four-set win.
Our reporter admired Nusslein's "full-blooded" forehands and "crisp"
backhands, seen in Hanne's first three wins. Ramillon had won a set from Hanne in
Glasgow, but on Friday at Southport, Nusslein captured three straight sets.
Robert's attacking slices played into Hanne's greater power, and his droppers were
losers against Hanne's speed of foot.
On the last day, Saturday, with Tilden showing the effects of his cold and
with the court slowed by morning rain, Nusslein played nearly mistake-free
tennis. Outclassed for most of the going, Bill made many errors in trying high-risk
shots. Tilden managed to win the third set, fighting well, and both players
began the fourth set producing "some really fine tennis." But when Bill's
energy flagged, Hanne won the last six games and the match, 61 61 57 61. It was
Nusslein's third straight championship at Southport. Acknowledging the crowd's
warm applause, Hanne graciously attributed his triumph to the colds of the
FALL SEASON IN EUROPE
There would be no international tournament at Wembley in 1938 nor at
Scheveningen, and no Bonnardel Cup team competition. In August, Dan Maskell won the
British Pro at Eastbourne, the event as usual limited to Britishers. Maskell
thus regained the championship he had held 1927-1936. Jeffery, who won in 1937,
hurt his shoulder in defending.
Hanne's superiority was convincing in capturing the French pro championships
at Roland Garros, September 9-11. In the semi-finals Nusslein prevailed over
Plaa in four, Tilden over French player H. Vissault, who had surprised Ramillon
in the quarters. Hanne then defeated Tilden in the final, 60 61 62. The
reporter for Le Journal judged that Tilden, knowing that Hanne was "solid as a
wall," played too boldly and destroyed himself by accumulating errors. A fortnight
later Nusslein scored another triumph, regaining the German Pro championship
at the Berlin Rot-Weiss. In the round-robin among the last four, Hanne and
Ramillon both won their first two matches. Nusslein won their final-day
show-down, September 18, in five sets. Third place went to Vissault, who had taken a
set against both leaders. Tilden did not compete.
The arrival in Europe of Vincent Richards added late-season interest. In a
three-day round-robin in Brussels, October 21-23, Vinnie lost in turn to
Nusslein, Tilden, and Ramillon. Le Libre Belgique termed Nusslein's passing shots on
the first day "extraordinary." Both Nusslein and Tilden remained undefeated
until the last day, when Hanne beat Bill in straight sets for the championship.
Le Libre deemed that Nusslein was imperturbable amid incidents made overly
dramatic by Tilden. The same four players repeated the format in Copenhagen,
October 25-27. The singles outcomes were the same though the scores were closer.
Bill carried Hanne to five sets before losing on the final day.
Most of these tournaments included doubles, where Nusslein was usually on the
winning side. At Southport the winners were Maskell-Nusslein, who defeated
both Plaa-Ramillon and Burke-Tilden in the three-pair championship round-robin.
Other, "exhibition" doubles filled out the daily programs. The winning pair
at Garros was Plaa-Ramillon, who defeated Nusslein-Tilden in a five-set final.
At Brussels and Copenhagen the four players changed doubles partners each day.
At Brussels Nusslein was undefeated with the three different partners, and at
Copenhagen Nusslein, Ramillon, and Plaa finished 2-1 in doubles, while Tilden
lost in turn with all three.
The European pro season ended prematurely when an accident with a taxi door
in Copenhagen cost Richards the tip of a finger. An eight-player event
scheduled at Sporting Club in Paris was canceled. Thus Nusslein's superiority was
unbroken in major events of 1938 from Southport to Copenhagen.
CARIBBEAN TOUR OF PERRY AND VINES
Perry, Vines, and Vines's wife sailed southward from New York aboard Santa
Elena, November 11, 1938. Ahead were eight head-to-head engagements in six
different countries on the Caribbean. Vines had been inactive from competitive
play since May and was said to be overweight. Thus the venture promised a good
tune-up for the 1939 tour. Local players joined the headliners for doubles and
singles play at each stop.
The warriors opened under lights on a concrete court in Curacao, November 15.
Perry won in three straight sets. Vines answered by winning a five-setter the
next night in a bullfighting ring in Caracas, Venezuela. Our eyewitness, one
Olaf von Scanzoni, reported to American Lawn Tennis that Vines had early
trouble with the court and lights, and that Perry missed many easy shots. Still, it
was "marvelous play never seen here before." Someone courtside said that
Perry talked like a radio.
Elly won again at Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Perry won a best-of-three affair
at Barranquilla, Colombia after a morning arrival by air, November 18. An
engagement in Balboa, Canal Zone, followed three dates later, won by Vines.
A capacity crowd of 2,000 including His Excellency the Governor turned out at
Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica, November 25. The reporter for Kingston Daily
Gleaner, having watched Perry in 1932, now wrote that Fred's serving seemed
vastly improved. Perry's flashing to net was "undoubtedly one of the finest
things the game has produced." Vines lost the first set, seemingly uncomfortable
on the grass surface, but won the second and led 52 in the third, coming to net
sometimes against Fred's backhand. But in the long, deep-court rallies that
characterized most points, Perry gradually gained the edge. Fred won in four
sets. Two days later on the same court, Elly won in three straight sets in a
rare grass-court victory over Fred. Immediately afterwards the players took a
plane for Cuba.
An audience of close to 5,000, including Colonel Fulgencio Batista and the
U.S. Ambassador, watched as Perry and Vines inaugurated the new Sports Palace in
Havana, November 29. Perry won in four sets, earning applause for his "highly
scientific game," reported Havana Post. Thus the tour ended with matters
exactly even, both men having won four times. The venture had been a financial and
Vines's winning of the North American tour establishes him the year's pro
champion. Perry proved a tough opponent, and Fred's triumph at the U.S. Pro
confirmed him well ahead of the others in North America. Meanwhile Nusslein's
consistent success in Europe makes him co-equal with Fred in our world pro ranking.
Tilden at #4 and a resurrected Cochet at #5 follow, clearly behind the
leaders. Henri held his own with Bill in Asia, but we award the edge to Bill in view
of Bill's success at Dublin and over all comers other than Nusslein
thereafter. We place Ramillon #6, Bruce Barnes, winner at Greenbrier and runner-up at
U.S. Pro, #7, and Karel Kozeluh, the winner at Pinehurst and runner-up at
Greenbrier, #8. Just missing our roll was Walter Senior, third-best in the North
American tour but an early loser at U.S. Pro.
In reaching our pro-amateur list, we deem Budge ahead at #1, recognizing his
unprecedented achievements as an amateur. Three pros follow--Vines in second
place, Perry and Nusslein tied for third. Next are amateurs Austin, Bromwich,
and Riggs, in that order as listed by Myers, with Tilden as our #8. Amateur
star von Cramm, who was inactive most of the year, was not ranked by Myers and is
No doubles pair achieved extended success during the year. We make three
pairs co-equal--Maskell-Nusslein for their win at Southport, Perry-Richards, who
won U.S. Pro, and Plaa-Ramillon, winners in Paris. Not far behind are
Senior-Vines and Cochet-Ramillon, who led in the North American and Indian tours,
SIGNING OF BUDGE
It had been a year as no other in amateur tennis--the year of history's first
Grand Slam. The California red-head J. Donald Budge lost twice to von Cramm
in Australian tune-ups in January. But Budge won his main objective, the
Australian Nationals, after von Cramm lost in the semis to Bromwich. Soon
afterwards, von Cramm's imprisonment by the Nazis removed Gottfried from Budge's
further path to the Grand Slam.
Talk that Budge might turn pro was widespread. He had turned down an offer in
1937 from Jack Harris, and another in early 1938 from the leading New York
boxing promoter. On his return to America from Australia Budge publicly stated
that he would remain amateur through the 1938 season. That he would turn pro
immediately thereafter became conventional wisdom. Certainly Vines and Perry
With the P.L.T.A. still weak, it was clear that whoever controlled the
current champion controlled pro tennis. The inside track to sign Budge belonged to
Harris, who was highly trusted by Vines, himself a trusted adviser of Budge.
After several weeks seeking a higher guarantee, Budge, now 23, reached agreement
with Harris for a guaranteed $75,000. Explaining later that his reasons in
signing were purely financial, Budge said that "Little Bill" Johnston later
regretted his decision to turn down the money. Budge's lawyer in the negotiations
was Walter Pate, U.S. Davis Cup captain. Also present at Pate's New York
office for the announcement on November 10, 1938 was U.S.L.T.A. president Holcombe
Ward, who joined in expressing good wishes to the new venture.
Plans for a 1939 North American tour, Budge against Vines, were announced,
with Barnes and Skeen as the set-up players. A shorter series against Perry was
also anticipated, along with a May tournament at Wembley featuring Budge,
Vines, and Perry.
CROSSROADS FOR VINES AND NUSSLEIN
Even as he talked of leaving the game, Ellsworth Vines's greatest challenges
lay just ahead. For five years as a pro Elly, now 28, had defeated all comers,
primarily in extended North American tours. His body was no longer the
slender and supple specimen of the former basketball star. There had been eternal
back and perhaps shoulder troubles along with other wear-and-tear aches from the
many matches on hard surfaces. If his yearning for golf suggested tennis
burn-out, still the competitive flame remained strong, seen in his strong finish
against Perry in May 1938. His two-year edge over Fred had been hard-won, and
it probably owed most to his powers of concentration and determination, his
superior ability to resist distraction. The forehand now had a bit more spin than
five years ago, probably more sidespin than top, for control, and the
backhand had improved hugely. The all-out serve was a shade less overpowering from
the years, certainly a lesser asset in reflection of Perry's fine return
ability, though Elly's overall serving ability remained a dependable weapon even on
nights where his groundstrokes misbehaved. The drop-shot knack was a valuable
addition, but in essence Elly was still the baseline power player, with little
margin for error either in clearing the net or in staying within the lines.
Don Budge was in Elly's immediate path, but also ahead were long-awaited
face-offs with Nusslein in Europe. Nusslein, also 28, was also approaching a
crossroads. Seven years had passed since Hanne as a relatively unknown young pro in
Europe severely tested the pro champion, Tilden. Then came tours of America
against Tilden and later Vines, and in recent years a multitude of events in
Europe where Hanne had bested essentially all opponents.
Nusslein held no fame from international triumphs as an amateur, and his
style of play was relatively colorless. In late September 1938 a writer for
Kolnische Zeitung, after watching Hanne demolish foes in an event in western
Germany, observed that Nusslein played without flair or fire, that his game was
hardly a "feast for the eyes" like Ramillon's. Instead Hanne's tennis was
businesslike, of cool simplicity--"a pleasure for every expert of the game."
Promoters interested in box office success thus had little interest in him,
and the big money seldom came his way. Much of his time and probably most of
his income were now as a teaching pro in Koln, where getting away for
competitive play was surely difficult. Lacking evidence from head-to-head meetings
against Vines from recent years, we generally ranked Hanne below Elly each year by
the narrowest of margins. The new year, 1939, would bring Nusslein the chance
to refute such judgments.
THE OPEN TENNIS IDEA
Did Pate's and Ward's support of Budge in signing mean that the U.S. amateur
establishment was now ready for open tennis? With the world's acknowledged
top four players all in the pro ranks, and with von Cramm, now released from
prison, reportedly interested in a pro career, the amateur game risked possible
descent to irrelevance.
Many of the lesser pros, and certainly the general tennis public, strongly
wished for open tennis. But the national associations of the tennis powers
remained opposed, though the U.S.L.T.A., the nation whose top ranks had been most
depleted by the pros, seemed perhaps willing to bend. Indeed for several years
the American amateur body had favored returning to the earlier policy of
allowing each I.L.T.F. member nation to decide for itself on open tournaments,
though Holcombe Ward still opposed actually having them. Certainly there had been
no movement to reinstate the Greenbrier Club and the players who lost their
amateur standing by competing in the open there. Moreover with Riggs perhaps
destined to replace Budge as world amateur champion and with teenagers Kramer and
Hunt in the pipeline, it seemed likely that public interest in the amateur
game would remain strong in America.
Nor were the pro superstars inclined to risk prestige and future income in
order to participate in open tournaments. George Lott wrote in early 1938 that
the financial interests of Vines and Perry lay in touring with each other, not
in playing in tournaments for relatively small purses, whether the events were
pro or open. Perry's competing at the U.S. Pro was a rare break in this
To Allison Danzig it was a disheartening picture. The amateur game was
clearly losing, but most pros were no better off than before 1926, wrote the premier
American tennis writer. To the dismay of the sporting public, the game of
tennis remained in disarray.