The Art of Lawn Tennis
by William T. Tilden, 2D
Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse


The most remarkable figure that has appeared on the horizon of woman's tennis since Suzanne Lenglen first flashed into the public eye, is little Helen Wills of California, Junior Champion of 1921. She is only fifteen. Stocky, almost ungainly, owing to poor footwork, her hair in pigtails down her back, she is a quaint little person who instantly walks into hearts of the gallery.

The tennis this child plays is phenomenal. She serves with the power and accuracy of a boy. She drives and chops forehand and backhand with reckless abandon. She rushes to the net and kills in a way that is reminiscent of Maurice McLoughlin. Suddenly she dubs the easiest sort of a shot and grins a happy grin. There is no doubt she is already a great player. She should become much greater. She is a miniature Hazel Wightman in her game. Above all, she is that remarkable combination, an unspoiled child and a personality.

There are many other players of real promise coming to the front. Boston boasts of a group that contains Mrs. Benjamin E. Cole (Anne Sheafe) who has made a great record in the season of 1921; Miss Edith Sigourney, who accompanied Mrs. Mallory abroad, Miss Leslie Bancroft and Mrs. Godfree. There are Miss Martha Bayard, Miss Helen Gilleandean, Mrs. Helene Pollak Folk, Miss Molly Thayer, Miss Phyllis Walsh and Miss Anne Townsend in New York and Philadelphia.



There is no more unique personality, nor more remarkable player among the women than Mademoiselle Suzanne Lenglen, the famous French girl who holds the World's Championship title. Mlle. Lenglen is a remarkable figure in the sporting world. She has personality, individuality, and magnetism that hold the public interest. She is the biggest drawing card in the tennis world.

Mlle. Lenglen's fame rests on her drive. Strange though it may seem, her drive is the least interesting part of her game. Mlle. Lenglen uses a severe overhead service of good speed. It is a remarkable service for a woman, one which many men might do well to copy. Her famous forehand drive is a full arm swing from the shoulder. It meets the ball just as Mlle. Lenglen springs in the air. The result is pictorially unique, but not good tennis. She loses speed and power by this freak. Her backhand is beautifully played, from perfect footwork, with a free swing and topped drive. It is a remarkable stroke. Her volleying is perfect in execution and result. She hits her overhead smash freely with a "punch" that is as great as many men. It is as fine an overhead as that of Mrs. George Wightman, the American Champion.

Mlle. Lenglen's speed of foot is marvellous. She runs fast and easily. She delights in acrobatic jumps, many of them unnecessary, at all times during her play. She is a wonderful gallery player, and wins the popularity that her dashing style deserves. She is a brilliant court general, conducting her attack with a keen eye on both the court and the gallery.

Mlle. Lenglen is not outstanding among the women players of the world, in my opinion. She is probably the best stroke player in the world to-day, yet Mrs. Lambert Chambers, Mrs. George Wightman, Miss Elizabeth Ryan, Mrs. Franklin L. Mallory (formerly Miss Molla Bjurstedt), Miss Mary Browne, and Mrs. May Sutton Bundy are all in her class in match play. There is no woman playing tennis that has the powerful personality of Mlle. Lenglen. Her acrobatic style and grace on the court form an appeal no gallery can resist. Her very mannerisms fool people into considering her far greater than she really is, even though she is a wonderful player.

MME. BILLOUTT (Mlle. Brocadies)

Second only to Suzanne Lenglen in France is Mme. Billoutt, formerly Mlle. Brocadies, once the idol of the Paris tennis public. This remarkable player has as perfectly developed a game as I have seen. Her actual stroking is the equal of Mlle. Lenglen. Her strokes are all orthodox, flat racquet ones. Her ground game is based wholly on the drive, fore- or backhand. She has grown rather heavier in the last few years and consequently slowed up, but she is still one of the great players of the world.


In marked contrast to the eccentricities of Mlle. Lenglen one finds the delightfully polished style of Mrs. Lambert Chambers. Mrs. Chambers has a purely orthodox game of careful execution that any student of the game should recognize as the highest form of tennis strokes.

Mrs. Chambers serves an overhead delivery of no particular movement. She slices or "spoons" her ground strokes, forehand or backhand. She seldom volleys or smashes. Her only excursions to the net are when she is drawn to the net.

It is not Mrs. Chambers' game itself so much as what she does with it, that I commend so highly. Her change of pace and distance is wonderfully controlled. Her accuracy marvellous. Her judgment is remarkable, and the way in which she saves undue exertion is an art in itself. She gets a wonderful return for her outlay of effort.

Hers is a personality of negation. Her manner on the court is negative, her shots alone are positive. She is never flustered, and rarely shows emotion.

Mrs. Chambers is the "Mavro" of women as regards her recovering ability. Her errors are reduced to a minimum at all times. To err is human; but at times there is something very nearly inhuman about Mrs. Chambers' tennis.


The English-American star Elizabeth Ryan is another player of marked individuality. Born in California, Miss Ryan migrated to England while quite young. For the past decade "Bunny," as she is called, has been a prominent figure in English and Continental tournaments.

Miss Ryan has a queer push-reverse twist service that is well placed but carries little speed. She chops viciously forehand and backhand off the ground and storms the net at every opening. Her volleying is crisp and decisive. Overhead she is severe but erratic. She is a dogged fighter, never so dangerous as when behind. Her tactics are aggressive attack at all times, and if this fails she is lost.

Although Miss Ryan is an American by birth she must be considered as an English player, for her development is due to her play in England.


This English player is an exponent of the famous baseline game of the country. She drives, long deep shots fore- and backhand, corner to corner, chasing her opponent around the court almost impossible distances. Her service volleying and overhead are fair but not noteworthy. Another player of almost identical game and of almost equal class is Mrs. Peacock, Champion of India. Her whole game is a little better rounded than Mrs. Beamish, but she lacks the latter's experience.

Among the other women in England who are delightfully original in their games are Mrs. Larcombe, the wonderful chop-stroke player, whose clever generalship and tactics place her in the front rank, and Mrs. M'Nair, with her volleying attack.

Women's tennis in England is on a slightly higher plane at this time than in America; but the standard of play in America is rapidly coming up. International competition between women on the lines of the Davis Cup, for which a trophy has previously been offered by Lady Wavertree in England, and in 1919 by Mrs. Wightman in America, and twice refused by the International Federation, would do more than any other factor to place women's tennis on the high plane desired. This plan has succeeded for the men, why should it not do as well for the women?


{PLATE II. FOREHAND GRIP. FRONT VIEW. Notice the straight line of the arm, hand and racquet, the flat racquet face, the natural finger position on the handle. The racquet is in position to hit a forehand drive.

FOREHAND GRIP, BACK VIEW. The line is straight, the head of the racquet slightly in advance of the hand. The pose is at the moment of contact between ball and racquet.}

{PLATE III. THE COMPLETED SWING OF THE FOREHAND DRIVE. Notice the body position, at right angles to the net, the weight on the front or left foot, having passed from the right foot with the swing, just at the moment the ball is struck. The racquet is carried to the limit of the swing and falls into the left hand at height of the shoulder. The racquet face has passed over the ball. The reader is looking through the strings. The stroke was made with the far side of the racquet from the camera. The eye is following the ball in its flight. The whole movement is forward. The tendency in hitting a forehand is to stop the swing too soon. Notice the full follow through to the extreme limit of my swing. The hitting plane in this picture is too high, the shot having been made almost at the shoulder. The correct hitting plane for the forehand drive is along the line of the waist. Play all drives at this height if possible. Step back to allow the ball to fall waist high if necessary rather than play it at the shoulder. Hit your forehand drive decisively but do not attempt to kill every shot. Be accurate first and attain speed second.}

{PLATE IV. BACKHAND GRIP. FRONT VIEW. Note the hand on top of the racquet handle, yet retaining the straight line of arm, hand and racquet Is in the forehand. The change from the forehand grip is one quarter circle of the handle. The knuckles are up and directly towards the opponent. The head of the racquet is advanced slightly towards the ball.

BACKHAND GRIP. BACK VIEW. Notice the line of arm and racquet is straight and the hand on top of the handle. The thumb in my stroke is around the handle, but may be placed up the handle if desired. Personally, I do not use it, and do not advocate it, as it tends to detract from the freedom of the grip.}

{PLATE V. COMPLETION OF THE BACKHAND DRIVE. Notice the feet are firmly set, with the weight on the right foot, to which it was shifted from the left with the swing. The racquet has struck and passed over the ball, topping it. The body is at right angles to the net, the left arm extended to aid in perfect balance. The whole movement is forward, while the eye is on the ball, in its flight. The stroke in the picture was off a high bounding ball which accounts for the racquet's position being above the wrist in order to bring down the ball. The perfect backhand drive is off the waist, and the racquet passes along that hitting plane. Meet the ball well forward on the backhand, at least in front of the right hip. This will obviate the common error of slicing off to the sideline and will tend to pull the ball, into court. The locked wrist, with no turn is essential on all backhand shots below the shoulders. It insures solidity of impact and adds pace to the return. I believe in all beginners playing their backhand shots cross court until they have fully mastered the footwork and locked wrist swing. The common error of slicing the backhand cannot be too strongly emphasized and condemned and cross courting the shot tends to avoid it.}

{PLATE VI. THE FOREHAND VOLLEY. Notice the body at right angles to the net, the left foot advanced to the shot, the weight evenly distributed on the feet, the wrist slightly below the racquet head, the racquet head itself slighly{sic} tilted,,{sic} to lift the volley, and the whole movement a "block" of the ball. The wrist is stiff. There is no swing. The eyes are down. watching the ball. The left arm is the balance wheel. The body crouched and the knees bent.}

{PLATE VII. THE BACKHAND VOLLEY. The body position and weight control and balance are the same as in the forehand volley. The crouch is more pronounced as the hitting plane is lower. The head of the racquet is firmly blocked by the stiff, locked wrist. The eyes are centered on the ball, which has just left the racquet.}

{PLATE VIII. DAVIS CUP CHALLENGE ROUND, 1921 Zenzo Shinddzu. Japan and William T. Tilden 2nd. America, just previous to the opening of their terrific match in which Shimidzu led by two sets. 5-4 and 30-0, only to have the American finally pull out the Victory.}

{PLATE IX. DAVIS CUP CHALLENGE ROUND, 1921 William M. Johnston. America and Ichiya Kumagae. Japan, take the court for the opening match before a gallery of over 12,000 people. Johnston won in sequence sets, scoring the first point for America.}



{PLATE XII. THE 1921 AUSTRALIAN DAVIS CUP TEAM J.O. Anderson, J.B. Hawkes. Norman Peach and C. V. Todd.

THE 1920 AMERICAN DAVIS CUP TEAM R. N. Williams, 2nd, W. M. Johnston, Captain Samuel Hardy, W. T. Tilden, 2nd and C. S. Garland.}



Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse