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THE ART OF LAWN TENNIS by WILLIAM T. TILDEN, 2D
To R. D. K. AND M. W. J. MY "BUDDIES" W. T. T. 2D
Tennis is at once an art and a science. The game as played by such men as Norman E. Brookes, the late Anthony Wilding, William M. Johnston, and R. N. Williams is art. Yet like all true art, it has its basis in scientific methods that must be learned and learned thoroughly for a foundation before the artistic structure of a great tennis game can be constructed.
Every player who helps to attain a high degree of efficiency should have a clearly defined method of development and adhere to it. He should be certain that it is based on sound principles and, once assured of that, follow it, even though his progress seems slow and discouraging.
I began tennis wrong. My strokes were wrong and my viewpoint clouded. I had no early training such as many of our American boys have at the present time. No one told me the importance of the fundamentals of the game, such as keeping the eye on the ball or correct body position and footwork. I was given a racquet and allowed to hit the ball. Naturally, like all beginners, I acquired many very serious faults. I worried along with moderate success until I had been graduated from school, beating some fairly good players, but losing some matches to men below my class. The year following my graduation the new Captain of my Alma Mater's team asked me if I would aid him in developing the squad for next year. Well, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," so I said Yes.
At that point my tennis education began.
The youngsters comprising our tennis squad all knew me well and felt at perfect liberty to ask me as many questions as they could think up. I was besieged with requests to explain why Jones missed a forehand drive down the side-line, or Smith couldn't serve well, or Brown failed to hit the ball at all. Frankly, I did not know, but I answered them something at the moment and said to myself it was time I learned some fundamentals of tennis. So I began to study the reasons why certain shots are missed and others made. Why certain balls are hit so much faster though with less effort than others, and why some players are great while most are only good. I am still studying, but my results to date have resulted in a definite system to be learned, and it is this which I hope to explain to you in my book.
Tennis has a language all its own. The idioms of the game should be learned, as all books on the game are written in tennis parlance. The technical terms and their counterpart in slang need to be understood to thoroughly grasp the idea in any written tennis account.
I do not believe in using a great deal of space carefully defining each blade of grass on a court, or each rule of the game. It gets nowhere. I do advocate teaching the terms of the game.
1. THE COURT.
The Baseline=The back line.
The Service-line=The back line of the service court, extending from side-line to side-line at a point 21 feet from the net.
The Alleys=The space on each side of the court between the side service-line and the outside sideline of a doubles court. They are used only when playing doubles and are not marked on a single court.
The Net=The barrier that stretches across the court in the exact centre. It is 3 feet high at the centre and 3 feet 6 inches high at the posts which stand 3 feet outside the sidelines.
2. STROKES (Two General Classes).
A. Ground strokes=All shots hit from the baselines off the bounce of the ball.
B. Volleys=Shots hit while the ball is in flight through the air, previous to its bound.
The Service=The method of putting the ball in play.
The Drive=A ground stroke hit with a flat racquet face and carrying top spin.
The Chop=An undercut ground stroke is the general definition of a chop. The slice and chop are so closely related that, except in stroke analysis, they may be called chop.
Stop Volley=Blocking a hall short in its flight.
Half Volley or Trap Shot=A pick up.
The Smash=Hitting on the full any overhead ball.
The Lob=Hitting the ball in a high parabola.
3. TWIST ON THE BALL.
Top Spin=The ball spins towards the ground and in the direction of its flight.
Chop, Cut, or Drag=The ball spins upwards from the ground and against the line of flight. This is slightly deviated in the slice, but all these terms are used to designate the under-struck, back-spinning ball.
Reverse Twist=A ball that carries a rotary spin that curves one way and bounces the opposite.
Break=A spin which causes the ball to bounce at an angle to its line of flight.
4. LET=A service that touches the net in its flight yet falls in court, or any illegal or irregular point that does not count.
5. FAULT=An illegal service.
6. OUT=Any shot hit outside legal boundaries of the court.
7. GOOD=Any shot that strikes in a legal manner prescribed by rules of the game.
8. FOOTFAULT=An illegal service delivery due to incorrect position of the server's feet.
9. SERVER=Player delivering service.
10. RECEIVER or STRIKER=Player returning service. W. T. T. WIMBLEDON, July 1920
PREFACE TO NEW EDITION
The season of 1921 was so epoch-making in the game of tennis, combining as it did the greatest number of Davis Cup matches that have ever been held in one year, the invasion of France and England by an American team, the first appearance in America of Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen and her unfortunate collapse, and finally the rise to prominence of Japan as a leading factor in the tennis world that I have incorporated a record of the season's outstanding features and some sidelights and personality sketches on the new stars in the new addition of this book.
The importance of women's tennis has grown so tremendously in the past few years that I have also added a review of the game and its progress in America. Not only has Mlle. Lenglen placed her mark indelibly on the pages of tennis history but 1921 served to raise Mrs. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory to the position in the world that she rightly deserves, that of the greatest match winner of all women. The past season brought the return to American courts of Mrs. May Sutton Bundy and Miss Mary Browne, in itself an event of sufficient importance to set the year apart as one of highest value.
The outstanding performances of the two juniors, Vincent Richards and Arnold Jones, must be regarded as worthy of permanent recognition and among the outstanding features of a noteworthy year. Thus it is with a sense of recording history- making facts that I turn to the events of 1921. WILLIAM T. TILDEN 2D GERMANTOWN, PHILADELPHIA
INTRODUCTION PREFACE TO NEW EDITION
PART I: TENNIS TECHNIQUE—STROKES AND FUNDAMENTALS OF THE GAME
CHAPTER I FOR NOVICES ONLY II THE DRIVE III SERVICE IV THE VOLLEY AND OVERHEAD SMASH V CHOP, HALF VOLLEY, AND COURT POSITION
PART II: THE LAWS OF TENNIS PSYCHOLOGY VI GENERAL TENNIS PSYCHOLOGY VII THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MATCH PLAY VIII THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PHYSICAL FITNESS IX THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SINGLES AND DOUBLES
PART III: MODERN TENNIS AND ITS FUTURE X THE GROWTH OF THE MODERN GAME XI THE PROBABLE FUTURE OF THE GAME
PART IV: SOME SIDELIGHTS ON FAMOUS PLAYERS INTRODUCTORY XII AMERICA XIII BRITISH ISLES XIV FRANCE AND JAPAN XV SPAIN AND THE CONTINENT XVI THE COLONIES XVII FAMOUS WOMEN PLAYERS
THE ART OF LAWN TENNIS
PART I: TENNIS TECHNIQUE—STROKES AND FUNDAMENTALS OF THE GAME
CHAPTER I. FOR NOVICES ONLY
I trust this initial effort of mine in the world of letters will find a place among both novices and experts in the tennis world. I am striving to interest the student of the game by a somewhat prolonged discussion of match play, which I trust will shed a new light on the game.
May I turn to the novice at my opening and speak of certain matters which are second nature to the skilled player?
The best tennis equipment is not too good for the beginner who seeks really to succeed. It is a saving in the end, as good quality material so far outlasts poor.
Always dress in tennis clothes when engaging in tennis. White is the established colour. Soft shirt, white flannel trousers, heavy white socks, and rubber-soled shoes form the accepted dress for tennis. Do not appear on the courts in dark clothes, as they are apt to be heavy and hinder your speed of movement, and also they are a violation of the unwritten ethics of the game.
The question of choosing a racquet is a much more serious matter. I do not advocate forcing a certain racquet upon any player. All the standard makes are excellent. It is in weight, balance, and size of handle that the real value of a racquet frame depends, while good stringing is, essential to obtain the best results.
The average player should use a racquet that weighs between 13 1/2 and 14 1/2 ounces inclusive. I think that the best results may be obtained by a balance that is almost even or slightly heavy on the head. Decide your handle from the individual choice. Pick the one that fits comfortably in the hand. Do not use too small a handle or too light a racquet, as it is apt to turn in the hand. I recommend a handle of 5 1/4 to 5 3/8 inches at the grip. Do not use a racquet you do not like merely because your best friend advises it. It may suit him perfectly, but would not do for you at all. Do not start children playing tennis with an under-sized racquet. It weakens the wrist and does not aid the child in learning strokes. Start a child, boy or girl, with a full-sized racquet of at least 13 ounces.
After you have acquired your racquet, make a firm resolve to use good tennis balls, as a regular bounce is a great aid to advancement, while a "dead" ball is no practice at all.
If you really desire to succeed at the game and advance rapidly, I strongly urge you to see all the good tennis you can. Study the play of the leading players and strive to copy their strokes. Read all the tennis instruction books you can find. They are a great assistance. I shall be accused of "press- agitating" my own book by this statement, but such was my belief long before I ever thought of writing a book of my own.
More tennis can be learned off the court, in the study of theory, and in watching the best players in action, than can ever be learned in actual play. I do not mean miss opportunities to play. Far from it. Play whenever possible, but strive when playing to put in practice the theories you have read or the strokes you have watched.
Never be discouraged at slow progress. The trick over some stroke you have worked over for weeks unsuccessfully will suddenly come to you when least expected. Tennis players are the product of hard work. Very few are born geniuses at the game.
Tennis is a game that pays you dividends all your life. A tennis racquet is a letter of introduction in any town. The brotherhood of the game is universal, for none but a good sportsman can succeed in the game for any lengthy period. Tennis provides relaxation, excitement, exercise, and pure enjoyment to the man who is tied hard and fast to his business until late afternoon. Age is not a drawback. Vincent Richards held the National Doubles Championship of America at fifteen, while William A. Larned won the singles at past forty. Men of sixty are seen daily on the clubs' courts of England and America enjoying their game as keenly as any boy. It is to this game, in great measure, that they owe the physical fitness which enables them to play at their advanced age.
The tennis players of the world wrote a magnificent page in the history of the World War. No branch of sport sent more men to the colours from every country in the world than tennis, and these men returned with glory or paid the supreme sacrifice on the field of honour.
I transgressed from my opening to show you that tennis is a game worth playing and playing well. It deserves your best, and only by learning it correctly can you give that best.
If in my book I help you on your way to fame, I feel amply repaid for all the time spent in analysing the strokes and tactics I set before you in these pages.
I am going to commence my explanation by talking to the players whose games are not yet formed. At least once every season I go back to first principles to pull myself out of some rut into which carelessness dropped me.
From a long and, many times, sad experience over a period of some ten years of tournament tennis, I believe the following order of development produces the quickest and most lasting results:
1. Concentration on the game.
2. Keep the eye on the ball.
3. Foot-work and weight-control.
5. Court position.
6. Court generalship or match play.
7. Tennis psychology.
Tennis is a game of intimate personal relation. You constantly find yourself meeting some definite idea of your opponent. The personal equation is the basis of tennis success. A great player not only knows himself, in both strength and weakness, but he must study is opponent at all times. In order to be able to do this a player must not be hampered by a glaring weakness in the fundamentals of his own game, or he will be so occupied trying to hide it that he will have no time to worry his opponent. The fundamental weakness of Gerald Patterson's backhand stroke is so apparent that any player within his class dwarfs Patterson's style by continually pounding at it. The Patterson overhead and service are first class, yet both are rendered impotent, once a man has solved the method of returning low to the backhand, for Patterson seldom succeeds in taking the offensive again in that point.
I am trying to make clear the importance of such first principles as I will now explain.
Tennis is played primarily with the mind. The most perfect racquet technique in the world will not suffice if the directing mind is wandering. There are many causes of a wandering mind in a tennis match. The chief one is lack of interest in the game. No one should play tennis with an idea of real success unless he cares sufficiently about the game to be willing to do the drudgery necessary in learning the game correctly. Give it up at once unless you are willing to work. Conditions of play or the noises in the gallery often confuse and bewilder experienced match-players playing under new surroundings. Complete concentration on the matter in hand is the only cure for a wandering mind, and the sooner the lesson is learned the more rapid the improvement of the player. An amusing example, to all but the player affected, occurred at the finals of the Delaware State Singles Championship at Wilmington. I was playing Joseph J. Armstrong. The Championship Court borders the No. 1 hole of the famous golf course. The score stood at one set all and 3-4 and 30-40, Armstrong serving. He served a fault and started a second delivery. Just as he commenced his swing, a loud and very lusty "Fore!" rang out from the links. Armstrong unconsciously looked away and served his delivery to the backstop and the game to me. The umpire refused to "let" call and the incident closed. Yet a wandering mind in that case meant the loss of a set.
The surest way to hold a match in mind is to play for every set, every game in the set, every point in the game and, finally, every shot in the point. A set is merely a conglomeration of made and missed shots, and the man who does not miss is the ultimate victor.
Please do not think I am advocating "pat-ball." I am not. I believe in playing for your shot every time you have an opening. I do not believe in trying to win the point every time you hit the ball. Never allow your concentration on any game to become so great that you do not at all times know the score and play to it. I mean both point score and game score. In my explanation of match play in a later chapter I am going into a detailed account of playing to the score. It is as vital in tennis as it is in bridge, and all bridge players know that the score is the determining factor in your mode of bidding. Let me urge again concentration. Practise seriously. Do not fool on the court, as it is the worst enemy to progress. Carelessness or laziness only results in retrogression, never progress.
Let me turn now to the first principle of all ball games, whether tennis, golf, cricket, baseball, polo, or football.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!
Just a few statistics to show you how vital it is that the eye must be kept on the ball UNTIL THE MOMENT OF STRIKING IT.
About 85 per cent of the points in tennis are errors, and the remainder earned points. As the standard of play rises the percentage of errors drops until, in the average high-class tournament match, 60 per cent are errors and 40 per cent aces. Any average superior to this is super-tennis.
Thus the importance of getting the ball in play cannot be too greatly emphasized. Every time you put the ball back to your opponent you give him another chance to miss.
There are several causes for missing strokes. First, and by far the largest class, is not looking at the ball up to the moment of striking it. Fully 80 per cent of all errors are caused by taking the eye from the ball in the last one-fifth of a second of its flight. The remaining 20 per cent of errors are about 15 per cent bad footwork, and the other 5 per cent poor racquet work and bad bounces.
The eye is a small camera. All of us enjoy dabbling in amateur photography, and every amateur must take "action" pictures with his first camera. It is a natural desire to attain to the hardest before understanding how to reach it. The result is one of two things: either a blurred moving object and a clear background, or a clear moving object and a blurred background. Both suggest speed, but only one is a good picture of the object one attempted to photograph. In the first case the camera eye was focused on the background and not on the object, while in the second, which produced the result desired, the camera eye was firmly focused on the moving object itself. Just so with the human eye. It will give both effects, but never a clear background and moving object at the same time, once that object reaches a point 10 feet from the eye. The perspective is wrong, and the eye cannot adjust itself to the distance range speedily enough.
Now the tennis ball is your moving object while the court, gallery, net, and your opponent constitute your background. You desire to hit the ball cleanly, therefore do not look at the other factors concerned, but concentrate solely on focusing the eye firmly on the ball, and watching it until the moment of impact with your racquet face.
"How do I know where my opponent is, or how much court I have to hit in?" ask countless beginners.
Remember this: that a tennis court is always the same size, with the net the same height and in the same relation to you at all times, so there is no need to look at it every moment or so to see if it has moved. Only an earthquake can change its position. As to your opponent, it makes little difference about his position, because it is determined by the shot you are striving to return. Where he will be I will strive to explain in my chapter on court position; but his whereabouts are known without looking at him. You are not trying to hit him. You strive to miss him. Therefore, since you must watch what you strive to hit and not follow what you only wish to miss, keep your eye on the ball, and let your opponent take care of himself.
Science has proved that given a tennis ball passing from point A to point B with the receiving player at B, that if the player at B keeps his eye on the ball throughout its full flight his chance of making a good A 1 2 3 4 B ———————————————- return at B is five times as great as if he took his eye off the ball at a point 4, or 4/5 of a second of its flight. Likewise it is ten times as great at B as it is if the eye is removed from the ball at 3, or 3/5 of a second of its flight. Why increase your chances of error by five times or ten times when it is unnecessary?
The average player follows the ball to 4, and then he takes a last look at his opponent to see where he is, and by so doing increases his chance of error five times. He judges the flight of the ball some 10 feet away, and never really sees it again until he has hit it (if he does). A slight deflection caused by the wind or a small misjudgment of curve will certainly mean error. Remembering the 85 percent errors in tennis, I again ask you if it is worth while to take the risk?
There are many other reasons why keeping the eye on the ball is a great aid to the player. It tends to hold his attention so that outside occurrences will not distract. Movements in the gallery are not seen, and stray dogs, that seem to particularly enjoy sleeping in the middle of a tennis court during a hard match, are not seen on their way to their sleeping quarters. Having learned the knack of watching the ball at all times, I felt that nothing would worry me, until three years ago at the American Championships, when I was playing T. R. Pell. A press- camera man eluded the watchful eye of the officials, and unobtrusively seated himself close to our sideline to acquire some action pictures. Pell angled sharply by to my backhand, and I ran at my hardest for the shot, eyes fixed solely on the ball. I hauled off to hit it a mighty drive, which would have probably gone over the backstop, when suddenly I heard a camera click just under me, and the next moment camera, pressman, and tennis player were rolling in a heap all over the court. The pressman got his action picture and a sore foot where I walked on him, and all I got was a sore arm and a ruffled temper. That's why I don't like cameras right under my nose when I play matches, but for all that I still advocate keeping your eye on the ball.
GRIP, FOOTWORK, AND STROKES
Footwork is weight control. It is correct body position for strokes, and out of it all strokes should grow. In explaining the various forms of stroke and footwork I am writing as a right-hand player. Left- handers should simply reverse the feet.
Racquet grip is a very essential part of stroke, because a faulty grip will ruin the finest serving. There is the so-called Western or Californian grip as typified by Maurice E. M'Loughlin, Willis, E. Davis, and, to a slightly modified degree, W. M. Johnston, the American champion. It is a natural grip for a top forehand drive. It is inherently weak for the backhand, as the only natural shot is a chop stroke.
The English grip, with the low wrist on all ground strokes, has proved very successful in the past. Yet the broken line of the arm and hand does not commend itself to me, as any broken line is weak under stress.
The Eastern American grip, which I advocate, is the English grip without the low wrist and broken line. To acquire the forehand grip, hold the racquet with the edge of the frame towards the ground and the face perpendicular, the handle towards the body, and "shake hands" with it, just as if you were greeting a friend. The handle settled comfortably and naturally into the hand, the line of the arm, hand, and racquet are one. The swing brings the racquet head on a line with the arm, and the whole racquet is merely an extension of it.
The backhand grip is a quarter circle turn of hand on the handle, bringing the hand on top of the handle and the knuckles directly up. The shot travels ACROSS the wrist.
This is the best basis for a grip. I do not advocate learning this grip exactly, but model your natural grip as closely as possible on these lines without sacrificing your own comfort or individuality.
Having once settled the racquet in the hand, the next question is the position of the body and the order of developing strokes.
In explaining footwork I am, in future, going to refer in all forehand shots to the right foot as R or "back" foot, and to the left as L or "front." For the backhand the L foot is "back" and R is "front."
All tennis strokes, should be made with the body' at right angles to the net, with the shoulders lined up parallel to the line of flight of the ball. The weight should always travel forward. It should pass from the back foot to the front foot at the moment of striking the ball. Never allow the weight to be going away from the stroke. It is weight that determines the "pace" of a stroke; swing that, decides the "speed."
Let me explain the definitions of "speed" and "pace." "Speed" is the actual rate with which a ball travels through the air. "Pace" is the momentum with which it comes off the ground. Pace is weight. It is the "sting" the ball carries when it comes off the ground, giving the inexperienced or unsuspecting player a shock of force which the stroke in no way showed.
Notable examples of "pace" are such men as W. A. Larned, A. W. Gore, J. C. Parke, and among the younger players, R. N. Williams, Major A. R. F. Kingscote, W. M. Johnston, and, on his forehand stroke, Charles S. Garland.
M. E. M'Loughlin, Willis E. Davis, Harold Throckmorton and several others are famous "speed" exponents.
A great many players have both "speed" and "pace." Some shots may carry both.
The order of learning strokes should be:
1. The Drive. Fore- and backhand. This is the foundation of all tennis, for you cannot build up a net attack unless you have the ground stroke to open the way. Nor can you meet a net attack successfully unless you can drive, as that is the only successful passing shot.
2. The Service.
3. The Volley and Overhead Smash.
4. The Chop or Half Volley and other incidental and ornamental strokes.
CHAPTER II. THE DRIVE
The forehand drive is the opening of every offensive in tennis, and, as such, should be most carefully studied. There are certain rules of footwork that apply to all shots. To reach a ball that is a short distance away, advance the foot that is away from the shot and thus swing into position to hit. If a ball is too close to the body, retreat the foot closest to the shot and drop the weight back on it, thus, again, being in position for the stroke. When hurried, and it is not possible to change the foot position, throw the weight on the foot closest to the ball.
The receiver should always await the service facing the net, but once the serve is started on the way to court, the receiver should at once attain the position to receive it with the body at right angles to the net.
The forehand drive is made up of one continuous swing of the racquet that, for the purpose of analysis, may be divided into three parts:
1. The portion of the swing behind the body, which determines the speed of the stroke.
2. That portion immediately in front of the body which determines the direction and, in conjunction with weight shift from one foot to the other, the pace of the shot.
3. The portion beyond the body, comparable to the golfer's "follow through," determines spin, top or slice, imparted to the ball.
All drives should be topped. The slice shot is a totally different stroke.
To drive straight down the side-line, construct in theory a parallelogram with two sides made up of the side-line and your shoulders, and the two ends, the lines of your feet, which should, if extended, form the right angles with the side-lines. Meet the ball at a point about 4 to 4 1/2 feet from the body immediately in front of the belt buckle, and shift the weight from the back to the front foot at the MOMENT OF STRIKING THE BALL. The swing of the racquet should be flat and straight through. The racquet head should be on a line with the hand, or, if anything, slightly in advance; the whole arm and the racquet should turn slightly over the ball as it leaves the racquet face and the stroke continue to the limit of the swing, thus imparting top spin to the ball.
The hitting plane for all ground strokes should be between the knees and shoulders. The most favourable plane is on a line with the waist.
In driving across the court from the right (or No. 1) court, advance the L or front foot slightly towards the side-line and shift the weight a fraction of a second sooner. As the weight shifts, pivot slightly on the L foot and drive flat, diagonally, across the court. Do not "pull" your cross-court drive, unless with the express purpose of passing the net man and using that method to disguise your shot.
NEVER STEP AWAY FROM THE BALL IN DRIVING CROSS COURT. ALWAYS THROW YOUR WEIGHT IN THE SHOT.
The forehand drive from the No. 2 (or left) court is identically the same for the straight shot down your opponent's forehand. For the cross drive to his backhand, you must conceive of a diagonal line from your backhand corner to his, and thus make your stroke with the footwork as if this imaginary line were the side-line. In other words, line up your body along your shot and make your regular drive. Do not try to "spoon" the ball over with a delayed wrist motion, as it tends to slide the ball off your racquet.
All drives should be made with a stiff, locked wrist. There is no wrist movement in a true drive. Top spin is imparted by the arm, not the wrist.
The backhand drive follows closely the principles of the forehand, except that the weight shifts a moment sooner, and the R or front foot should always be advanced a trifle closer to the side-line than the L so as to bring the body clear of the swing. The ball should be met in front of the right leg, instead of the belt buckle, as the great tendency in backhand shots is to slice them out of the side-line, and this will pull the ball cross court, obviating this error. The racquet head must be slightly in advance of the hand to aid in bringing the ball in the court. Do not strive for too much top spin on your backhand.
I strongly urge that no one should ever favour one department of his game, in defence of a weakness. Develop both forehand and backhand, and do not "run around" your backhand, particularly in return of service. To do so merely opens your court. If you should do so, strive to ace your returns, because a weak effort would only result in a kill by your opponent.
Do not develop one favourite shot and play nothing but that. If you have a fair cross-court drive, do not use it in practice, but strive to develop an equally fine straight shot.
Remember that the fast shot is the straight shot. The cross drive must be slow, for it has not the room owing to the increased angle and height of the net. Pass down the line with your drive, but open the court with your cross-court shot.
Drives should have depth. The average drive should hit behind the service-line. A fine drive should hit within 3 feet of the baseline. A cross-court drive should be shorter than a straight drive, so as to increase the possible angle. Do not always play one length drive, but learn to vary your distance according to your man. You should drive deep against a baseliner, but short against a net player, striving to drop them at his feet as, he comes in.
Never allow your opponent to play a shot he likes if you can possibly force him to one he dislikes.
Again I urge that you play your drive:
1. With the body sideways to the net.
2. The swing flat, with long follow through.
3. The weight shifting just as the ball is hit.
Do not strive for terrific speed at first. The most essential thing about a drive is to put the ball in play. I once heard William A. Larned remark, when asked the most important thing in tennis, "Put the ball over the net into the other man's court." Accuracy first, and then put on your speed, for if your shot is correct you can always learn, to hit hard.
CHAPTER III. SERVICE
Service is the opening gun of tennis. It is putting the ball in play. The old idea was that service should never be more than merely the beginning of a rally. With the rise of American tennis and the advent of Dwight Davis and Holcombe Ward, service took on a new significance. These two men originated what is now known as the American Twist delivery.
From a mere formality, service became a point winner. Slowly it gained in importance, until Maurice E. M'Loughlin, the wonderful "California Comet," burst across the tennis sky with the first of those terrific cannon-ball deliveries that revolutionized the game, and caused the old-school players to send out hurry calls for a severe footfault rule or some way of stopping the threatened destruction of all ground strokes. M'Loughlin made service a great factor in the game. It remained for R. N. Williams to supply the antidote that has again put service in the normal position of mere importance, not omnipotence. Williams stood in on the delivery and took it on the rising bound.
Service must be speedy. Yet speed is not the be-all and end-all. Service must be accurate, reliable, and varied. It must be used with discretion and served with brains. I believe perfect service is about 40 per cent placement, 40 per cent speed, and 20 per cent twist.
Any tall player has an advantage over a short one, in service. Given a man about 6 feet and allow him the 3 feet added by his reach, it has been proved by tests that should he deliver a service, perfectly flat, with no variation caused by twist or wind, that just cleared the net at its lowest point (3 feet in the centre), there is only a margin of 8 inches of the service court in which the ball can possibly fall; the remainder is below the net angle. Thus it is easy to see how important it is to use some form of twist to bring the ball into court. Not only must it go into court, but it must be sufficiently speedy that the receiver does not have an opportunity of an easy kill. It must also be placed so as to allow the server an advantage for his next return, admitting the receiver puts the ball in play.
Just as the first law of receiving is to, put the ball in play, so of service it is to cause the receiver to fall into error. Do not strive unduly for clean aces, but use your service to upset the ground strokes of your opponent.
There are several style services in vogue in all countries. The American twist has become one of the most popular forms of delivery and as such deserves special treatment. The usual forms of service are (1) the slice service, (2) the American twist, (3) the reverse delivery, (4) the "cannon ball" or flat serve.
The slice service is the easiest and most natural form for all beginners, and proves so effective that many great players use it. It is the service of William M. Johnston, A. R. F. Kingscote, Norman E. Brookes, and many others.
Service should be hit from as high a point as the server can COMFORTABLY reach. To stretch unnecessarily is both wearing on the server and unproductive of results.
The slice service should be hit from a point above the right shoulder and as high as possible. The server should stand at about a forty-five degree angle to the baseline, with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Drop the weight back on the right foot and swing the racquet freely and easily behind the back. Toss the ball high enough into the air to ensure it passing through the desired hitting plane, and then start a slow shift of the weight forward, at the same time increasing the power of the swing forward as the racquet commences its upward flight to the ball. Just as the ball meets the racquet face the weight should be thrown forward and the full power of the swing smashed into the service. Let the ball strike the racquet INSIDE the face of the strings, with the racquet travelling directly towards the court. The angle of the racquet face will impart the twist necessary to bring the ball in court. The wrist should be somewhat flexible in service. If necessary lift the right foot and swing the whole body forward with the arm. Twist slightly to the right, using the left foot as a pivot. The general line of the racquet swing is from RIGHT to LEFT and always forward.
At this point and before I take up the other branches of serving, let me put in a warning against footfaulting. I can only say that a footfault is crossing or touching the line with either foot before the ball is delivered, or it is a jump or step. I am not going into a technical discussion of footfaults. It is unnecessary, and by placing your feet firmly before the service there is no need to footfault.
It is just as unfair to deliberately footfault as to miscall a ball, and it is wholly unnecessary. The average footfault is due to carelessness, over-anxiety, or ignorance of the rule. All players are offenders at times, but it can quickly be broken up.
Following this outburst of warning let me return to the American twist service. The stance for this is the same as for the slice, but the ball is thrown slightly to the left of the head while the racquet passes up and over the call, travelling from left to right and slightly forward. The result is a curve to the left and the break of the bound to the right. This service is not fast, but gives an excellent chance to follow to the net, since it travels high and slowly and its bound is deep. The American twist service should be hit with the muscles of the side. The slice is a shoulder swing.
The reverse twist is of an absolutely distinct type. The stance is facing the net with both toes fronting the line. The racquet is gripped as a club. The ball is thrown in front of the body and not high. The swing is a sharp wrist twist from right to left, the ball carried for some distance on the face of the racquet. The curve is from left to right while the bound is high and breaks sharply to the left. This delivery is slow, ineffective and very uncertain. There is little opportunity to follow it to the net.
The "cannon-ball" service is nothing but a slice as regards swing and stance, but it is hit with a flat racquet face, thus imparting no spin to the ball. It is a case of speed alone. This service is a point winner when it goes in; but its average must necessarily be poor since its margin of error is so small. It is only useful to a tall man.
Varied pace and varied speed is the keynote to a good service. I spent hours in serving alone, striving to disguise the twist and pace of the ball. I would take a box of a dozen balls out on the court and serve the whole dozen to No. 1 court with one style of delivery. Then, crossing, I would serve them back with another type of service. Next, I would try the left court from both sides. My next move would be to pick out a certain section of the service court, and serve for that until I could put the ball where I wanted it. Finally, I would strive to put it there with speed.
All the time spent in this practice has stood me in good stead, for to-day it is my service that pulls me out of many a deep hole, and causes many a player to wish he was delivering the ball. William M. Johnston, the American Champion, has a remarkable service for so short a man. He times his stroke perfectly, and hits it at the top of his reach, so that he gets the full benefit of every inch of his stature and every pound of his weight. He uses the slice delivery in the majority of matches.
Do not try freak services. They are useless against high-class players. Sharp breaking underhand cuts can be easily angled off for points by a man who knows anything of the angles and effects of twist. These deliveries are affectation if used more than once or twice in a long match. A sudden shift may surprise your opponent; but to continue to serve these freaks is to destroy their use.
Mishu, the Rumanian star, has many very peculiar deliveries; but, when playing against high-class tennis, he has brains enough to use a straight service. The freak services delight and yet annoy a gallery, for once the novelty has worn off, nothing but the conceit remains.
The object of service is to obtain the maximum return with the minimum effort. This statement holds true for all tennis strokes, but in none so strongly as in service.
The average player hits, his first service so hard, and with so little regard for direction, that about nine out of ten first deliveries are faults. Thus, one half your chances are thrown away, and the chance of double faulting increased proportionately.
There is a well-known tennis saying to the effect that one fault is a mistake, but two faults are a crime—that sums up the idea of service adequately. A player should always strive to put his first delivery in court. In the first place it is apt to catch your opponent napping, as he half expects a fault. Secondly, it conserves your energy by removing the need of a second delivery, which, in a long five-set match, is an item of such importance that it may mean victory or defeat.
I urge all players to put their service into court with just as much speed as they can be sure of, but to serve both deliveries at about the same speed. Do not slog the first ball and pat the second, but hit both with average pace.
Try for service aces whenever reasonable, but never do so at the risk of double faulting. The first ball is the ball to ace. The second should never be risked. Your aces must at least equal your double faults, or your service is a handicap and not an advantage.
The importance of service in doubles is more pronounced than in singles as regards holding it; but the need for individual brilliancy is not so great, as you have a partner already at the net to kill off any weak returns.
Service is an attack, and a successful attack should never break down.
CHAPTER IV. THE VOLLEY AND OVERHEAD SMASH
The net attack is the heavy artillery of tennis. It is supposed to crush all defence. As such it must be regarded as a point-winning stroke at all times, no matter whether the shot is volley or smash.
Once at the net hit from the point at the first opportunity given to get the racquet squarely on the ball. All the laws of footwork explained for the drive are theoretically the same in volleying. In practice you seldom have time to change your feet to a set position, so you obviate trouble by throwing the weight on the foot nearest to the ball and pushing it in the shot.
Volleys are of two classes: (1) the low volley, made from below the waist; and (2) the high volley, from the waist to the head. In contradistinction to the hitting plane classification are the two styles known as (1) the deep volley and (2) the stop volley.
All low volleys are blocked. High volleys may be either blocked or hit. Volleys should never be stroked. There is no follow through on a low volley and very little on a high one.
You will hear much talk of "chop" volleys. A chop stroke is one where the racquet travels from above the line of flight of the ball, down and through it, and the angle made behind the racquet is greater than 45 degrees, and many approach 90 degrees. Therefore I say that no volleys should be chopped, for the tendency is to pop the ball up in the air off any chop. Slice volleys if you want to, or hit them flat, for both these shots are made at a very small angle to the flight-line of the ball, the racquet face travelling almost along its plane.
In all volleys, high or low, the wrist should be locked and absolutely stiff. It should always be below the racquet head, thus bracing the racquet against the impact of the ball. Allow the force of the incoming shot, plus your own weight, to return the ball, and do not strive to "wrist" it over. The tilted racquet face will give any required angle to the return by glancing the ball off the strings, so no wrist turn is needed.
Low volleys can never be hit hard, and owing to the height of the net should usually be sharply angled, to allow distance for the rise. Any ball met at a higher plane than the top of the net may be hit hard. The stroke should be crisp, snappy, and decisive, but it should stop as it meets the ball. The follow through should be very small. Most low volleys should be soft and short. Most high volleys require speed and length.
The "stop" volley is nothing more than a shot blocked short. There is no force used. The racquet simply meets the oncoming ball and stops it. The ball rebounds and falls of its own weight. There is little bounce to such a shot, and that may be reduced by allowing the racquet to slide slightly under the ball at the moment of impact, thus imparting back spin to the ball.
Volleying is a science based on the old geometric axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. I mean that a volleyer must always cover the straight passing shot since it is the shortest shot with which to pass him, and he must volley straight to his opening and not waste time trying freakish curving volleys that give the base- liner time to recover. It is Johnston's great straight volley that makes him such a dangerous net man. He is always "punching" his volley straight and hard to the opening in his opponent's court.
A net player must have ground strokes in order to attain the net position. Do not think that a service and volley will suffice against first-class tennis.
I am not a believer in the "centre" theory. Briefly expressed the centre theory is to hit down the middle of the court and follow to the net, since the other player has the smallest angle to pass you. That is true, but remember that he has an equal angle on either side and, given good ground strokes, an equal chance to pass with only your guess or intention to tell you which side he will choose.
I advise hitting to the side-line with good length and following up to the net, coming in just to the centre side of the straight returns down the line. Thus the natural shot is covered and your opponent's court is opened for an angle volley 'cross. Should your opponent try the cross drive, his chances of beating you clean and keeping the ball in court are much less than his chances of error.
Strive to kill your volleys at once, but should your shot not win, follow the ball 'cross and again cover the straight shot. Always force the man striving to pass you to play the hardest possible shot.
Attack with your volleys. Never defend the ball when at the net. The only defensive volley is one at your feet as you come in. It is a mid-court shot. Volleys should win with placement more than speed, although speed may be used on a high volley.
Closely related to the volley, yet in no way a volley stroke, is the overhead smash. It is the Big Bertha of tennis. It is the long range terror that should always score. The rules of footwork, position, and direction that govern the volley will suffice for the overhead. The swing alone is different. The swing should be closely allied to the slice service, the racquet and arm swinging freely from the shoulder, the wrist flexible and the racquet imparting a slight twist to the ball to hold it in court. The overhead is mainly a point winner through speed, since its bounce is so high that a slow placement often allows time for a recovery.
The overhead is about 60 per cent speed, and 40 per cent combined place and twist. Any overhead shot taken on or within the service-line should be killed. Any overhead, behind the service-line, and back to the baseline, should be defended and put back deep to, allow you another advance to the net.
The average overhead shot that is missed is netted. Therefore hit deep. It is a peculiar fact that over 75 per cent of all errors are nets with only 25 per cent outs. Let this be a constant reminder to you of the fact that all ground strokes should have a clear margin of safety of some 8 inches to a foot above the net, except when attempting to pass a very active volleyer. In the latter case the shot must be low, and the attendant risk is compensated by the increased chances of winning the point with a pass.
Do not leap in the air unnecessarily to hit overhead balls. Keep at least one foot, and when possible both feet, on the ground in smashing, as it aids in regulating the weight, and gives better balance. Hit flat and decisively to the point if desired.
Most missed overhead shots are due to the eye leaving the ball; but a second class of errors are due to lack of confidence that gives a cramped, half- hearted swing. Follow through your overhead shot to the limit of your swing.
The overhead is essentially a doubles shot, because in singles the chances of passing the net man are greater than lobbing over his head, while in doubles two men cover the net so easily that the best way to open the court is to lob one man back.
In smashing, the longest distance is the safest shot since it allows a greater margin of error. Therefore smash 'cross court when pressed, but pull your short lobs either side as determined by the man you are playing.
Never drop a lob you can hit overhead, as it forces you back and gives the attacking position to your opponent. Never smash with a reverse twist, always hit with a straight racquet face and direct to the opening.
Closely connected to the overhead since it is the usual defence to any hard smash, is the lob.
A lob is a high toss of the ball landing between the service-line and the baseline. An excellent lob should be within 6 feet of the baseline.
Lobs are essentially defensive. The ideas in lobbing are: (1) to give yourself time to recover position when pulled out of court by your opponent's shot; (2) to drive back the net man and break up his attack; (3) to tire your opponent; (4) occasionally to, win cleanly by placement. This is usually a lob volley from a close net rally, and is a slightly different stroke.
There is (1) the chop lob, a heavily under-cut spin that hangs in the air. This, is the best defensive lob, as it goes high and gives plenty of time to recover position. (2) The stroke lob or flat lob, hit with a slight top spin. This is the point-winning lob since it gives no time to, the player to run around it, as it is lower and faster than the chop. In making this lob, start your swing like a drive, but allow the racquet to slow up and the face to tilt upward just as you meet the ball. This, shot should seldom go above 10 feet in the air, since it tends to go out with the float of the ball.
The chop lob, which is a decided under cut, should rise from 20 to 30 feet, or more, high and must go deep. It is better to lob out and run your opponent back, thus tiring him, than to lob short and give him confidence by an easy kill. The value of a lob is mainly one of upsetting your opponent, and its effects are very apparent if you unexpectedly bring off one at the crucial period of a match.
I owe one of my most notable victories to a very timely and somewhat lucky lob. I was playing Norman E. Brookes in the fifth round of the American Championships at Forest Hills, in 1919. The score stood one set all, 3-2 and 30-15, Brookes serving. In a series of driving returns from his forehand to my backhand, he suddenly switched and pounded the ball to my forehand corner and rushed to the net. I knew Brookes crowded the net, and with 40-15 or 30-all at stake on my shot, I took a chance and tossed the ball up in the air over Brookes' head. It was not a great lob, but it was a good one. For once Brookes was caught napping, expecting a drive down the line. He hesitated, then turned and chased the ball to the back stop, missing it on his return. I heard him grunt as he turned, and knew that he was badly winded. He missed his volley off my return of the next service, and I led at 30-40. The final point of the game came when he again threw me far out of court on my forehand, and, expecting the line drive again, crowded the net, only to have the ball rise in the air over his head. He made a desperate effort at recovery, but failed, and the game was mine: 3-all. It proved the turning-point in the match, for it not only tired Brookes, but it forced him to hang back a little from the net so as to protect his overhead, so that his net attack weakened opportunely, and I was able to nose out the match in 4 sets.
Another famous match won by a lob was the Johnston-Kingscote Davis Cup Match at Wimbledon, in 1920. The score stood 2 sets all, and 5-3 Kingscote leading with Kingscote serving and the score 30-all. Johnston served and ran in. Kingscote drove sharply down Johnston's forehand side-line. Johnston made a remarkable recovery with a half volley, putting the ball high in the air and seemingly outside. A strong wind was blowing down the court and caught the ball and held its flight. It fell on the baseline. Kingscote made a remarkable recovery with a fine lob that forced Johnston back. Kingscote took the net and volleyed decisively to Johnston's backhand. Johnston again lobbed, and by a freak of coincidence the ball fell on the baseline within a foot of his previous shot. Kingscote again lobbed in return, but this time short, and Johnston killed it. Johnston ran out the game in the next two points.
If a shot can win two such matches as these, it is a shot worth learning to use, and knowing when to use. The lob is one of the most useful and skilful shots in tennis. It is a great defence and a fine attack.
The strokes already analysed, drive, service, volley, overhead and lob, are the orthodox strokes of tennis, and should be at every player's command. These are the framework of your game. Yet no house is complete with framework alone. There are certain trimmings, ornaments, and decorations necessary. There are the luxuries of modern improvements, and tennis boasts of such improvements in the modern game.
Among the luxuries, some say the eccentricities, of the modern game one finds (1) the chop stroke, (2) the slice stroke (a close relative), (3) the drop shot, (4) the half-volley or "trap" shot.
All these shots have their use. None should be considered a stock shot.
CHAPTER V. CHOP, HALF VOLLEY, AND COURT POSITION
I am called at times a chop-stroke player. I SELDOM CHOP. My stroke is a slice.
A chop stroke is a shot where the angle towards the player and behind the racquet, made by the line of flight of the ball, and the racquet travelling down across it, is greater than 45 degrees and may be 90 degrees. The racquet face passes slightly OUTSIDE the ball and down the side, chopping it, as a man chops wood. The spin and curve is from right to left. It is made with a stiff wrist. Irving C. Wright, brother of the famous Beals, is a true chop player, while Beals himself, being a left- hander, chopped from the left court and sliced from the right.
The slice shot merely reduced the angle mentioned from 45 degrees down to a very small one. The racquet face passes either INSIDE or OUTSIDE the ball, according to direction desired, while the stroke is mainly a wrist twist or slap. This slap imparts a decided skidding break to the ball, while a chop "drags" the ball off the ground without break. Wallace F. Johnson is the greatest slice exponent in the world.
The rules of footwork for both these shots should be the same as the drive, but because both are made with a short swing and more wrist play, without the need of weight, the rules of footwork may be more safely discarded and body position not so carefully considered.
Both these shots are essentially defensive, and are labour-saving devices when your opponent is on the baseline. A chop or slice is very hard to drive, and will break up any driving game.
It is not a shot to use against a volley, as it is too slow to pass and too high to cause any worry. It should be used to drop short, soft shots at the feet of the net man as he comes in. Do not strive to pass a net man with a chop or slice, except through a big opening.
The drop-shot is a very soft, sharply-angled chop stroke, played wholly with the wrist. It should drop within 3 to 5 feet of the net to be of any use. The racquet face passes around the outside of the ball and under it with a distinct "wrist turn." Do not swing the racquet from the shoulder in making a drop shot. The drop shot has no relation to a stop-volley. The drop shot is all wrist. The stop-volley has no wrist at all.
Use all your wrist shots, chop, slice, and drop, merely as an auxilliary to your orthodox game. They are intended to upset your opponent's game through the varied spin on the ball.
THE HALF VOLLEY
I have now reached the climax of tennis skill: the half volley or trap shot. In other words, the pick-up.
This shot requires more perfect timing, eyesight, and racquet work than any other, since its margin of safety is smallest and its manifold chances of mishaps numberless.
It is a pick-up. The ball meets the ground and racquet face at nearly the same moment, the ball bouncing off the ground, on the strings. This shot is a stiff-wrist, short swing, like a volley with no follow through. The racquet face travels along the ground with a slight tilt over the ball and towards the net, thus holding the ball low; the shot, like all others in tennis, should travel across the racquet face, along the short strings. The racquet face should always be slightly outside the ball.
The half volley is essentially a defensive stroke, since it should only be made as a last resort, when caught out of position by your opponent's shot. It is a desperate attempt to extricate yourself from a dangerous position without retreating. NEVER DELIBERATELY HALF VOLLEY.
Notwithstanding these truths, there are certain players who have turned the half volley into a point winner. The greatest half volleyer of the past decade—in fact, one of the greatest tennis geniuses of the world—George Caridia, used the stroke successfully as a point winner. R. N. Williams, the leading exponent of the stroke in the present day, achieves remarkable results with it. Major A. R. F. Kingscote wins many a point, seemingly lost, by his phenomenal half-volley returns, particularly from the baseline. These men turn a defence into an attack, and it pays.
So much for the actual strokes of the game. It is in the other departments such as generalship and psychology that matches are won. Just a few suggestions as to stroke technique, and I will close this section.
Always play your shot with a fixed, definite idea of what you are doing and where it is going. Never hit haphazard.
Play all shots across the short strings of the racquet, with the racquet head and handle on the same hitting plane for ground strokes and the head above the handle for volleys. The racquet head should be advanced slightly beyond the wrist for ground strokes.
A tennis court is 39 feet long from baseline to net. Most players think all of that territory is a correct place to stand. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are only two places in a tennis court that a tennis player should be to await the ball.
1. About 3 feet behind the baseline near the middle of the court, or
2. About 6 to 8 feet back from the net and almost opposite the ball.
The first is the place for all baseline players. The second is the net position.
If you are drawn out of these positions by a shot which you must return, do not remain at the point where you struck the ball, but attain one of the two positions mentioned as rapidly as possible.
The distance from the baseline to about 10, feet from the net may be considered as "no-man's-land" or "the blank." Never linger there, since a deep shot will catch you at your feet. After making your shot from the blank, as you must often do, retreat behind the baseline to await the return, so you may again come forward to meet the ball. If you are drawn in short and cannot retreat safely, continue all the way to the net position.
Never stand and watch your shot, for to do so simply means you are out of position for your next stroke. Strive to attain a position so that you always arrive at the spot the ball is going to before it actually arrives. Do your hard running while the ball is in the air, so you will not be hurried in your stroke after it bounces.
It is in learning to do this that natural anticipation plays a big role. Some players instinctively know where the next return is going and take position accordingly, while others will never sense it. It is to the latter class that I urge court position, and recommend always coming in from behind the baseline to meet the ball, since it is much easier to run forward than back.
Should you be caught at the net, with a short shot to your opponent, do not stand still and let him pass you at will, as he can easily do. Pick out the side where you think he will hit, and jump to, it suddenly as he swings. If you guess right, you win the point. If you are wrong, you are no worse off, since he would have beaten you anyway with his shot.
A notable example of this method of anticipation is Norman E. Brookes, who instinctively senses the stroke, and suddenly bobs up in front of your best shot and kills it. Some may say it is luck, but, to my mind, it is the reward of brain work.
Your position should always strive to be such that you can cover the greatest possible area of court without sacrificing safety, since the straight shot is the surest, most dangerous, and must be covered. It is merely a question of how much more court than that immediately in front of the ball may be guarded.
A well-grounded knowledge of court position saves many points, to say nothing of much breath expended in long runs after hopeless shots.
It is the phenomenal knowledge of court position that allows A. R. F. Kingscote, a very short man, to attack so consistently from the net. Wallace F. Johnson is seldom caught out of position, so his game is one of extreme ease. One seldom sees Johnson running hard on a tennis court. He is usually there awaiting the ball's arrival.
Save your steps by using your head. It pays in the end. Time spent in learning where to play on a tennis court is well expended, since it returns to you in the form of matches won, breath saved, and energy conserved.
It is seldom you need cover more than two-thirds of a tennis court, so why worry about the unnecessary portions of it?
PART II: THE LAWS OF TENNIS PSYCHOLOGY
CHAPTER VI. GENERAL TENNIS PSYCHOLOGY
Tennis psychology is nothing more than understanding the workings of your opponent's mind, and gauging the effect of your own game on his mental viewpoint, and understanding the mental effects resulting from the various external causes on your own mind. You cannot be a successful psychologist of others without first understanding your own mental processes, you must study the effect on yourself of the same happening under different circumstances. You react differently in different moods and under different conditions. You must realize the effect on your game of the resulting irritation, pleasure, confusion, or whatever form your reaction takes. Does it increase your efficiency? If so, strive for it, but never give it to your opponent.
Does it deprive you of concentration? If so, either remove the cause, or if that is not possible strive to ignore it.
Once you have judged accurately your own reaction to conditions, study your opponents, to decide their temperaments. Like temperaments react similarly, and you may judge men of your own type by yourself. Opposite temperaments you must seek to compare with people whose reactions you know.
A person who can control his own mental processes stands an excellent chance of reading those of another, for the human mind works along definite lines of thought, and can be studied. One can only control one's, mental processes after carefully studying them.
A steady phlegmatic baseline player is seldom a keen thinker. If he was he would not adhere to the baseline.
The physical appearance of a man is usually a pretty clear index to his type of mind. The stolid, easy-going man, who usually advocates the baseline game, does so because he hates to stir up his torpid mind to think out a safe method of reaching the net. There is the other type of baseline player, who prefers to remain on the back of the court while directing an attack intended to break up your game. He is a very dangerous player, and a deep, keen- thinking antagonist. He achieves his results by mixing up his length and direction, and worrying you with the variety of his game. He is a good psychologist. Such players include J. C. Parke, Wallace F. Johnson, and Charles S. Garland. The first type of player mentioned merely hits the ball with little idea of what he is doing, while the latter always has a definite plan and adheres to it. The hard-hitting, erratic, net-rushing player is a creature of impulse. There is no real system to his attack, no understanding of your game. He will make brilliant coups on the spur of the moment, largely by instinct; but there is no, mental power of consistent thinking. It is an interesting, fascinating type. Such men as Harold Throckmorton, B. I. C. Norton, and at times R. N. Williams, are examples, although Williams is really a better psychologist than this sounds.
The dangerous man is the player who mixes his style from back to fore court at the direction of an ever-alert mind. This is the man to study and learn from. He is a player with a definite purpose. A player who has an answer to every query you propound him in your game. He is the most subtle antagonist in the world. He is of the school of Brookes. Second only to him is the man of dogged determination that sets his mind on one plan and adheres to it, bitterly, fiercely fighting to the end, with never a thought of change. He is the man whose psychology is easy to understand, but whose mental viewpoint is hard to upset, for he never allows himself to think of anything except the business at hand. This man is your Johnston or your Wilding. I respect the mental capacity of Brookes more, but I admire the tenacity of purpose of Johnston.
Pick out your type from your own mental processes, and then work out your game along the lines best suited to you. Few of us have the mental brilliance of Brookes; but all can acquire the dogged determination of Johnston, even if we have not his tennis ability.
When two men are, in the same class, as regards stroke equipment, the determining factor in any given match is the mental viewpoint. Luck, so-called, is often grasping the psychological value of a break in the game, and turning it to your own account.
We hear a great deal about the "shots we have made." Few realize the importance of the "shots we have missed." The science of missing shots is as important as that of making them, and at times a miss by an inch is of more value than a, return that is killed by your opponent.
Let me explain. A player drives you far out of court with an angle-shot. You run hard to it, and reaching, drive it hard and fast down the side- line, missing it by an inch. Your opponent is surprised and shaken, realizing that your shot might as well have gone in as out. He will expect you to try it again, and will not take the risk next time. He will try to play the ball, and may fall into error. You have thus taken some of your opponent's confidence, and increased his chance of error, all by a miss.
If you had merely popped back that return, and it had been killed, your opponent would have felt increasingly confident of your inability to get the ball out of his reach, while you would merely have been winded without result.
Let us suppose you made the shot down the sideline. It was a seemingly impossible get. First it amounts to TWO points in that it took one away from your opponent that should have been his and gave you one you ought never to have had. It also worries your opponent, as he feels he has thrown away a big chance.
The psychology of a tennis match is very interesting, but easily understandable. Both men start with equal chances. Once one man establishes a real lead, his confidence goes up, while his opponent worries, and his mental viewpoint becomes poor. The sole object of the first man is to hold his lead, thus holding his confidence. If the second player pulls even or draws ahead, the inevitable reaction occurs with even a greater contrast in psychology. There is the natural confidence of the leader now with the second man as well as that great stimulus of having turned seeming defeat into probable victory. The reverse in the case of the first player is apt to hopelessly destroy his game, and collapse follows.
It is this twist in tennis psychology that makes it possible to win so many matches after they are seemingly lost. This is also the reason that a man who has lost a substantial lead seldom turns in the ultimate victory. He cannot rise above the depression caused by his temporary slump. The value of an early lead cannot be overestimated. It is the ability to control your mental processes, and not worry unduly over early reverses, that makes a great match player.
Playing to the score is the first requisite of a thinking match player. The two crucial points in any game are the third and fourth. If the first two points are divided for 15-all, the third means an advantage gained. If won by you, you should strive to consolidate it by taking the next for 40-15 and two chances for game, while if lost, you must draw even at 30-all to have an even chance for game.
In order to do this, be sure to always put the ball in play safely, and do not take unnecessary chances, at 15-all or 30-15. Always make the server work to hold his delivery. It worries him to serve long games, and increases the nervous strain of the match.
In the game score the sixth, seventh, and eighth games are the crux of every close set. These games may mean 4-2 or 3-all, 5-2 or 4-3, the most vital advantage in the match, or 5-3 or 4-all, a matter of extreme moment to a tiring player. If ahead, you should strive to hold and increase your lead. If behind, your one hope of victory rests in cutting down the advantage of the other man BEFORE one slip means defeat. 5-2 is usually too late to start a rally, but 4-3 is a real chance.
Never throw away a set because a player has a lead of 4-1, or even 5-1, unless you already have two sets in a 5-set match, and do not wish to risk tiring by trying to pull it out, and possibly failing at 6-4. The great advantage Of 3-1 on your own service is a stumbling-block for many players, for they unconsciously let up at the fifth game, thinking they have a 2-game lead. However, by dropping that game, the score will go 2-3 and 3-all if your opponent holds service, instead of 1-4 and 4-2, thus retaining a distinct advantage and discouraging your opponent in that set.
The first set is vital in a 2 out of 3 match. Play for all of it. The second and third sets are the turning-point in a best of 5-set match. Take the first where possible, but play to the limit for the next two. Never allow a 3 out of 5-set match to go to, the fifth set if it is possible to win in less; but never give up a match until the last point is played, even if you are two sets and five games down. Some occurrence may turn the tide in your favour.
A notable example of such a match occurred at Newport, in 1916. Wallace F. Johnson and Joseph J. Armstrong were playing Ichija Kumagae, the famous Japanese star, and Harold A. Throckmorton, then junior Champion of America, in the second round of the doubles.
It was Kumagae's first year in America, and he did not understand Americans and their customs well. Kumagae and Throckmorton were leading one set at 6-0, 5-1, and 40-15, Kumagae serving. Throckmorton turned and spoke to him, and the Japanese star did not understand what he said. He served without knowing, and Armstrong passed him down the centre. Johnson duplicated the feat in the next court, and Kumagae grew flustered. Throckmorton, not understanding, tried to steady him without result, as Kumagae double-faulted to Armstrong, and he, too, grew worried. Both men began missing, and Johnson and Armstrong pulled out the set and won the match in a runaway in the last stanza. Johnson and Armstrong met W. M. Johnston and C. J. Griffin, the National Champions, in the final and defeated them in five sets, inflicting the only reverse the title-holders suffered during their two-year reign as champions.
Another much more regrettable incident occurred in the famous match between R. L. Murray of California and George M. Church of New York in the fourth round of the American National Championship in 1916. George Church, then at the crest of his wonderful game, had won the first two sets and was leading Murray in the third, when the famous Californian started a sensational rally. Murray, with his terrific speed, merry smile, and genial personality, has always been a popular figure with the public, and when he began his seemingly hopeless fight, the crowd cheered him wildly. He broke through Church's service and drew even amid a terrific din. Church, always a very high-strung, nervous player, showed that the crowd's partiality was getting on his nerves. The gallery noticed it, and became more partisan than ever. The spirit of mob rule took hold, and for once they lost all sense of sportsmanship. They clapped errors as they rained from Church's racquet; the great game collapsed under the terrific strain, and Church's last chance was gone. Murray won largely as he wanted, in the last two sets. No one regretted the incident more than Murray himself, for no finer sportsman steps upon the court than this player, yet there was nothing that could be done. It was a case of external conditions influencing the psychology of one man so greatly that it cost him a victory that was his in justice.
The primary object in match tennis is to break up the other man's game. The first lesson to learn is to hold your nerve under all circumstances. If you can break a player's nerve by pounding at a weakness, do it. I remember winning a 5-set doubles match many years ago, against a team far over the class of my partner and myself, by lobbing continually to one man until he cracked under the strain and threw the match away. He became so afraid of a lob that he would not approach the net, and his whole game broke up on account of his lack of confidence. Our psychology was good, for we had the confidence to continue our plan of attack even while losing two of the first three sets. His was bad, for he lost his nerve, and let us know it.
Sensational and unexpected shots at crucial moments have won many a match. If your opponent makes a marvellous recovery and wins by it, give him full credit for it, and then forget it, for by worrying over it you not only lose that point but several others as, well, while your mind is still wandering. Never lose your temper over your opponent's good shots. It is bad enough to lose it at your own bad ones. Remember that usually the loser of a match plays just as well as the winner allows him. Never lose your temper at a bad decision. It never pays, and has cost many a match.
I remember a famous match in Philadelphia, between Wallace F. Johnson, the fifth ranking player in America, and Stanley W. Pearson, a local star, in the Interclub tennis league of that city. Johnson, who had enjoyed a commanding lead of a set and 4-1, had slumped, and Pearson had pulled even at a set-all, and was leading at 5-1 and 40-15, point set match. He pulled Johnson far out to the forehand and came to the net. Johnson chopped viciously down the side-line, but Pearson volleyed to Johnson's deep backhand corner. Johnson had started RUNNING in that direction as he hit his return, and arrived almost as Pearson's volley bounced. Unfortunately Johnson slipped and went down on both knees, but held his racquet. He reached the ball and chopped it down the side-line for an earned point before Pearson realized he had even offered at it.
Pearson was so surprised and angered that he double-faulted for deuce, and Johnson won the game. Johnson pulled even at 5-all, before Pearson recovered his equilibrium, and finally won the set at 17-15. Truly Pearson's lapse at Johnson's marvellous get was a costly mental break.
Tennis psychology is far more than the effect of certain shots, made or missed, on the player. One can sum up such things by saying that every kill gives confidence, every error tends to destroy it. These things are obvious. The branch of psychology that is interesting is the reaction on the various players of different courts, different crowds, and other players.
There is a peculiar atmosphere about the centre court at Wimbledon that is unique in my knowledge of the game. Certain players revel in it. The majority do not feel it, and since they do not sense it, they find only the material disadvantages of rather bad light, and much noise from the stand, and dislike the centre court. Personally, I enjoy playing on the centre court at Wimbledon more than any court I have ever stepped upon.
The traditions of the great players of the past, the notable personages that make up the parties in the Royal Box and Committee Box, the honour of a visit from their Majesties the King and Queen, and, above all, the generous, non-partisan, sportsmanlike attitude of the British public, make it a unique privilege to enter the centre court in championship competition. These things inspire the mind to an almost abnormal keenness. It is this atmosphere that made N. E. Brookes, Anthony F. Wilding, A. W. Gore, R. F. and H. L. Doherty more dangerous there than anywhere else. It is this factor that spurs on J. C. Parke and A. R. F. Kingscote to their greatest tennis to-day.
The great championship turf at Forest Hills, where the American Championship is held, offers a unique contrast to Wimbledon.
The age of Wimbledon is its great attraction. It is the spirit of youth, of progress, of business-like mechanical perfection of management, and the enormous crowds and attendant enthusiasm that is the chief attraction at Forest Hills. Fully 15,000 were present on the closing day of the event in 1919. Orderly, courteous, enthusiastic, but partisan, the American tennis public comes out to cheer on its favourite. No people in the world appreciate visiting players more whole-heartedly and none do more for their comfort than the American people. It is partisan, personal, sporting friendliness, warmer yet not so correct as the manner of the British public, that the Americans give. We have much to learn from our British friends. Yet I hope we will never sacrifice the warmth of feeling that at times may run away with us, yet in the main is the chief attraction of the American people. It is this enthusiasm that spurs on the men to their greatest efforts in the National Championship.
The Australian team, Norman E. Brookes, Gerald Patterson, Randolph Lycett, and R. V. Thomas, who visited the United States, in 1919, scored a unique personal triumph. The whole gallery present at the notable match in the Championship, when Patterson went down to defeat in a terrific 5-set struggle with W. M. Johnston, rose and cheered Patterson as he walked off the court. It was a real ovation; a tribute to his sportsmanship, and an outburst of personal admiration. Brookes was the recipient of an equal demonstration on his final appearance at Forest Hills. The stimulus of the surroundings produced the highest tennis of which these men were capable.
Yet in all championships it is the personal element that is the moving factor. Personalities are the deciding force in popularity. Patriotism is partially submerged in personality.
The Davis Cup matches bring out the gamest struggles in the history of tennis. It is in these unique series of matches that the fame of Anthony F. Wilding, Norman E. Brookes, J. C. Parke, B. C. Wright, M. E. M'Loughlin, and others reached its crest. It was the unselfish giving of one's best, under all conditions, for the honour of the country that called out the finest tennis in each man. Parke reached his crest in his memorable defeat of Brookes. M'Loughlin has never quite equalled his marvellous game of 1914 against Brookes and Wilding.
It is the psychology of patriotism that brings out this tennis.
Personality is submerged. Unity of purpose as a team, replaces the object of personal glory that is the keynote of championship.
It is the friendly rivalry of sport, between such men as form the backbone of tennis in each country, that does more for international understanding than all the notes ever written from the White House.
I could go on writing tennis psychology as explained by external conditions for hundreds of pages, but all I want to do is to bring to mind a definite idea of the value of the mind in the game. Stimulate it how you will, a successful tennis player must admit the value of quick mind. Do it by a desire for personal glory, or team success, or by a love of competition in matching your wits against the other man's, but do it some way.
Do, not think that tennis is merely a physical exercise. It is a mental cock-tail of a very high "kick."
CHAPTER VII. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MATCH PLAY
The first and most important point in match play is to know how to lose. Lose cheerfully, generously, and like a sportsman. This is the first great law of tennis, and the second is like unto it—to win modestly, cheerfully, generously, and like a sportsman.
The object of match play is to win, but no credit goes to a man who does not win fairly and squarely. A victory is a defeat if it is other than fair. Yet again I say to win is the object, and to do so, one should play to the last ounce of his strength, the last gasp of his breath, and the last scrap of his nerve. If you do so and lose, the better man won. If you do not, you have robbed your opponent of his right of beating your best. Be fair to both him and yourself.
"The Play's the thing," and in match play a good defeat is far more creditable than a hollow victory. Play tennis for the game's sake. Play it for the men you meet, the friends you make, and the pleasure you may give to the public by the hard- working yet sporting game that is owed them by their presence at the match.
Many tennis players feel they owe the public nothing, and are granting a favour by playing. It is my belief that when the public so honours a player that they attend matches, that player is in duty bound to give of his best, freely, willingly, and cheerfully, for only by so doing can he repay the honour paid him. The tennis star of to-day owes his public as much as the actor owes the audience, and only by meeting his obligations can tennis be retained in public favour. The players get their reward in the personal popularity they gain by their conscientious work.
There is another factor that is even stronger than this, that will always produce fine tennis in championship events. It is the competitive spirit that is the breath of life to every true sportsman: the desire to prove to himself he can beat the best of the other man; the real regret that comes when he wins, and feels the loser was not at his best. It is that which has made popular idols of Anthony F. Wilding, M. E. M'Loughlin, and other famous players. It is the great attraction of J. C. Parke, A. R. F. Kingscote, W. M. Johnston, Andre Gobert, W. Laurentz, and many other stars. It is the sign of a true sportsman.
The keen competitive spirit that stimulates a match player also increases the nervous strain. This should be recognized by tournament committees, and the conditions of play should be as nearly standardized as weather permits.