1st Edition

Sporting Gentlemen Men's Tennis from the Age of Honor to the Cult of the Superstar

By E. Digby Baltzell Copyright 2013
    467 Pages
    by Routledge

    441 Pages
    by Routledge

    Tennis is a high-stakes game, played by prodigies identified early and coached by professionals in hopes of high rankings and endorsements. This commercial world is far removed from the origins of the sport. Before 1968—when Wimbledon invited professional players to compete for the first time—tennis was part of a sportsmanship tradition that emphasized character over money. It produced well-rounded gentlemen who expressed a code of honor, not commerce.

    In this authoritative and affectionate history of men's tennis, distinguished sociologist E. Digby Baltzell recovers the glory of the age. From its aristocratic origins in the late ninteenth century, to the Tilden years, and through a succession of newcomers, the amateur era and its virtues survived a century of democratization and conflict. Sporting Gentlemen examines the greatest players and matches in the history of tennis. Baltzell explores the tennis code of honor and its roots in the cricket code of the late-nineteenth-century Anglo-American upper class.

    This code of honor remained in spite of the later democratization of tennis. Thus, the court manners of the Renshaw twins and Doherty brothers at the Old Wimbledon were upheld to the letter by Don Budge and Jack Kramer as well as Rod Laver, John Newcombe, and Arthur Ashe. Baltzell's final chapter on the Open Era is a blistering attack on the decline of honor and the obliteration of class distinctions, leaving only those based on money. For all who love the game of tennis, Sporting Gentlemen is both fascinating history and a badly needed analysis of what has made the sport great.

    1: Introduction: Leveling Upwards and Leveling Downwards; 2: The Anglo-American Amateur Tradition, the Making of a National Upper Class, and a Gentlemanly Code of Honor in America, 1880-1914; 3: The Rise of Lawn Tennis: The Harrow and Harvard Era, 1877-1887; 4: The Expansion ofLawn Tennis in an Age oflnnocence, 1887-1912; 5: Class Complacency Challenged in 1912: The Sinking of the Titanic and the First California Invasion of the Eastern Grass Court Circuit; 6: The Old Order Changes: Amateurism becomes an Issue the Davis Cup Goes Down Under in 1914, and the Championships Are Moved from Newport to Forest Hills; 7: Two Philadelphia Gentlemen: William J. Clothier, Father and Son; 8: Racism and Anti-Semitism: The Gentleman s Achilles Heel; 9: William Tatum Tilden II: A Philadelphia Gentleman as World Champion; 10: The Finest Five Years in Tennis History: The French Musketeers Finally Topple Tilden; 11: Big Bill Tilden: A Gentleman Possessed by Genius; 12: The Grass Court Circuit Becomes a Melting Pot, and Perry Jones Leads a Second California Invasion of the Eastern Establishment; 13: Gentleman Jack Crawford of Australia and Fred Perry, the Last Great Englishman; 14: Budge and the Baron: The Greatest Match of Them All and the First Grand Slam; 15: Indian Summer of a Golden Age: Riggs, Kramer, Gonzales, and the Pro Tour; 16: Lean Years in American Tennis and the Reign of Harry Hopman s Australians; 17: The Great Revolution, 1968-1992: The Rise of Open (Pro) Tennis and the Decline of Civility; Epilogue


    E. Digby Baltzell