Bill Tilden , known as "Big Bill" and "Gentleman Bill," was the first American tennis player to compete at Wimbledon—and the first American winner.
During the s, he was undefeated for seven years. His book The Art of Tennis is still regarded as a classic in the game. William Tatem Tilden Jr.
His childhood was marked by tragedy. Before he was born, three older siblings died within two weeks of each other in a diphtheria epidemic, in His parents had two more children: Tilden and his brother Herbert. When Tilden was 15, his mother contracted Bright's disease and was confined to a wheelchair.
His father, who was considering a campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, was rarely home. When Tilden was 18, his mother died; three years later his father died from a kidney infection; a few months later his beloved brother Herbert died of pneumonia. At age 22, Tilden was the only survivor of a once-large family. After the deaths, Tilden left the University of Pennsylvania and went to live with his mother's sister, Betsy Hey, and her niece, Selina.
He was encouraged to resume playing tennis by Selina, who considered the game to be a form of therapy for his grief. Tilden did go back to the game and, within five years, was a world-ranked player. During his amateur period, he won of tournaments, and his match record was In , at the age of 27, Tilden was the first American to win a tournament at Wimbledon, in England. In the s, Tilden dominated the sport of tennis, winning seven U. He was a finalist at the U. Open ten times, and also won five men's doubles and four mixed doubles there.
Tilden won at Wimbledon two more times, in and In addition, he won 13 straight singles matches in the Davis Cup from until In , Tilden won 57 games in a row—a feat that biographer Frank Deford wrote was "one of those rare, unbelievable athletic feats—like Johnny Unitas throwing touchdown passes in 47 straight games or Joe DiMaggio hitting safety in 56 games in a row—that simply cannot be exceeded in a reasonable universe no matter how long and loud we intone that records are made to be broken.
Tilden was known for his style, grace, and commanding manner, as well as for his cannonball serve, which was once clocked at miles per hour. In addition to his grace and power, he was also famous for his cerebral approach to the game. Unlike many other sports champions, who can't explain how they do what they do or why they excel, Tilden loved to think and write about the physical, emotional, and mental traits of a champion. According to Shanley, Tilden wrote: "The game is a science and an art.
It can reach its highest expression only if a player is willing to study and practice in an attempt to master the game in all its varied facets. He believed that, because of its technical challenges, tennis is by its very nature a very difficult sport to play. Tilden was a strategist, advising players, "The primary object in match tennis is to break up the other man's game.
The first thought that you should have, when you step onto a court for a match, is 'What are my opponent's weaknesses? Where will he miss next?
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These should be recovered and brought back into the repertoire of the modern player. The champion of today owes his game to the champions of yesterday, just as he will add his bit to the champion of tomorrow. Claytor, William Graham, Jr. Cleborne, Cuthbert John. Clementson, Merrill K. Clexton, Edward William. Clifford, Lloyd Erwin.
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Coleman Jr. Coleman, William Bryan. Collett, James Dalman. Collins, Frank Charles, Jr. Collins, Winifred Quick.
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