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THE ART OF LAWN TENNIS (chapter16)

2006-08-28 21:44

    CHAPTER XVI. THE COLONIES

    Australasia

    The death of that sterling sportsman, Anthony F. Wilding, and the natural decline in the playing powers of Norman E. Brookes, owing to the advance of years and his war experiences, leave Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) in a somewhat uncertain condition regarding its tennis prospects.

    NORMAN E. BROOKES

    Volumes have been written about N. E. Brookes and his tennis genius, but I would not feel right if I could not pay at least a slight tribute to the greatest tennis player and genius of all time.

    There is no need to dwell on Brookes' shots, his marvellous mechanical perfection, his peculiar volleying style, his uncanny anticipation. All these are too well known to need my feeble description. They are but the expression of that wonderful brain and dominant personality that lie behind that sphinx-like face we know as Brookes'.

    To see across the net those ever-restless, ever-moving eyes, picking the openings in my never too- well guarded court, and know that against me is pitted the greatest tennis, brain of the century, is to call upon me to produce my best. That is what my match with Brookes meant to me, and still does to-day. Brookes should be an inspiration to every tennis player, for he has proved the power of mind over matter in tennis: "Age cannot wither nor custom stale his infinite variety."

    Brookes is the most eminently just man on a tennis court I have ever met, for no excitement or emotion clouds his eyesight or judgment in decisions. He cannot abide bad decisions, yet he hates them quite as much when they favour him as when they are against him. I admit frankly I am a great admirer of Brookes, personally and from every tennis sense. He is a master that I as a student of the game feel proud to study under.

    GERALD PATTERSON

    Australia's leading player, Gerald Patterson, is one of the most remarkable combinations of tennis virtues and tennis faults, I have ever seen.

    Patterson has a wonderful service. He has speed, direction, control, and all kinds of twist. He hits his service consistently hard and puts it in. His overhead is the most remarkable in the game. He can kill from any place in the court. His, shot is clean, with little effort, yet carries terrific speed. His volleying above the net is almost faultless on his forehand. He has an excellent forehand drive that is very severe and consistent, but his backhand . . . Where in all the rest of tennis history was there a first-class man with a backhand so fundamentally wrong? His grip is bad, he pulls up on the ball and "loops" it high in the air. I do not mean Patterson always misses his backhand. He does not. He even makes remarkable shots off it at times, but, if Patterson is pressed, his backhand is the first portion of his game to crack, because it is hit inherently wrong.

    Patterson relies mainly on speed to win matches. He is not a strategist, and finesse is not part of his tennis equipment. He has a magnificent physique, and relies largely on his, strength to carry him through a long match and win in the end.

    He is very quiet, and inclined to be somewhat careless on the court, unless pressed, when his businesslike, determined play shows what a great match player Patterson can become. He produces his best game at the crucial moment of the match. Patterson is a superior match player to his real tennis ability. His is not truly a top-notch game. It has superlative features, but its whole texture is not of the finest.

    Patterson owes much of his success in  to Brookes, under whose guidance he played. The absence of the master mind directing his attack proved a decided handicap in , and Patterson's attack was not so certain nor sustained as in the previous season. Patterson's game plus Brookes' strategy would be a great combination in one man.

    PAT O'HARA WOOD

    This young Australian is one of the greatest doubles players in the world and bids fair to press the leading singles stars close.

    Pat O'Hara Wood is a player without a weakness, yet also one without a strength. He is a typical all court player with no outstanding feature to his game unless it be his volleying. Pat Wood has a natural aptitude for doubles which at times seriously interferes with his singles game.

    His service is a well placed speedy slice that he mixes up well. It is not a great delivery but very effective. His ground strokes, taken on the rising bounces, are flat drives, accurate and varied as to direction but lacking punch. He does not hit hard enough. He is a brilliant volleyer, cutting off at sharp angles the hardest drives. His overhead is erratic. At times he is deadly overhead but is prone to lapses into uncertainty. He is remarkably quick and speedy of foot. His sense of anticipation is magnificent. His generalship good, though not brilliant. It is lack of punch, the inability to put the ball away, that keeps Pat O'Hara Wood from the first flight in singles.

    Clever, blessed with a keen sense of humour, a sterling sportsman and delightful opponent, Pat O'Hara Wood is a big asset to tennis and a man who is needed in the game. J. C. HAWKES

    The youngest of the Australasian players and a boy of great promise is Jack Hawkes. He is only  and young in the game for his age.

    Let me state now I do not approve of Hawkes' style. His footwork is wrong, hopelessly wrong and I fear that unless he corrects it, it may keep him from attaining the place his natural abilities promise. "Austral," the famous critic, describes him as "having the genius of the game."

    Jack Hawkes has an exaggerated American twist service that, since he is a left-hander, places an unnecessary strain on his heart muscles. It carries terrific twist but little speed and does not Pay him for the amount of energy he expends.

    His forehand drive is excellent, fast, deep, and well placed, yet in making this he steps away from the ball, again wasting energy. His backhand is a poke and very unreliable. To save it he runs around everything possible, again causing unnecessary exertion. His volleying is brilliant while his overhead is magnificent.

    Hawkes' waste of energy has cost him many a match, yet for all the inherent defects in his game he is so clever in using what he has, his tactics are so good for so young a player that I believe he will be one of the leading players of the world in a few years. Under the watchful eyes of Norman Brookes I foresee Hawkes changing his footwork to at least a reasonable copy of the old master.

    J. O. ANDERSON This young player is again a promise rather than a star. He is a big, rangy, hard-hitting type like Gerald Patterson. He is crude, at times careless and unfortunately handicapped in  and  by a severe illness that only allowed him to resume play in the middle of the latter year. His ground strokes are flat drives fore and backhand. His forehand is a particularly fine shot. He hits it with a short sharp snap of his arm that imparts great speed and yet hides the direction. His backhand is defensive. His volleying clever, accurate but soft. His overhand severe and reliable. His service flat, fast and dangerous.

    He needs finesse, experience and season, with which he may well become one of the greatest players as the fundamental potentialities are there.

    NORMAN PEACH

    The steady baseline game of England has its exponent in Australia in Norman Peach. He has a beautiful driving game, with adequate but not severe service, that one finds so much in England. At times Peach will advance to the net but his volleying and overhead are secondary to his baseline game. He is not a great tennis player but is certainly one of high standard of play. He is just below the first flight in Australia.

    R. V. Thomas is one of the finest doubles players in the world as is amply attested by his win of the world's title in  with Pat O'Hara Wood and their two successive wins of the Australian Championship in -. Thomas with his hard-hitting off the ground, and his brilliant volleying is a fine foil for Pat Wood's steady accuracy. Just a word about one veteran, a good friend of mine, who is again playing fine tennis, Rodney L. Heath, hero of the famous Davis Cup match in  when he defeated W. A. Larned, is again in the game.

    Heath with his long beautiful groundstrokes, forehand, or backhand, his incisive crisp volleys and fine, generalship based on young experience, is a notable figure in the tennis world.

    The mantle of Wilding and Brookes must fall on the shoulders of a really great player. Who it will be is hard to say at present. No outstanding figure looms on the horizon at the time of writing.

    South Africa

    The  South African Davis Cup team players, following their disastrous defeat by Holland, journeyed to England for the Championship and following tournaments, and I had the opportunity of studying three players of great promise. The remaining two were excellent, but hardly as exceptional as the former.

    Charles Winslow, the leading player in the team, has a remarkable versatile game. He uses a high, bounding service of good speed, which at times he follows to the net. His best ground stroke is a severe chop, not unlike Wallace F. Johnson. He has a good drive both forehand and backhand, which he only uses when pressed or in attempting to pass a net man. He volleys very well, and covers the net quickly. His overhead is very severe, steady, and reliable. He is a fine natural player just below the top flight. He is an excellent strategist, and mixes his shots very well. He has exceptionally fast footwork, and repeatedly runs around his backhand to chop diagonally across the court in a manner very similar to Johnson.

    B. I. C. Norton, the South African champion, a youngster of twenty, is a phenomenal player of extreme brilliancy. He has everything in stroke equipment, drives, slices, volleys, and a fine service and overhead. Unfortunately Norton regards his tennis largely as a joke. His judgment is therefore faulty, and he is apt to loaf on the court. He tries the most impossible shots that sometimes go in; and in the main, his court generalship is none too good. He is an irrepressible boy, and his merry smile and chatter make him a tremendous favourite with the gallery. He has a very strong personality that should carry him a long way.

    Louis Raymond, the left-handed star of the South Africans, has an excellent ground game coupled with a good service and fair volleying and overhead. His game is not remarkable. He is a hard-working, deserving player who attains success by industry rather than natural talent. His judgment is sound and methods of play orthodox, except for a tendency to run around his backhand.

    C. R. Blackbeard, the youngest member of the team, and G. H. Dodd, its captain, are both very excellent players of the second flight. Blackbeard is very young, not yet twenty, and may develop into a star. At present he chops too much, and is very erratic. . . . . . . .

    There are many other players whom I would analyse if I had the time or space; but in these days of paper shortage and ink scarcity, conservation is the keynote of the times.

    Let me turn for a few moments to the women whose fame in the tennis world is the equal of the men I have been analysing.

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