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THE ART OF LAWN TENNIS (chapter12)

2006-08-28 21:38

    CHAPTER XII. AMERICA

    WILLIAM M. JOHNSTON

    The American champion is one of the really great orthodox players in the world. There is nothing eccentric, nothing freakish about his game.

    Johnston is a small man, short and light; but by perfect weight-control, footwork, and timing he hits with terrific speed.

    His service is a slice. Hit from the top of his reach Johnston gets power and twist on the ball with little effort. He has a wonderful forehand drive, of a top-spin variety. This shot is world famous, for never in the history of the game has so small a man hit with such terrific speed and accuracy. The racquet travels flat and then over the ball, with a peculiar wrist-snap just as the ball meets the racquet face. The shot travels deep and fast to the baseline.

    Johnston's backhand is a decided "drag" or chop. He hits it with the same face of the racquet as his forehand, and with very little change in grip. It is remarkably steady and accurate, and allows Johnston to follow to the net behind it.

    Johnston's volleying is hard, deep, and usually very reliable. He crouches behind his racquet and volleys directly in to the flight of the ball, hitting down. His low volleys are made with a peculiar wrist-flick that gives the rise and speed. His overhead is accurate, reliable, but not startling in its power. Johnston's game has no real weakness, while his forehand and volleying are superlative.

    Johnston is a remarkable match player. He reaches his greatest game when behind. He is one of the hardest men to beat in the game owing to his utter lack of fear and the dogged determination with which he hangs on when seemingly beaten. He is quiet, modest, and a sterling sportsman. He gets a maximum result with a minimum effort.

    R. N. WILLIAMS R. N. Williams, American Champion  and , another of my Davis Cup team-mates, is a unique personality in the tennis world. Personally, I believe that Williams at his best is the greatest tennis player in the world, past or present. Unfortunately, that best is seldom seen, and then not for a consistent performance. He is always dangerous, and his range of variation is the greatest among any of the leading players.

    Williams' service is generally a fast slice, although he at times uses an American twist. He is erratic in his delivery, scoring many aces, but piling up enormous numbers of double-faults. His ground strokes are made off the rising bound of the ball. They are flat or slightly sliced. Never topped, But sometimes pulled. Williams' margin of safety is so small that unless his shot is perfectly hit it is useless. He hits hard at all times and makes tremendous numbers of earned points, yet his errors always exceed them, except when he strikes one of his "super" days.

    His volleying is very hard, crisp, and decisive, coupled with an occasional stop volley. His use of the half volley is unequalled in modern tennis. His overhead is severe and ordinarily reliable, although he will take serious slumps overhead. He is a past master of his own style strokes, but it is an unorthodox game that should not be copied by the average player.

    He is never willing to alter his game for safety's sake, and defeats himself in sheer defiance by hitting throughout a match when his strokes are not working. He is greatly praised for this unwillingness to alter his game in defeat. Personally, I think he deserves condemnation rather than praise, for it seems recklessness rather than bravery to thus seek defeat that could easily be avoided.

    Williams takes tennis almost too lightly. Cheery, modest, and easygoing, he is very popular with all galleries, as his personality deserves. He is a brilliant ever-interesting light in any tennis gathering, and his game will always show sheer genius of execution even while rousing irritation by his refusal to play safe. He would rather have one super-great day and bad defeats, than no bad defeats without his day of greatness. Who shall say he is not right? We may not now agree, but Williams may yet prove to us he is right and we are wrong.

    CHARLES S. GARLAND

    The last member of the Davis Cup team and youngest player of the Americans is Charles S. Garland, the Yale star.

    Garland is the perfect stylist, the orthodox model for ground strokes. He is an example of what stroke perfection can do. He uses a soft slice service, of no particular peculiarity, yet places it so well that he turns it into an attack. His forehand is hit with a full swing, flat racquet face, and a slight top spin. It is deadly accurate and of moderate speed. He can put the ball at will anywhere in the court off his forehand. His backhand is slightly sliced down the line and pulled flat across the court. It is not a point winner but is an excellent defence. His overhead is steady, reliable, and accurate, but lacks aggressiveness. His high volleying is fine, deep, and fast. His low volleying is weak and uncertain. He anticipates wonderfully, and covers a tremendous amount of court. His attack is rather obvious in that he seldom plays the unusual shot, yet his accuracy is so great that he frequently beats a man who guesses his shot yet can't reach it.

    N. E. Brookes stated he considered Garland one of the greatest ground-stroke players in the world. This is true of his forehand, but his backhand lacks punch. His whole game needs speed and aggressiveness. He is quiet, modest, and extremely popular. His perfect court manner and pleasant smile have made Garland a universal favourite in America and England. His game is the result of hard, conscientious work. There is no genius about it, and little natural talent. It is not an interesting game as it lacks brilliancy, yet it is very sound, and much better than it looks.

    VINCENT RICHARDS

    Vincent Richards, National junior Champion of America and the most remarkable boy playing tennis, is a distinct personality. Richards, who is now only seventeen, won the Men's Doubles Championship of America at the age of fifteen. Richards is a born tennis player and a great tennis genius.

    Richards' service is a fast slice that he follows to the net. It is speedy and very accurate. His ground strokes are both slice and drive, although the basis of his game is slice. He meets the ball on the rise and "spoons" it off his forehand. It is low, fast, but none too sure. His backhand shot is a fast twisting slice that is remarkably effective and very excellent as a defence. He is learning a flat drive.

    His volleying is the great feature of his game. He is the greatest natural volleyer I have ever seen. Low and high volleying, fore- and backhand is perfect in execution. His half volleying is phenomenal. His overhead is very severe for a boy, and carries great speed for so small a person, but it is inclined to be slightly erratic. He is tremendously fast on his feet, but it inclined to be lazy.

    Vincent Richards has the greatest natural aptitude and equipment of any tennis player I have ever seen. Against it he has a temperament that is inclined to carelessness and laziness. He tends to sulkiness, which he is rapidly outgrowing. He is a delightful personality on the court, with his slight figure, tremendous speed, and merry smile. He is a second "Gus" Touchard in looks and style. I hope to see him develop to be the greatest player the world has ever seen. He gives that promise. The matter rests in Richards' hands, as his worst enemy is his temperament.

    At his best he is to-day the equal of the top flight in the world. At his worst he is a child. His average is fine but not great. Travel, work, sincere effort, and a few years, should turn this astonishing boy into a marvellous player.

    R. L. MURRAY The new "California Comet," successor to M. E. M'Loughlin, is the usual sobriquet for R. L. Murray, now of Buffalo. Murray won the National Crown in -.

    His service is of the same cyclonic character as M'Loughlin. Murray is left-handed. He hits a fast cannon-ball delivery of great speed and an American twist of extreme twist. His ground strokes are not good, and he rushes the net at every opportunity. His forehand drive is very fast, excessively topped, and exceedingly erratic. His backhand is a "poke." His footwork is very poor on both shots. He volleys very well, shooting deep to the baseline and very accurately. His shoulder-high volleys are marvellous. His overhead is remarkable for its severity and accuracy. He seldom misses an overhead ball.

    Murray is a terrifically hard worker, and tires himself out very rapidly by prodigious effort. He is a hard fighter and a hard man to beat. He works at an enormous pace throughout the match.

    He is large, spare, rangy, with dynamic energy, and a wonderful personality that holds the gallery. His smile is famous, while his sense of humour never deserts him. A sportsman to his finger-tips, there is no more popular figure in American tennis than Murray. His is not a great game. It is a case of a great athlete making a second-class game first class, by sheer power of personality and fighting ability. He is really a second M'Loughlin in his game, his speed, and his personal charm.

    WATSON WASHBURN

    In contrast to Murray, Watson Washburn plays a cool, never-hurried, never-flurried game that is unique in American tennis.

    There is little that is noteworthy of Washburn's game. His service is a well-placed slice. His ground strokes are a peculiar "wrist-slap," almost a slice. His volleying fair, his overhead steady but not remarkable. Just a good game, well rounded but not unique. Why is. Washburn great? Because, behind the big round glasses that are the main feature of Washburn on the tennis court, is a brain of the first water, directing and developing that all-round game. There is no more brilliant student of men in games than Washburn, and his persistence of attack is second only to Brookes'.

    Washburn, too, is a popular player, but not in the same sense as Murray. Murray appeals to the imagination of the crowd, Washburn to its academic instincts. Washburn is a strategist, working out his match with mathematical exactness, and always checking up his men as he goes along.

    There is no tennis player whose psychology I admire more than Washburn's. He is never beaten until the last point is played, and he is always dangerous, no matter how great a lead you hold over him.

    Another case of the second-class game being made first class, but this time it is done by mental brilliancy.

    WALLACE F. JOHNSON

    Here is another case of a second-class game being used in a first-class manner, getting first-class results through the direction of a first-class tennis brain. Johnson is not the brilliant, analytical mind of Washburn, but for pure tennis genius Johnson ranks nearly the equal of Brookes.

    Johnson is a one-stroke player. He uses a peculiar slice shot hit from the wrist. He uses it in service, ground strokes, volleying, and lobbing. It is a true one-stroke game, yet by sheer audacity of enterprise and wonderful speed of foot Wallace Johnson has for years been one of the leading players of America.

    SAMUEL HARDY

    The overwhelming success of the American Davis Cup team in , when we brought back the cup from Australia was due in no small measure to the wonderful generalship displayed by one man, our Captain Samuel Hardy.

    The hardest part of any such trip is the attention to training, relaxation and accommodations for the team and only perfect judgment can give the comfort so needed by a team. It is to Captain Hardy that the team owes its perfect condition throughout the entire , miles we journeyed after the cup. Yet Captain Hardy's success was far bigger than that, for by his tact, charming personality and splendid sportsmanship at all times he won a place for us in the hearts of every country we visited. Hardy, although a non-playing member of the team, is a great tennis player. He is one of the best doubles players America has produced. His clever generalship and wonderful knowledge of the game proved of inestimable value to the team in laying out our plan of attack in the Davis Cup matches themselves.

    Clever, charming, just and always full of the most delightful humour, Hardy was an ideal Captain who kept his team in the best of spirits no matter how badly we might have been playing or how depressing appeared our outlook.

    CARL FISCHER

    I am including in my analysis of players a boy who is just gaining recognition but who I believe is to be one of the great stars of the future, Carl Fischer of Philadelphia.

    Young Fischer, who is only , is a brilliant, hard hitting left-hander. He has already won the Eastern Pennsylvania Championship, been runner-up to Wallace Johnson in the Pennsylvania State, Philadelphia Championship and Middle States event, besides holding the junior Championship of Pennsylvania for two years. He won the University of Pennsylvania Championship in his freshman year.

    His service is a flat delivery of good speed, at times, verging on the American twist. His ground game carries top spin drives forehand and backhand. His volleying and overhead are severe and powerful but prone to be erratic. Fischer is an all court player of the most modern type. He is aggressive, almost too much so at times as he wastes a great deal of energy by useless rushing. He needs steadiness and a willingness to await his opening but gives promise of rounding into a first class player, as his stroke equipment is second to none.

    MARSHALL ALLEN

    Far out in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle, Washington, is a young player who bids fair to some day be world famous. It is quite possible he may never arrive at all.

    Marshall Allen is a typical Western player. Allen has a hurricane service that is none too reliable. His forehand drive is reminiscent of McLoughlin. It is a furious murderous attack when it goes in and quite useless when it is off. Allen's backhand is a flat drive played to either side with equal ease. At present it is erratic but shows great promise. Allen volleys at times brilliantly, but is uncertain and at times misses unaccountably. His overhead is remarkably brilliant and severe, but also erratic. He reaches great heights and sinks to awful depths. If Marshall Allen consolidates his game and refines the material he has at hand he should be a marvellous player. If he allows his love of speed to run away with his judgment at the expense of accuracy and steadiness he will never rise above the second class. Time will tell the story. I look to see him world famous.

    OUR RISING JUNIORS

    For a moment I am going to pay tribute to some boys who I look to see among the stars of the future. They are all juniors less than eighteen at the time of writing.

    First in importance comes Arnold W. Jones, of Providence, R. I., who accompanied me to France and England in , where he made a fine record. Young Jones has a splendid all-court game, with a remarkable forehand drive but a tendency to weariness in his backhand and service. His volleying is excellent. His overhead erratic.

    Second to Jones I place Charles Watson III of Philadelphia. Here is a boy with a most remarkable resemblance to Chuck Garland in style of his game. Watson has a fine service, beautiful ground strokes fore and backhand and a more aggressive volley than Garland. His overhead lacks punch. He is the cleverest court general among the juniors.

    Phillip Bettens of San Francisco is a possible successor to Billy Johnston. Bettens has a terrific forehand drive and a rushing net attack. He needs to steady up his game, but he is a player of great promise.

    Armand Marion of Seattle, Washington, is another boy with a finely rounded game who, given experience and seasoning, bids fair to become a great star. Marion does not have enough punch yet and, needs to gain decisiveness of attack.

    Charles Wood of New York, W. W. Ingraham of Providence, Milo Miller and Eric Wood of Philadelphia, John Howard of Baltimore, and others are of equal class and of nearly equal promise to the boys I have mentioned.

    In the younger class of boys those under , one finds many youngsters already forming real style. The boy who shows the greatest promise and today the best all-round game, equalling in potential power even Vincent Richards at the same age, is Alexander L. (Sandy) Wiener of Philadelphia. At fourteen young Weiner is a stylist of the highest all-court type.

    Among the other boys who may well develop into stars in the future are Meredith W. Jones, Arthur Ingraham, Jr., Andrew Clarke Ingraham, Miles Valentine, Raymond Owen, Richard Chase, Neil Sullivan, Henry Neer, and Edward Murphy.

    There are many other great players I would like to analyse, but space forbids. Among our leaders are Roland Roberts, John Strachan, C. J. Griffin, Davis, and Robert Kinsey in California; Walter T. Hayes, Ralph Burdock, and Heath Byford in the Middle West; Howard Voshell, Harold Throckmorton, Conrad B. Doyle, Craig Biddle, Richard Harte, Colket Caner, Nathaniel W. Niles, H. C. Johnson, Dean Mathey, and many others of equal fame in the East.

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