Tennis - A Cultural History (2nd edition) - Heiner Gillmeister

Tennis - A Cultural History (2nd edition) - Heiner Gillmeister

Lawn Tennis in America

Tennis - A Cultural History (2nd edition) - Heiner Gillmeister

Heiner Gillmeister [+-]
University of Bonn, retired
Heiner Gillmeister is retired Chaucerian and linguistics scholar of the University of Bonn and a world authority on the history of ball games. That is why he was invited also to teach sports history at the German Sports University, Cologne. His theory that Association Football has its roots in Renaissance Italy and that golf and even cricket originated on the European continent has created an international stir. The German academic is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Oxford English Dictionary and to leading German newspapers such as Die Welt and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.


Lawn tennis was first played in the United States in August 1874 by Fred R. Sears and Dr James Dwight on the premises of William Appleton at Nahant, a place near Boston. Their pioneering act has been cast in doubt and a certain Mary Ewing Outerbridge has been credited with it. However, the claim of her having brought with her a tennis set from Bermuda as early as February 1874 on closer inspection does not hold water. Strangely enough and despite these beginnings, the first lawn tennis club of the country was not established in New England but in the south where the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club was founded by English cotton merchants on 15 December 1876. The first tournament in the New World was staged on the courts of the New York Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club. It was won by Otway Edward Woodhouse, an outstanding English player who happened to be in the States on a business trip. A squabble over the quality of the balls provided by the tournament committee and other nuisances and involving again Fred R. Sears and Dr James Dwight led to the founding of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA) at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York on 21 May 1881. Sears and Dwight, improving their game by frequent visits to England, in the years to come not only reaped US championships - Sears became seven consecutive-times US champion and record holder to date, but also held the office of presidents of the USLTA. The idea of a challenge match between the leading tennis nations Great Britain and the United States was born in the States and went back to the late 1870s, but materialized at the turn of the century only and after Dwight D.F. Davis, a millionaire’s son from St Louis, had offered the victor a precious Cup. The first Davis Cup match was contended at the Longwood Avenue LTC of Boston and won by the United States. The English had been compelled to send their second best because their tennis heroes, the unparalleled Doherty brothers, had been unable to compete and their makeshift team could not manage the country’s odd playing conditions. After the return match was called off in 1901 and another ignominious defeat in the year following the English took their revenge in 1903 due to the efforts of the reinvigorated Dohertys and because the Yankees had picked the wrong players.

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Gillmeister, Heiner. Lawn Tennis in America. Tennis - A Cultural History (2nd edition). Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 249-265 Feb 2017. ISBN 9781781795217. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30660. Feb 2017

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