The Forgotten Era of Tennis:
Until the late 1960s professional tennis players were banned from competing in the world's major tournaments. Professional players were forced into a traveling circus playing each other in long and often tatty tours that took them all over the world.
My book, The Pros: The Forgotten Era of Tennis (Click Here), tells this story through the lives and careers of eight champions who dominated these tours.
In these exclusive excerpts for Tennisplayer, I tell the stories of the first and last of these champions, Bill Tilden and Rod Laver, starting in this first article about Tilden's amateur career.
A Stumbling Apprenticeship
Bill Tilden was far from a prodigy. Born into money in Philadelphia, he had started tennis at high school and continued playing a little at university--there, says biographer Frank Deford, he wasn't good enough for the "very ordinary" university team. Following a couple of desultory years - coincident with a series of family traumas to be explored in future articles--he began playing the local East Coast tennis circuit to fill in time.
Then came a crucial turning point. Overnight, tennis became his life. By now, aged 22, in what appeared an inexplicable about-face, he was entering `"every rinky-dink tournament that would have him." And began playing every day. To mark this metamorphosis, he changed his name. Christened William Tatem Tilden Junior, he became William Tatem Tilden 2nd.