Tuesday, March 31, 2020

1901 Tennis Championships

As the summer months come to a close, tennis fans in both England and the United States have been privileged to watch world class demonstrations of skill, strength and endurance.  The Wimbledon Gentlemen's Final matched the defending champion against a challenger looking for his first title, while the United States National Championships featured a record breaking championship match.  The results to both tournaments are below.

Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles

At Wimbledon, the All Comers' Finals saw 1899 singles runner-up Arthur Gore face off against Charles Dixon, who was making his first appearance in a final round at Wimbledon.  The odds seemed to be in Gore's favor, and early in the match, it appeared as if Gore would be on his way to a second chance at Reginald Doherty, the defending champion.  Gore had control throughout the first set, and despite a solid challenge from Dixon, Gore was able to close out the first set by a score of 7-5.

Dixon came out more determined in the second set, taking the first two games before Gore was able to get his footing back.  However, Dixon held control throughout the second set and evened the match up with a 6-4 set victory.  The two competitors held serve throughout the all important third set, until Dixon was able to break Gore's serve with the set tied at five games a piece.  Now leading 6-5, Dixon had momentum on his side, and outpointed a shattered looking Gore 40-15 to finish the third set.

Now just one set away from his first Wimbledon Finals, Charles Dixon pushed Arthur Gore back as he took a 5-3 lead in the fourth set.  Gore fought back to take the next game, and had Dixon facing a 40-30 deficit in the following game, but Dixon's strong forehand shot pushed the game to Deuce, and Dixon never looked back.  The next two points went Dixon's way, and with a 6-4 fourth set victory, he moved on to face Reginald Doherty in the Challenge Round.

1901 Wimbledon All Comer's Final
Waiting for Charles Dixon in the Challenge Round was Reginald Doherty.  Doherty was seen as the premiere tennis professional in England, and had won the previous four Wimbledon championships, so if anyone could stop Dixon after his impressive victory against Arthur Gore, it was Doherty.

The momentum that Dixon had following his All Comer's Final victory seemed to carry over into the first set against Doherty, as the challenger took the first set with surprising ease.  His 6-2 victory seemed to shock Doherty, and he returned to the court for the second set with a fire in his eyes.  However, Dixon was just as strong as he was in the first set, and neither competitor was able to break the other's serve.  Eventually, Doherty was able to break Dixon and take an 11-10 lead.  Dixon looked both mentally and physically exhausted following the breaking of his serve, and he dropped the subsequent game, and set to Doherty by a 12-10 score.

Doherty was able to keep his positive movement throughout the third set, and he gained further control of the match with a 6-3 victory.  The fourth set was a back and forth affair, and with the score tied at 5-5, Doherty was able to break Dixon's serve again to take a 6-5 lead.  This time, the breaking of his serve appeared to break Dixon.  Doherty was able to take the next four games to win the set, match and championship.  For the fifth year in a row, Reginald Doherty was the champion at Wimbledon.

1901 Wimbledon Challenge Round

Reginald Doherty, the 1901 Wimbledon Gentlemen's champion

United States National Championship-Men's Singles

Following his four set victory over Beals Wright, William Larned earned a rematch against Malcolm Whitman, the man who defeated him for the United States title last year.  At just 24 years old, Whitman already appeared to be the top performer in the United States tennis world, but Larned had learned from their finals duel from the prior year, and was hoping to earn his first U.S. National Championship.

The first set of the championship match went the way of the previous year, as Whitman's aggressive attack kept Larned off balance.  The defending champion took the first set 6-2, but little did either competitor know that they were about to begin a historic three sets that would rewrite the tennis record books.

The second set began innocently enough, as both Whitman and Larned held serve through the first 19 games.  Larned was able to take a 10-9 lead, and was finally able to break Whitman to take the second set 11-9.  History was made in the third set, as the two champions battled back and forth for two and a half grueling hours.  Whitman saved himself from defeat several times, but eventually, after 40 amazingly difficult games, he found himself on the losing end of the longest single game in United States National Championship history.  the 21-19 score gave Larned a 2-1 set lead, and with the sun coming down, play was suspended for the night, with an agreement to begin the fourth set at noon the following day.

Both competitors appeared to still be feeling the effects of their marathon third set from the previous day as the fourth set began on Friday afternoon.  Much like the previous day, neither man could break the other's serve very easily, until eventually, Larned took a 10-9 lead.  Whitman, who seemed a step slower than his older counterpart, finally wavered and a double fault put Larned up 40-15, and gave him championship point.  His return volley sailed past Whitman's racket and ended the longest match in U.S. National Championship history.  Larned dropped to his knees in elation and exhaustion to celebrate his 2-6, 11-9, 21-19, 11-9 victory.

1901 United States National Championship Finals.  The 5 hour, 51 minute match time was the longest in tennis history.

William Larned, the 1901 United States National Champion

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