Saturday, April 11, 2020

1902 Tennis Championships

After the thrilling conclusions to both Wimbledon and the United States National Championships last year, tennis fans the world over were excited to see what thrills the tournaments would provide this year.  In England, the Challenge Round would be the location for a match-up between two of the finest siblings to ever play the game, while in America, fans were treated to a rematch of one of the best matches in tennis history.

Who would take the honors and the championships this year?  The results are below.

Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles

The All Comers' Finals at Wimbledon featured last year's All Comers' runner up, Arthur Gore, against the brother of the defending champion, Laurence Doherty.  After coming up just short against Charles Dixon last year, Gore was even more determined to claim the All Comers' crown in 1902, while Doherty was poised to show the masses at the All England Club that he was more than just Reginald Doherty's younger brother.

The opening set was a true back and forth affair that tested the mettle of both men.  Gore and Doherty exchanged volley after volley, with neither man able to distance themselves from the other.  Several times, it appeared that Gore would be able to finish off the younger Doherty, but Laurence fought back and finally took an 11-10 lead over an hour into the first set.  With both men exhausted from the back and forth affair, Doherty was able to close out the first set, 12-10.

It appeared as if dropping the first set took the wind out of Gore's sails entirely.  Both men appeared tired in the second set, but Doherty remained in control and closed out a 6-4 win to take a 2-0 set advantage.  The third set swing in Doherty's favor even more.  The young Brit took a 3-1 lead and never looked back, closing out Gore by a score of 6-2 in the final set.  His 12-10, 6-4, 6-2 win elated the crowd and gave Laurence the opportunity to face older brother Reginald in the Challenge Round.  The victor would earn the title of Wimbledon Gentlemen's champion for 1902.   

1902 Wimbledon All Comers' Final
Sibling rivalry aside, the Challenge Round match between Reginald and Laurence Doherty was expected to be one of the best in recent memory.  The two brothers were considered to each be at the pinnacle of their skills, and with Reg's run of success at Wimbledon, there were many in the crowd that believed the only man that could unseat him was his own brother.  The stands were filled to capacity on Wednesday, July 2, to see which brother would reign supreme.

The momentum that Laurence had after defeating Arthur Gore was evident from the start of the match.  Laurence broke Reg's serve in the first game, and dominated the opening set, winning by a score of 6-1.  The second set was closer, as Reg was able to find a few openings in his brother's attack, but Laurence stayed on the offensive and closed to within a single set of his first Wimbledon title with a 6-3 win.  The third set was more of the same from the younger Doherty.  Laurence controlled the pace of the set and kept his older brother off balance yet again.  After dropping the first game, Laurence rattled off five wins in a row.  Reg refused to go down without a fight, however, and claimed the next game before Laurence took control once again.  As Reg's attempt to return Laurence's backhand down the line failed, the younger Doherty dropped to his knees in joy.  Reginald's five year run at the top of the All England club had come to an end in dramatic fashion by the hands of his own brother.

1902 Wimbledon Challenge Round

Laurence Doherty, winner of the 1902 Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles Tournament

United States National Championship-Men's Singles

After his defeat at the hands of his brother, Reginald Doherty made his way across the Atlantic for a chance at the United States National Championship.  His road to the title had led him to a match in the All Comers' Final against Malcolm Whitman, the man who was felled by William Larned in the championship match the prior year.  Both men had experienced championship glory before, and both wanted another chance to regain that feeling.  A match against William Larned in the Challenge Round awaited the winner.

From the start of the match, it was clear that these two men were evenly matched.  The first set was a true back and forth affair, with the two gentlemen deadlocked at four games apiece before Whitman was able to separate himself from Doherty.  A win in the ninth game provided Whitman with an opportunity to take the first set, and he would not waste his chance.  Whitman broke Doherty's serve and took the opening set by a score of 6-4.  Whitman's momentum carried over into the second set, and he raced out to a 5-2 lead before claiming a 6-3 second set victory.

In the third set, Doherty once again appeared to be outclassed by the younger American.  Reg was able to knot up the set at three games each, but from there, Malcolm Whitman would not be denied.  Whitman took three of the next four games to claim the third set by a score of 6-4.  His straight set victory over Reginald Doherty gave Whitman the All Comers' Title, but he wanted more than that.  His rematch with William Larned for the US National Championship was all he could think about.

1902 United States National Championship All Comers' Final

In the Challenge Round of last year's US National Championship, William Larned and Malcolm Whitman faced off in the longest tennis match in history.  When Larned emerged victorious, Whitman pledged to face him again, and, with a victory over Reginald Doherty, he earned that opportunity.  Larned was rested and ready to defend his title, and tennis fans the world over waited with baited breath to see who would take the crown this year.

Just as he had the year prior, Malcolm Whitman jumped out to an early start.  he was able to take a 4-3 lead in the opening set, and appeared to be on his way to a 5-3 lead when he suddenly lost control of his serve.  Back to back double faults tied the set, and with momentum now on his side, William Larned stormed ahead.  The defending champion took the next two games, and with it, the opening set by a score of 6-4.  The second set evoked memories of their epic match from 1901, as the two men went back and forth against each other for 60 minutes.  At one critical moment, Whitman had Larned down 5-4 and facing set point, but Larned refused to be defeated.  The crafty champion battled back and tied the set both at 5-5 and 6-6 before pushing ahead of Whitman.  Larned took the next two games easily and with them, he held a commanding 2-0 set lead in the match.

The third set showcased back and forth action yet again, with neither man seemingly able to gain much ground from the other.  The two men were tied at three games each when Larned was able to break Whitman's serve.  The shift in momentum allowed Larned to take the subsequent game as well, putting him up 5-3.  Whitman did not go away easily, however.  He took the next game, and was in position to break Larned and tie the set before the champion struck.  Larned struck consecutive backhand winners past Whitman, and when Whitman's return on the next volley went long, William Larned was able to claim his second straight US National Championship.

1902 United States National Championship Challenge Round Results

William Larned, shortly after winning the 1902 United States National Championship

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