The 1903 tennis season featured players at the pinnacle of their sport competing for titles at Wimbledon and the United States National Championship. Fans in both Britain and America were thrilled to see if the defending champions would once again reign supreme, or if change would be in the air. What would the results of both tournaments be? The results are below.
Wimbledon Gentlemen's Singles
The All Comers' Finals at Wimbledon featured two of the best British tennis players of the time. Major Ritchie had seen his previous attempt at a championship come up just short, but he returned in 1903 to face a new challenger in Frank Riseley. Riseley had found success as a doubles player, and even won the doubles tournament with partner Sydney Smith in 1902 against the Doherty brothers. Both men knew what was at stake, and neither wanted to yield another chance to win a singles title at Wimbledon.
Ritchie started the match off well, dominating the first set and winning by a 6-1 score. He took an early 2-1 lead in the second set, and things were beginning to look grim for Riseley, but the young man refused to surrender. He battled back to win the second set 6-3, then stunned Ritchie by taking the third set after facing set point multiple times.
With Ritchie now reeling from Riseley's play, the two men engaged in a tremendous fourth set. Neither man could gain a lead over the other, and eventually, the two found themselves tied at 11-11. It seemed as if Riseley was beginning to labor, but in the end, he was lulling Ritchie into a false sense of security. Riseley played some of the best tennis of his life, and finished the tremendous match with an emphatic shot that landed just inside the back line to win the set 13-11.
|1903 Wimbledon All Comers' Final|
Waiting for Riseley in the Challenge Round was the defending champion Laurence Doherty. Doherty was well rested, and after defeating his brother to win the championship last year, Doherty was seen as a large favorite over the fatigued Riseley.
At the start of the match, Risely did put up a spirited challenge. He broke the champion's serve in the first set, but Doherty composed himself and eventually struck first, taking the first set by a 7-5 score. The second set featured more solid play from both men, but it was becoming more and more clear that the long march through the All Comers' Tournament was taking it's toll on Riseley. After tying Doherty 3-3 in the second set, Riseley would not win another game in the match. Doherty claimed the second set by a score of 6-3, and then dominated the third set, claiming it, and a second Wimbledon Gentlemen's Title by a score of 6-0. All the exhausted Riseley was able to do at the end was congratulate his opponent for a match well played.
|1903 Wimbledon Challenge Round|
United States National Championship-Men's Singles
After taking the Wimbledon title in 1903, Laurence Doherty decided that the time was right to claim both major tennis championships, and made his way across the Atlantic to compete in the United States National Championship.
Doherty made his way through a talented field of challengers before facing William Clothier in the All Comers' Finals. While Clothier was a talented opponent, he proved to be no match for the Brit, and Doherty found himself preparing for a match against defending champion William Larned in the Challenge Round.
Doherty was confident entering the Challenge Round, however, he was aware of Larned's skill. The American had claimed the title in each of the past two years, and was well rested compared to Doherty. The first set showed that both men were evenly matched. Both Larned and Doherty matched each other volley for volley until Larned's patience began to wear down Doherty. An unforced error by Laurence gave Larned a 6-5 lead in the set, and William claimed the next game to take the first set by a 7-5 score.
The second set was another evenly matched affair that again required more than the standard six points for the winner. Larned and Doherty both were at their very best, but again, the set went to the American, this time by a score of 9-7. Now, facing the reality of losing a championship match, Doherty pushed himself harder than he'd ever needed to before. He broke Larned's serve in the third set and eventually pulled away, winning the third by a 6-4 score.
The fourth set would be another back and forth affair, with neither man giving much ground to the other. At first, it appeared as if Doherty would be able to force a fifth set rather easily, but Larned battled back to take a 6-5 lead. Doherty would tie the set by breaking Larned again, but Larned roared back, breaking Doherty to take a 7-6 lead before claiming his third consecutive United States Championship with a tremendous serve that flew past Doherty. The stunned Englishman could do nothing but congratulate the victor, and it seemed as if a new rivalry may have been born in Rhode Island.
|1903 United States National Championship Challenge Round|
Author's Note: Unfortunately, Time Travel Tennis does not have some of the players needed for Wimbledon in 1903. In order to work around that, I recapped the matches as they happened historically.