When it comes to worldwide reach and scope, few sports hold a candle to tennis. To celebrate all that makes tennis so rich and deep, Tennis Channel kicks off "TenniScope." Authored by Tennis Channel writer Joel Drucker, these short pieces describe many of the fabulous moments and places, people and products that have added sparkle and passion to our sport.
Davis Cup: How it all started
By Joel Drucker
Tennis, such a lonely sport. No teammates, no shared joy, no shared pain. Autonomy makes tennis players extremely self-reliant - but also, at times , quite isolated.
But there are those occasions when players join forces. At the grassroots level, league play has been a dynamic source of growth. And among prosno form of collaboration is more powerful than the team event created by one Dwight Davis.
Davis grew up in St. Louis, a lefthander who was the son of the wealthiest man in Missouri. In the spring of 1899, he was a Harvard undergraduate. Together with his fellow students Malcolm Whitman and Holcombe Ward, along with an incoming freshman named Beals Wright, the quartet conducted a tennis tour through North America. As Davis and his cohorts trekked across the continent, an idea bubbled in his head: Why not conduct an international team competition?
Upon returning to Boston, Davis headed to the city's preeminent jeweler. Located on the corner of Tremont and West, the Shreve, Crump Low Company was expert at everything bigh society demanded - from teapots to brooches.
Rowland Rhodes had created award-winning silverware for Grover Cleveland's White House. So it was that Rhodes made a glittering trophy 13 inches high and 18 inches across the top and soon dubbed Dwight's Little Pot. It didn't come cheap -- $1,000. The trophy now sits atop a large plinth that carries the names of the winning nations on silver plaques.
But more importantly was the matter of the tennis. The British - who after all, had invented tennis and brought it to North America - were the natural first opponents. The trio from England spent 18 days at sea to reach Boston. The British team starred Arthur Gore, Wimbledon champion of the previous year, Herbert Roper Barrett, a 26-year-old London lawyer, and Earnest Black, a 27-year-old Scot. The setting - the venerable Longwood Cricket Club. Play commenced on Aug. 7, 1900, just after 2 p.m.
Heavily paced by Davis' wicked lefty serve, the U.S. won the first matches and would retain the Cup until 1903.
Best of all, a keen idea had become a grand event. Within a decade, other nations such as Canada, Belgium, France and, of course, Australia (or Australasia as it was then known) truly made this an international competition - a supreme showcase of tennis skill, coupled with the added bonus of team camaraderie.
Well into the 20th century, Davis Cup was tennis' premier event - the form of competition any aspiring player aimed to play, cherished even more than the likes of Wimbledon and Forest Hills. In fact, it's a little known fact that the very creation of the Grand Slam - a calendar-year sweep of the four major titles - was inspired by Davis Cup. At the end of 1937, American Don Budge was the world's best player. He wondered if he could do even more. What if, he thought, I could win the national titles of the four nations (the only four nations) that have won the Davis Cup? These nations, of course, were Australia, France, Great Britain and the United States. Such a sweep, Budge calculated, would comprise a Grand Slam.” This was quite an ambitious plan. That he accomplished it is one of tennis' most spectacular achievements. But that's another story.
_______________________________________The author is indebted to the following books:
The Davis Cup, by Richard Evans
The Story of the Davis Cup, by Alan Trengrove
Joel Drucker has been part of Tennis Channel since the network first hit the airwaves in 2003, most notably as co-producer and writer of "Center Court," as well as working for Tennis Channel at many tournaments as an analyst and writer and since 2006 authoring this website's "Roving Player" column.
Drucker is one of the world's preeminent tennis historians, having authored dozens of articles on every generation of the game's leading players - from past stars Don Budge and Jack Kramer to contemporary greats Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer. Along with Tennis Channel colleagues Bud Collins and Steve Flink, Drucker is one of three American writers on the International Tennis Hall of Fame Enshrinee Committee - the group that each year builds the ballot for the worldwide panel of voters. Drucker's first book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, is considered by Sports Illustrated to be one of five "must-read" tennis books.
Read all the Tenniscope columns:
Happy Birthday, Ken Rosewall | Davis Cup: How it all started | Mixing It Up In Mixed Doubles | Aussies Set The Tennis Code | The Royal Reign of Margaret Court | Reflections on Michael Chang | Let's Take it Inside | Warm-Up Suits | Death of a Player | A Tale of Two Backhands | Court Management | Movie Review | Racquet Racket | Sampras: Book Review