Major professional tennis tournaments before the Open Era

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Before the advent of the Open era of tennis competitions in April 1968, only amateurs were allowed to compete in established tournaments, including the four Majors. There was no prize money and players were compensated for travel expenses only. However many top tennis players turned professional to play legally for prize money in the years before the open era. They played in separate professional events, mostly on tours involving head-to-head competition, but also in professional tournaments as the biggest events on the pro tour.[1] Professional tournaments, in particular the professional Majors, usually only had a men's draw.

Professional Majors[edit]

In addition to the head-to-head tours, there were also major pro events, where the world's top professional male players often played. These tournaments held with a certain tradition and longevity. According to Ellsworth Vines, "the Wembley tournament in London..., the U.S. professional championship, and to some extent the tournament in Paris were the major professional tournaments prior to 1968."[2]

The oldest of these three Professional Majors,[3] or "Pro Slams",[4][5] was the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships, played at a variety of different venues and on a variety of different surfaces, between 1927 and 1999. The Wembley Championship, played between 1934 and 1990 at the Wembley Arena in the United Kingdom, was played on a wood surface through 1967. The third professional major was the French Pro Championship, where between 1930 and 1968 it was played on both clay and wood courts.

Jack Kramer designated the four major professional tournaments for the 1958/1959 seasons as follows; Forest Hills, Kooyong, L.A. Masters, Sydney.[6]

U.S. Pro Tennis Championships[edit]

The U.S. Pro Tennis Championship, also known as the US Pro, was an annual tournament, later known as MFS Pro Championships. It was first organized by player Vinnie Richards when promoter C. C. Pyle withdrew interest in the project. It was first played on the Notlek courts located at 119th Street and Riverside Drive, Manhattan. The tournament was held at various locations in several states until 1964, when it moved to the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.[1]

French Pro Championship[edit]

The French Pro Championship was first held in 1930, held by the "Association Française des Professeurs de Tennis (AFPT)", entitled "Championnat International de France Professionnel" (French Pro Championships) on June 18–22, 1930.[7] From 1930 the French Pro Championship was always played at Paris, on outdoor clay at Roland Garros except from 1963 to 1967 where it was held at Stade Pierre de Coubertin on indoor wood.

Wembley Championship[edit]

The Wembley Championship, also known as the Wembley Pro, was held at the Wembley Arena, in London. This professional event ran from 1934 to 1967 and was originally played on a wood surface placed over the top of a drained pool. It was officially known as the "London Indoor Professional Championships" from 1951 through 1967.[8]

List of Professional Majors champions[edit]

Year US Pro Wembley Pro French Pro
1927 United States Vinnie Richards no competition no competition
1928 United States Vinnie Richards no competition no competition
1929 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh no competition no competition
1930 United States Vinnie Richards no competition Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh
1931 United States Bill Tilden no competition France Martin Plaa
1932 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh no competition France Robert Ramillon
1933 United States Vinnie Richards no competition no competition
1934 Germany Hans Nüsslein United States Ellsworth Vines United States Bill Tilden
1935 United States Bill Tilden United States Ellsworth Vines United States Ellsworth Vines
1936 United States Joe Whalen no competition[a] France Henri Cochet
1937 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh[b] Germany Hans Nüsslein Germany Hans Nüsslein
1938 United Kingdom Fred Perry no competition[a] Germany Hans Nüsslein
1939 United States Ellsworth Vines United States Don Budge United States Don Budge
1940 United States Don Budge no competition no competition
1941 United Kingdom Fred Perry no competition no competition
1942 United States Don Budge no competition no competition
1943 United States Bruce Barnes no competition no competition
1944 no competition no competition no competition
1945 United States Welby Van Horn no competition no competition
1946 United States Bobby Riggs no competition no competition
1947 United States Bobby Riggs no competition no competition
1948 United States Jack Kramer no competition no competition
1949 United States Bobby Riggs United States Jack Kramer no competition
1950 Ecuador Pancho Segura United States Pancho Gonzales no competition[c]
1951[d] Ecuador Pancho Segura United States Pancho Gonzales no competition
1952 Ecuador Pancho Segura United States Pancho Gonzales no competition
1953 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Frank Sedgman no competition[c]
1954 United States Pancho Gonzales no competition no competition
1955 United States Pancho Gonzales no competition no competition
1956 United States Pancho Gonzales United States Pancho Gonzales United States Tony Trabert
1957 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Ken Rosewall no competition
1958 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Frank Sedgman Australia Ken Rosewall
1959 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Mal Anderson United States Tony Trabert
1960 Peru Alex Olmedo Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Ken Rosewall
1961 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Ken Rosewall
1962 United States Butch Buchholz Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Ken Rosewall
1963 Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Ken Rosewall
1964 Australia Rod Laver Australia Rod Laver Australia Ken Rosewall
1965 Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Rod Laver Australia Ken Rosewall
1966 Australia Rod Laver Australia Rod Laver Australia Ken Rosewall
1967 Australia Rod Laver Australia Rod Laver Australia Rod Laver

Notes:

  1. ^ a b The Wembley Championships of 1936 and 1938 did not take place. The London Daily Mail of August 24th 1936 contained an article stating that the 1936 Wembley event would not take place due to Tilden and Vines being unavailable. Ray Bowers, in his History of professional tennis, says that 1936 and 1938 Wembley tournaments never occurred and offers substantiating evidence for his assertion.[9][10]
  2. ^ The 1937 US Pro was the first pro event open to amateur players and is considered as both the U.S. Pro Tennis Championship and first "true" U.S. Open event.
  3. ^ a b The status of 1953 "French Pro" is unclear. Joe McCauley included this tournament in his list of French Pro tournaments but he prefaced in his book "History of Professional Tennis" that it may not have been considered at the time as an official French Pro. Same for the 1950 "French Pro" that was held in the same location as the 1953 tournament listed, different from the regular location at the Roland Garros.[11]
  4. ^ The championship events from 1951–1962, were billed as the International Pro or World Pro Championship. In 1951, a U.S. Pro was held at Forest Hills authorized by the USPLTA, and an International Pro was held at Cleveland. There was no USPLTA U. S. Pro event held in 1952 or 1953, but the International Pro was held at Cleveland in those years and was regarded as the U. S. Pro.[12][13][14][15][16] In 1954, the USPLTA authorized Kramer to hold the U.S. Pro at L.A. Tennis Club in Los Angeles (this was the successor tournament to the 1951 U.S. Pro at Forest Hills and Segura was the defending champion).[17] The International Pro and World Pro events at Cleveland from 1951-62 were not authorized by the USPLTA to be the U.S. Pro, and were not billed as such.[18] The USPLTA were an organisation of teaching professionals and the touring professionals did enter U. S. Pro events in this period.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26] In some interviews in the 1950s, Gonzales and Segura referred to the Cleveland World Pro as "the National" or the "U. S. National Professional Championships".[27] There were many newspaper and magazine articles in the 1950s that also referred to Cleveland events as U. S. Pro.[28][20][29][30][31][32][33][34]

Other important tournaments[edit]

The Championships at Wimbledon, the U.S. Championships, the French Championships, and the Australian Championships were typically the top events, where amateur players could compete for the title, albeit without prize money. Since the professional circuit was less organized and somewhat less popular than the amateur circuit, the professional events hierarchy changed each year. In 1934 the US Pro was a high-class tournament with all top ranked pro players whereas in 1936 it was a meeting between pro teachers without any leading pro players. A tournament could even be canceled at any time due to poor attendance.

Consequently, for a given year a pro tournament was important when it attracted the best pro players and then another year this same tournament could be a second-rank tournament because few or no leading players came. Before the open era in addition to numerous small tournaments and head-to-head tours between the leading professionals, there were some major tournaments which stood out at different periods. Some survived sporadically because of financial collapses while others temporarily rose to the highest levels of competition when other tournaments weren't held. These include:

Bristol Cup: 1920–1932[edit]

Sometimes labelled "Professional Championships of France" this tournament was held on the French Riviera at Menton, at Cannes.

List of Bristol Cup winners:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1920 Monaco Romeo Acquarone France Joseph Negro 3–6, 7–5, 5–7, 6–2, 6–3[35]
1921 United Kingdom John C. S. Rendall United Kingdom A. Page 6–3, 6–4, 4–6, 7–5[36]
1922 United Kingdom John C. S. Rendall France Joseph Negro 6–1, 0–6, 6–4, 6–2 (or 6–1, 0–6, 6–4, 6–1)
1923 United Kingdom John C. S. Rendall France Joseph Negro 6–2, 6–3, 7–5
1924 Republic of Ireland Albert Burke Germany Roman Najuch 7–5, 1–6, 6–4, 6–1
1925 Republic of Ireland Albert Burke Germany Roman Najuch 0–6, 4–6, 6–4, 6–4, 6–1
1926 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh Republic of Ireland Albert Burke 3–6, 6–1, 6–2, 6–0
1927 Not held
1928 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh Germany Roman Najuch 6–3, 6–2, 6–4
1929 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh Republic of Ireland Albert Burke 6–3, 6–1, 6–0
1930 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh Germany Roman Najuch 6–3, 6–3, 6–4 (or 6–3, 6–4, 6–4)
1931 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh Republic of Ireland Albert Burke 6–3, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4
1932 Czechoslovakia Karel Koželuh France Martin Plaa 6–1, 6–4, 1–6, 6–0

Professional Championship of the World: 1927–1928[edit]

This event was held in October on Clay courts, at the Queen's Club in London. In 1928 Myers of the Daily Telegraph wrote that "this was the best pro tournament ever held in England."

List of Queen's Club Pro winners:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1927 United Kingdom Dan Maskell United Kingdom Charles R Read 6–3, 6–3, 6–4
1928 France Robert Ramillon Republic of Ireland Edmund Burke 6–1, 6–3, 5–7, 6–4

World Pro Championship: 1932–1933[edit]

The World Pro Championship were held in 1932 and 1933 in Berlin at the Rot-Weiss club, on clay. It had a very large participation (over 80 players). According to Ray Bowers in the History of the Pro Tennis Wars Chapter IV (cited lower down), this tournament at the time was regarded as the most prestigious professional tournament in the world.

List of World Pro winners:

Year Champion Runner-up
1932 France Martin Plaa United States Bill Tilden
1933 Nazi Germany Hans Nüsslein United States Bill Tilden

Bonnardel Cup: 1935–1937[edit]

This was a team tournament created by Bill Tilden and modeled on the Davis Cup format. In 1935, early rounds in France were hoped to be played at Roland Garros, but the French Tennis Association would not allow the event to be played at the stadium.[37]

Year Champions
1935 France France
1936 United States United States
1937 France France

International Pro Championship of Britain: 1935–1939[edit]

The International Pro Championship of Britain (also known as the Southport Pro, as well as the Southport Dunlop Cup for sponsorship purposes) was a professional tennis tournament held at Victoria Park in Southport between 1935 and 1939. It was open to professional players only, amateurs were not allowed to compete. The tournament was held on outdoor En-tout-cas, "all-weather" artificial clay.

List of International Pro Championship of Britain winners:

Singles
Year Champion Runner-up Score
1935 United States Ellsworth Vines United States Bill Tilden 6–1, 6–8, 4–6, 6–2, 6–2 [38]
1936 Nazi Germany Hans Nüsslein France Henri Cochet (Round Robin) [39]
1937 Nazi Germany Hans Nüsslein France Robert Ramillon 6–4, 6–3, 2–6, 6–4 [40]
1938 Nazi Germany Hans Nüsslein United States Bill Tilden (Round Robin) [41]
1939 Nazi Germany Hans Nüsslein United States Bill Tilden 6–2, 7–5, 6–4 [42]
Doubles
Year Champions Runners-up Score
1935 United States Bill Tilden
United States Ellsworth Vines
France Martin Plaa
France Robert Ramillon
7–5, 6–8, 5–7, 6–1, 6–3
1936 France Henri Cochet
France Robert Ramillon
United States Lester Stoefen
United States Bill Tilden
(Round Robin)
1937 United States Lester Stoefen
United States Bill Tilden
France Martin Plaa
France Robert Ramillon
8–6, 17–15, 8–6
1939 United States Don Budge
United States Ellsworth Vines
United States Lester Stoefen
United States Bill Tilden
6–2, 7–9, 7–5, 8–6

U.S Pro Hard Courts: 1945–1946[edit]

In LA; the only significant pro tournament of the last year of World War II.

Year Champion
1945 United States Bobby Riggs
1946 United States Bobby Riggs

Philadelphia Indoor Pro: 1950–1952[edit]

Year Champion
1950 United States Pancho Gonzales
1951 United States Jack Kramer
1952 United States Pancho Gonzales

Australian Pro: 1954–1958[edit]


List of Australian Pro winners:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1954 [43] Australia Frank Sedgman Ecuador Pancho Segura 5–7, 6–3, 6–4 [44]
1958 Australia Frank Sedgman United States Tony Trabert

Tournament of Champions: 1957–1959[edit]

The Tournament of Champions was a professional tennis tournament between 1957 and 1959. The tournament was held on the grass-courts of Forest Hills, New York, between 1957 and 1959, and an Australian version of the Tournament of Champions was held on grass at White City, Sydney in 1957 and 1959, and at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne in 1958. The 1957 and 1958 Forest Hills tournaments had a round robin format, while the 1959 Forest Hills was an elimination tournament with 10 players. The Sydney version was an elimination event, while the 1958 Kooyong event was a round robin format.

The Forest Hills Tournament of Champions was broadcast nationally in the U.S.A. on the CBS television network, the only professional tennis tournament in the U.S.A. to achieve this status.

The 1958 Kooyong Tournament of Champions was the richest tournament of the era, with a prize money of 10,000 Australian pounds (US$24,000).

In 1968, the tournament was picked up again for a one off tournament during the open era and called Jack Kramer's Tournament of Champions held at Wembley Arena.

List of Tournament of Champions winners:

Forest Hills
Year Champion Runner-up Score
1957 United States Pancho Gonzales [45] Australia Frank Sedgman (Round Robin)
1958 United States Pancho Gonzales [46] Australia Ken Rosewall (Round Robin)
1959 Australia Lew Hoad [47] United States Pancho Gonzales 6–1, 5–7, 6–2, 6–1
Sydney White City and Melbourne Kooyong
Year Champion Runner-up Score
1957 Ecuador Pancho Segura Australia Frank Sedgman 7–5, 6–0, 6–4
1958 Australia Lew Hoad [48] Australia Frank Sedgman (Round Robin)
1959 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Lew Hoad 11–9, 6–1, 6–1
London
Year Champion Runner-up Score
1968 Australia Ken Rosewall Australia John Newcombe 6–4, 4–6, 7–5, 6–4

Masters Pro: 1956–1967[edit]

Round Robin in Los Angeles, held from 1956 to 1960, and again in 1964, 1965, and 1967.

Masters Pro winners:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1956 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Frank Sedgman (Round Robin)
1957 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Frank Sedgman (Round Robin)
1958 Ecuador Pancho Segura United States Pancho Gonzales (Round Robin)
1959 United States Pancho Gonzales Australia Lew Hoad (Round Robin)
1960 Australia Ken Rosewall
1964 Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Frank Sedgman 6–2, 6–4
1965 Australia Rod Laver United States Pancho Gonzales 3–6, 6–3, 7–5
1967 Australia Ken Rosewall

Kramer Cup: 1961–1963[edit]

A team format tournament.

Year Champions
1961 Australia Australia
1962 Australia Australia
1963 Australia Australia

Madison Square Garden Pro: 1966–1967[edit]

Madison Square Garden Pro winners:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1954 United States Pancho Gonzales Ecuador Pancho Segura 7–9, 6–4, 6–4
1966 Australia Ken Rosewall Australia Rod Laver 6–3, 6–3
1967 Australia Rod Laver Australia Ken Rosewall 6–4, 6–4
1968 Australia Tony Roche United States Pancho Gonzales 6–3, 6–4
1969 Australia Rod Laver Australia Roy Emerson 6–2, 4–6, 6–1

Forest Hills Pro: 1966[edit]

The Forest Hills Pro was held in June 1966 on the grass courts of the West Side Tennis Club using the VASSS Scoring System

Forest Hills Pro winner:

Year Champion
1966 Australia Rod Laver

Wimbledon Pro: 1967[edit]

The Wimbledon World Professional Championship, also known as the Wimbledon Pro, was held in August 1967. The tournament was sponsored and broadcast by the BBC to mark the invention of colour television. It was first time that professional tennis players played at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon Pro winner:

Year Champion Runner-up Score
1967 Australia Rod Laver Australia Ken Rosewall 6–2, 6–2, 12–10

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robertson, Max (1974). Encyclopedia of Tennis. pp. 60–71.
  2. ^ Tennis Myth and Method (1978), Ellsworth Vines and Gene Vier (ISBN 9780670696659), page 52
  3. ^ Holder, James (2015). Sport's Great All-Rounders: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington, USA: AuthorHouse. p. 158. ISBN 9781504945691.
  4. ^ Geist, Robert (1999). Ken Rosewall: Der Grosse Meister. Austria. p. 137.
  5. ^ Lee, Raymond (September 2007). "Greatest Player of All Time: A Statistical Analysis". Tennis Week Magazine.
  6. ^ World Tennis, November, 1958
  7. ^ Chevallier, Jean-Pierre (2007). le Tennis en France 1875-1955. Alan Sutton. ISBN 978-2849106266.
  8. ^ "Forgotten Victories". Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  9. ^ "History of the Pro Tennis Wars Chapter VII". Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  10. ^ "History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter IX". Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  11. ^ McCauley, Joe. History of Professional Tennis.
  12. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Corpus Christi Caller Times, 12 March 1953". newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "The Tampa Tribune, 11 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  17. ^ The Los Angeles Times, 11 May 1954
  18. ^ "Renowned players grace USPTA Championships". USPTA. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  19. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  20. ^ a b Harold E. Donohue (July 1956). "Pancho Gonzales: Mixed-Up Champion". Pageant. p. 112.
  21. ^ "Corpus Christi Caller Times, 12 March 1953". newspapers.com.
  22. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  23. ^ "The Tampa Tribune, 11 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "The Times (Shreveport), 16 February 1956". newspapers.com.
  26. ^ "Star Press (Muncie), 18 March 1957". newspapers.com.
  27. ^ Man with a racket: The autobiography of Pancho Gonzales (1959), p.111
  28. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  29. ^ "Corpus Christi Caller Times, 12 March 1953". newspapers.com.
  30. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  31. ^ "The Tampa Tribune, 11 April 1953". newspapers.com.
  32. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 27 December 1953". newspapers.com.
  33. ^ "The Times (Shreveport), 16 February 1956". newspapers.com.
  34. ^ "Star Press (Muncie), 18 March 1957". newspapers.com.
  35. ^ "Bristol Cup 1920". Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Bristol Cup 1921". Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  37. ^ "Professional Tennis Ban". Barrier Miner. 1935. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  38. ^ "Between The Lines - Forgotten Victories: History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter VI: Vines's Second Year: 1935". Tennis Server. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  39. ^ "Between The Lines - History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter VII: Awaiting Perry, 1936". Tennis Server. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  40. ^ "Between The Lines - History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter VIII: Perry and Vines, 1937". Tennis Server. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  41. ^ "Between The Lines - History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter IX: Readying for Budge, 1938". Tennis Server. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  42. ^ "Between The Lines - Forgotten Victories: History of the Pro Tennis Wars 1926-1945, Chapter X: Budge's Great Pro Year, 1939". Tennis Server. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  43. ^ "The West Australian (Perth), 25 November 1954". Trove.
  44. ^ "Pro title goes to Sedgman". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 November 1954. p. 40.
  45. ^ McCauley (2000), pp. 75–77, 206
  46. ^ McCauley (2000), pp. 84, 209
  47. ^ McCauley (2000), pp. 93, 212–213
  48. ^ "Hoad defeats Sedgman to take Tourney". Canberra Times. 31 January 1958. p. 16. Retrieved 28 November 2019 – via National Library of Australia.

External links[edit]