Tom Pettitt

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Tom Pettitt at the 1890 Championship in Dublin.

Tom Pettitt ((1859-12-19)19 December 1859 - 17 October 1946(1946-10-17) (aged 86)) was the real tennis world champion from 1885 to 1890.


Born in Beckenham, Kent, England, Pettitt emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts as a penniless teenager. He quickly rose from being the dressing-room boy at a private court on Buckingham Street, to being its head professional at age seventeen.[1] He began playing matches in Great Britain and France to improve his game, and finally challenged George Lambert at the Royal Tennis Court, Hampton Court Palace, for the world championship in 1885. He defended his title in Dublin in 1890, then retired the title the same year. He is credited with inventing the railroad, a fast overarm service that runs the length of the penthouse with a reverse twist.

Pettitt continued to work in Boston at various clubs, retiring from the Tennis and Racquet Club in 1927 after half a century of service. He also taught lawn tennis at the Newport Casino during the summers from 1876–1929, and afterwards continued as a supervisor there.

Pettitt died in Newport, Rhode Island. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1982.[2]


  1. ^ James Zug (1 November 2007). Squash: A History of the Game. Simon and Schuster. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-1-4165-8483-4. 
  2. ^ International Tennis Hall Of Fame & Museum (June 2011). Tennis and the Newport Casino. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-0-7385-7482-0. 

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