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TENNIS CHAMPIONS.

ABOUT THE DAVIS OUP CONTEST,

HISTORICAL AND PERSONAL

NOTES

Tho lawn tennis enthusiasm of at least four continents will concentrato next week on Christchurch, New Zealand, where this year's Davis. Cup contest is to tako place, wrote Dr L. S. Poklevin in the " Sydney Morning Herald " a week ago. The Davis Cup itself, or. moro correctly, the Dwight Davis Challenge Cup, is a- massive, solid silver punch-bowl lined with gold, beautifully chased, and originally valued at £IOO. That, however, is the least part of its value; its main significance rests in its being the accepted symbol of international supremacy in lawn tennis. _ Tt was presented in lflOO by Mr Dwight F. Davis, of St Louis, United States, for annual international competition.- The donor, it may be interesting to recall, was himself a player of the very highest class; along with Holcombo Ward he may .justly claim to have originated and first exploited the famous American service,, which has quite revolutionised the 'giime t.f recent years. In partnership these two achieved remarkable success in virtue of their extraordinary sendee methods. Ward's service curved in the air to the right, and when the ball struck tho ground it bounded sharply to the left; Davis, who was left-handed, did exactly tho reverse with his service. Both wore brilliant volleyers, going _ for their stroke every time, especially Davis, who killed lobs harder than anyone else who has ever played the, game. Their combination was perfect, and irresistible in their own country, where for three years in succession they won tho American Doubles Championship, 1899-1901, until the renowned Doherty brothers'—the best doubles pair I have ever seen—lowered their colours. Owing to tho claims of business and public life, Davis, though a comparatively voting man, retired from active participation at the end of tho 1902 season, but his name and influence live on, not only in the service methods he helped to inaugurate (to which, strangely enough, Australasia largely owes her present possession of the cup), but also in virtue of the cherished cup itee.lt, and the many historic struggles for its possession. HISTORICAL REVIEW.

It is one of the ten conditions regulating the competition for the cup and the accompanying title of "champion nation" that " tho challenge tie shall be played in the country of the ' champion nation,' at a date and upon a ground to bo agreed upon by common consent." The iirst contest was played at Longwood, near Boston, U.S.A., on i August 8. 9 and 10, 1900, England be- ! ing the challenging nation. Dwight 1 Davis, fittingly enough, served the first hall, and by winning all the finished matches in which he took part helped very materially towards tho victory which made America tho " champion nation." There was no contest in 1901 owing to England's inability to get a representative team; but in the following year the "Old Country'' sent her best to America, only to bo again defeated by three matches to two in tho New York contest, to which reference lias already been made. In 1903 the Dohorty's once more made the pilgrimage, and after a titanic struggle at Longwood secured the cup, which has never since returned to America. Despite frequent challenges from America, Austria, France, Belgium and Australasia, the cup and tne championship remained with England till 1907, when Norman Brookes and Anthony "Wilding won it for Australasia in a grand contest at Wimbledon, after first disposing of other " challengers," including America. As is well known, notwithstanding visits from America in 1908 (Melbourne), and 1909 (Sydney), the cup has remained in tho Commonwealth ever since. THE WORLD'S BEST PLAYER. Its destination in the immediate future will be decided by tho match commencing to-day, for which America, as the challenging nation,, has sent W. A. •Lamed (champion of the United States), Beals Wright and Maurice E. M'Loughlin; whilst in defence Norman E. Brookes, Rod Heath, A. W. Dunlop and Horace Rice have travelled over to the Now Zealand rendezvous. Incidental to tho match itself, hut even more interesting to followers of the game, will bo the settlement of the much-discussed question as to which is the better player, Norman Brookes or William Larned, for with all due defer- j encu to the All-England champion. Anthony Wilding, these two champions respectively of Australia and America are tho recognised leaders of the game today. They have met before, and in a Davis Cup contest. It was in 1905, at Queen's Club. Larned won in three straight sets with a scoro of 14-12, 6-0, 6-3. * '

That result would seem conclusive enough, were it not for tho fact that at that time Brookes, though well up the ladder of excellence, did not reach the topmost rung till two years later. It lias to be _ written of Larned, however, that his garao also has greatly improved since then. True, lie had already von the National Championship of America ill 1901 and 1902 (defeating tho Into 11. F. Dolwrty in tho challenge round), but, owin'g to a marked inconsistency in his form, ho avus unable to hold it. With his gatno at that time it was " neclc or nothing," lie won or lost on his own pood or poor play. In his matches tho "rests" were usually short, and were ended by a brilliant pass or sharp, short volley that brought tho crowd to its feet in a, burst of apAs I saw him in 1900 ho was a brilliant player, hitting hard all tho time, and getting great paco on the hall vi ith very little effort. He was willing to take the net position at every opportunity, and was especially quick in following up his good length drives, and when thero he either won tho point or lost it in an extraordinarily short space m ho W< S erratic jho had j °e,i K° either played wonderfully well or very poorly: his play was never mediocre. Of course, ho carried tho crowd " with him always keeping it in a state of excitement from tho first point to the ln«t; it was impossible to watch Larned without beeoining enthusiastic. That was tho Larned who right "on his game," beat Brookes in 1905 ; it is a nTodiikd Larned who will endeavour to do eo again next week. At tho sacrifice, perhaps, of somo ot his hrillianoy, It is form has gamed m steadiness and reliability so that without interruption he ha« won and defended tho championship of America for tho last five years. At great personal inconvenience, but with laudable courage and enthusiasm, h 0 has come to New Zealand to do his best to win for his country tho title of ««w»-" THE HOPE OF AUSTRALIA Hi., m„l. Ktnfm Br „X is , player of quito a different school • delicnoy of touch, finesse and strategy f l?K ] prominent places in his armament He does everything on the court so quiet y and unobtrusively, and wit], the measured accuracy of an artistic dranghtl man sure ei himself and his abilitv that the excellence, of his play starnls a ns. of passing unappreciated bv all save the practical observer. He "is •) tactician, „ deep and observant thinker on tho court, a monument of imperturbability and determination. Less _ robust m physique than the American, ho is bound to be, bv po much, at a disadvantage if this strenuous encounter runs a protracted course It would bo idle and the merest -peculation to suggest the probable victor when thev meet, Past performance favours Lamed; recent form proves nothing. Ono thing, however, seems quite certain, via., that no match lias been fraught with greater or more wirespread interest for many years, and none whoso result carries such significance. WHO "WILL WIN THE CUP?

winning or losing of the Cup. As yet, the t,cuius are not finally chosen. In nil probability, Beals Wright will liolp Lamed in tho Singles, whilst Hod Heath plays " second string" to Brookes. In tho Doubles a good deal more doubt exists as to the " pairing "; probably Wright and M'Loughlin will play for America, nnd Brookes and Dunlop for Australasia. On paper it looks as though America must win at leaat three out of the five contests. It is no disparagement to Heath to say that lie has yet to provo his right to ho reckoned in the same class with Lamed and Wright in singles. Hoi'o is his chance, however, and if ho accepts it so much the better for Australasia. Brookes has boon beaten in Davis Clip contests by both Lamed and Heals Wright (twice), though by very small margins, in favour of Wright, in tho two latter cases, as the scores show—l 2-10. 5-7, 12-10, G-l. at Queen's Club in 1905; ami 0-fi. 3-6. 7-5, 6-2, 12-10, at Melbourne, 1908. Now is his chance, too, to reverse those results, and if over a man meant, to do his very utmost in preparation for and achievement of an object that, man is Norman Brookes this time. May victory rest with the deserving.

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Bibliographic details

TENNIS CHAMPIONS., Star, Issue 10346, 29 December 1911

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TENNIS CHAMPIONS. Star, Issue 10346, 29 December 1911

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