Bill Tilden: Triumph and Tragedy
William Tatem Tilden II (02.10.1893 – 07.07.1953) was born in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) in a wealthy family of immigrants from the United Kingdom. He was a painful child, his mother for this reason, did not begin to send him to school, he taught at home. In addition to tennis, Bill (a diminutive of William) from childhood was fond of poetry, theater and music and later spent most of his income on these hobbies.
Tilden first picked up a tennis racket in 1899, when at the age of six he was relaxing with his parents in a mountain resort in Catskill (New York, USA). Returning to Philadelphia, he signed up for the Cricket Germantown club, of which his 8-year-old brother Herbert was a member (approx. Author – Herbert Marmaduk Tilden in 1907, 1910, 1911 became the finalist of the US National mixed doubles championship). It should be noted that due to the heavy employment of their father William Titham Tilden Sr. with business (wool trading) and social and political activities, he practically did not have time for his sons and Herbert was largely a caring guardian for little William.
After their mother, Selina, was diagnosed with Bright’s disease (jade) in 1908, William was sent to his aunt, Mary Elizabeth Hey, who had lived for 13 years. Aunt enlisted his nephew at the Germantown Academy private school (Fort Washington, PA), where he played for two years in the tennis team, and in the second year became its captain. In 1910, Tilden graduated from the Academy, preparing to enter the University of Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. When his mother, whom he loved very much, died of a stroke in 1911, William was so depressed that his father took academic leave for him for a year. Returning to university college, he continued to play tennis, but unlike many future stars, without any success in junior competitions.
In 1913, Tilden agreed to coach the Germantown Academy team. Actually, then he realized how little he knows about tennis and began to purposefully study the intricacies of this game. His first successes were victories in 1913 and 1914 at the US National Mixed Championship with Mary Kendall Brown.
Help Mary Brown American Mary Kendall Browne (1891-1971) – 12-time winner of the US National Championship: singles (1912-1914); doubles (1912-1914, 1921, 1925, 1926); in the mixed (1912-1914, 1921). Winner of Wimbledon 1926 in doubles. Finalist “R ollan Garros-1926” in singles (she has never performed at the Australian Championship). The first US racket in 1914, 1921, 1924 and 1925.
In 1926, she became the first American professional tennis player and for two years participated in a tour of the USA and Canada with Susanne Langlen (she played 38 matches with the Frenchwoman and lost everything).
Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame since 1957.
She successfully played golf as a finalist in the 1924 US Amateur Championship.
In 1913, Tilden entered the Top 40 of the national rating, and in 1915 he took seventh place in it. However, this year was tragic for him. In June, his father died, and in September, his beloved brother died of pneumonia. He fell into severe depression for several months and dropped out of school. Then he got a job as a reporter for the Philadelphia newspaper Evening Ledger.
Having lost his family, 21-year-old William decided to make tennis the meaning of his life, setting himself the goal of becoming the best tennis player in the world. Others at that age were already champions, and he was just starting.
In 1916, Tilden entered the US National Forest Hills Championship and lost (6: 4; 4: 6; 2: 6; 6: 8) in the first round to Harold Throckmorton. True, during the game he pulled his ankle and played through the pain. In mid-1917, he was drafted for two years into the army, but did not leave the United States and during the First World War he played both in official tournaments and in charity events, the proceeds of which went to the fund of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the National Patriotic Championship of 1917, he reached the 3rd round (note auto. – In 1917-1918 the US National Championships were called “patriotic” and all the proceeds from the sale of tickets went to support the military efforts). A year later, in the finals, he lost (3: 6; 1: 6; 5: 7) to Robert Lindley Murray.
In 1919, he lost again in the final (3: 6; 1: 6; 5: 7) this time to Bill Johnston, who was successful in this meeting, constantly directing the ball to his opponent under his weak blow – the backhand. Just after this match, the journalists dubbed them “Big Bill” and “Little Bill”, since Tilden was 15 cm above his namesake. Although, paired with his student Vini Richards became the winner.