Bill Tilden - Tilden's Legacy
Bill Tilden changed the sport of tennis forever. Not only did he revolutionize the game with his emphasis on variety of stroke production, but also with his reliance on a sort of inner tennis, in which psychology was an acknowledged on-court partner. "No man ever bestrode sports as Tilden did during [1920 to 1930]," wrote Deford in Sports Illustrated. "It was not just that he could not be beaten, it was as if he had invented the game." And as Bud Collins noted in Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopedia of Tennis, "If a player's value is measured by the dominance and influence he exercises over a sport, then William Tatem 'Big Bill' Tilden II could be considered the greatest player in the history of tennis."
If his off-court behavior was questionable, it was also pitiable. But his contributions to the game of tennis can not be discounted because of such personal indiscretions. Almost single-handedly he transformed the game of tennis from one that was considered an effete pastime, to a national obsession that filled stadiums and brought to the game an entire new generation not only of spectators, but also of players anxious to best Tilden and his records. Instrumental in transforming the elitist amateur game of tennis into the modern professional, open-era game, Tilden will be long remembered as one of the greats of the sport. As tennis writer Allison Danzig wrote in The Fireside Book of Tennis, Tilden "was the master of his time and for all time."