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Bill Tilden Biography

Born Into Privilege, Chronology, A Self-taught Genius, Awards And Accomplishments, The Tilden Age


American tennis player

Bill Tilden has been called the greatest men's single players of all time, a player's player whose cannon of a serve, psychological know-how, paralyzing drop shot, and canny backcourt play transformed the game of tennis. Tilden's dazzling eighteen-year career as an amateur took him to three Wimbledon titles and seven U.S. singles championships. Dominating the game from 1920

Bill Tilden

to 1926 and capturing 13 successive Davis Cup singles matches against the top players in the world, Tilden became the first celebrity tennis player, every bit as well-known as baseball's Babe Ruth or boxing's Jack Dempsey. Unlike modern players who are past their prime by their late 20s, Tilden had a career that spanned decades. After retiring from amateur tennis in 1930, he went on to participate in the fledgling professional tour, helping to establish the legitimacy of for-pay tennis. He played into his fifties, winning his last title—the Pro doubles—in 1945. In addition to his performance on the court, Tilden also penned over a dozen books, both fiction and nonfiction, on tennis, and was an aspiring actor. However, the success he found in his professional life was not duplicated in his private life. A homosexual in a time when such an orientation was kept firmly in the closet, Tilden was twice convicted of having sex with minors and died at the age of 60, penniless and alone, scrounging money from friends to buy racquets and balls to give lessons or to drive to the next professional exhibition match.

Sketch by J. Sydney Jones

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTennis