Expanded Photo Section
Before Bill was Big: Tilden in 1919
Now the world champ, Tilden plays an exhibition match in 1921.
Bill Tilden & Suzanne Lenglen, tennis's first idols, in 1920. By 1922 Wimbledon had built a new Centre Court and grounds, on the present site, to accommodate the demand these two superstars created.
Tilden in his prime "simply was tennis," hardly losing a match from 1920 to 1926. Here he is seen helping win the Davis Cup for the third straight year, in 1922.
Tilden, with Bill Johnston, Vinnie Richards, and Dick Williams, won the Davis Cup for the third straight year in 1922.
Tilden always swore he would give up tennis for a life in the theater. His favorite place to play tennis out west was Charlie Chaplin's court in the Hollywood hills, and Chaplin (horizontal) would be one of his last friends to stand by him in the end. Douglas Fairbanks (with the headband) was another close friend and tennis nut. Spanish champion Manuel Alonso accompanied Tilden on this Hollywood visit in 1923.
One of Tilden's favorite proteges was Sandy Weiner, whom he brought with him to play on the White House tennis court, 1923.
Von Cramm had come from far greater opulence even than the wealthy Tilden. Schloss Oelber (top) was the von Cramm summer estate. As a boy Gottfried lived most of the year in Schloss Brüggen (bottom).
Eighteen-year-old Gottfried von Cramm, 1927, in the sweater of his local Hannover tennis club.
1931 portrait of Gottfried von Cramm. "Like a comet a new star fell from the tennis heavens," wrote one French newspaper. "If he plays tennis as well as he looks," remarked a female member of his tennis club, "he'll be world champion."
Cramm married childhood friend Lisa von Dobeneck in 1930, and soon they were the toast of Berlin, posing here for the cover of the popular weekly Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. In public at least, their life and marriage seemed charmed.
Transvestites at the Eldorado nightclub. Berlin had been a haven for homosexuals since the eighteenth century, and in Weimar Berlin the Eldorado was one of the most popular spots for high society, adventurous tourists, and local artists, writers, and homosexuals. It was also where Cramm met the Jewish actor Manasse Herbst. Their relationship would prove perilous to the tennis star.
Daniel Prenn (right), a Jewish refugee from Russia, was Germany's greatest player in the late 1920s/early 1930s. In 1929, Prenn led the German Davis Cup team to a huge upset over England. But then Big Bill came to Berlin with the U.S. team, and German fans “quietly allowed their hopes, strong as they were, to die.”
In 1930, at age 37, Tilden won his final major amateur title, at Wimbledon. Here he is practicing at the Wimbledon tuneup tournament at Queen's Club. (Thanks to Joanie McMasters at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis Club.)
Bunny Austin (left, pictured in 1930), British Davis Cup stalwart of the 1930s, was one of the few to protest Prenn being kicked off Germany's team for being Jewish. Soon, Prenn would become an English citizen himself.
In 1932, Cramm came into his own, and joined Prenn on a formidable Davis Cup team. Playing singles and doubles, they came close to bringing Germany the Davis Cup in 1932. But Hitler's rise to power meant the end of Prenn's career, and he was forced to emigrate to England.
Cramm and Prenn leaving for Davis Cup match in Italy, 1932. No one dreamed it would be their last campaign together.
The all-American redhead: early Don Budge pose, 1934, age 19. Unlike Tilden and Cramm, Budge grew up in modest surroundings in Oakland and learned to play on the gravel courts at the local public park. In 1935 he took the tennis world by storm, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon in his first attempt and leading the U.S. to the Davis Cup Challenge Round. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
From the time they were sixteen, Budge and Gene Mako were best friends and doubles partners. In 1935, on their first Davis Cup trip abroad, they impressed with their tennis, their ingenuousness, and their traveling collection of jazz records. "No pair has ever played with more real rhythm." (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
Above and below: the famous Cramm serve. Opponents became even more fearful if he missed, for his second serve was even better, "a loathsome thing."
The baron forced to grin and bear it: greeting the Führer, 1933. The ascension of the Nazis put him in a difficult place. Thousands, including friends of his, were disappearing into concentration camps. But if he were to emigrate like Prenn, or refuse to play for an evil regime, his family (including his quarter-Jewish wife) might be endangered.
King Gustav of Sweden (in hat) was one of the world's greatest tennis fans. Here he plays a friendly doubles game with Cramm, Heinrich Kleinschroth, and Henner Henkel.
- Tilden, with Davis Cup Captain Heinrich Kleinschroth, directing Cramm in a practice session at Rot-Weiss. The USLTA had turned down all his offers to coach the Americans, so Tilden went where he was wanted–and most at home.
In Henner Henkel (right), Cramm and the German team found an able replacement for Daniel Prenn. He had the biggest serve in the world, and an appetite to match, but wasn't much one for the practice courts.
"A little like an awkward country lawyer about to pit his homely talents against the brilliance of metropolitan advocates": Don Budge, age 21, in 1936, the year he reached the semis of Wimbledon and barely lost the U.S. final to Fred Perry. Note the bare handle; everyone else was using leather grips by now. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
“Excuse me, Don, I’m Gottfried Cramm.” Gottfried introduced himself after Budge's semifinal win at Wimbledon, 1935, and by the time this shot was taken, at the 1937 Wimbledon, the two had become good friends.
From a Buick 6: The 1937 U.S. Davis Cup team in London, posed around their Buick. Captain Walter Pate, in a unique move, housed his team like a family, in a rented apartment. "We lived together, ate together, and planned together." From left: Bitsy Grant, Pate, Frank Parker, Budge, Mako, Wayne Sabin. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
Teammates Budge and Frankie Parker (left) met in the semifinals at Wimbledon, 1937. Though he looked like a movie star, Parker was considered somewhat emotionless. But no one knew of the romantic melodrama he was living in back home.
At precisely 2:00pm (notice the clock), Cramm and Budge walk onto Centre Court to contest the 1937 Wimbledon final. They hadn't played in two years.
A classic stretching backhand volley by Budge in the 1937 Wimbledon final against Cramm.
"A piece of land that is revered in the game": Centre Court, Wimbledon. Don Budge is stretching for a volley against Bunny Austin.
Bunny Austin played that year in long shorts that he had invented, and with a “new fangled racket” of his own design, the Hazell Streamline.
In the 1937 Wimbledon Championships, two weeks before the Davis Cup, Cramm and Budge met in the finals, each seeking his first title. The two impeccable sportsmen met at the net afterwards. Who won the match, and who lost?
Overmatched physically and sartorially, Bitsy Grant, “the greatest tennis competitor the world has ever seen," did his best in the first match of the 1937 Germany-U.S. tie.
- On Day Two of the Davis Cup, Budge and Mako prevailed over Cramm and Henkel in one of the great all-time doubles matches. It almost rivaled the tie-ending Cramm-Budge match.
For the second time that month, Budge and Cramm walked onto Centre Court for a momentous singles match--this time to decide the Davis Cup. As in any friendly match, they spun a racket for the right to serve first.
From the very first point, Budge knew he was facing a very different von Cramm than the one he'd faced in the Wimbledon final. Cramm seemed determined to make up for all his near misses at Wimbledon and in the Davis Cup. "He could, at times," said one player, "play the most brilliant tennis imaginable. "
The English crowd, laid low by the Depression and the threat of war, cheered desperately for Cramm—for his charisma, his incomparable manners, and for his disappointments in the past, but also because a German victory seemed the only hope for the English team. Budge stretched for a great return, but with the first set dead even at 5-5, 30-30, the crowd was energized. The German had a chance!
Budge had greatly improved his conditioning, but Cramm was famous for his staying power. As this best-of-five match went the distance, the advantage seemed to be his. "Fifth sets are mine," he used to tell himself. But today, so much more than tennis was on his mind.
Dwight Davis's beloved Cup. Parker, Budge, and Pate at the award ceremony (above,) and the team (below) with their trophy sailing home on the S S Manhattan. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
In Cramm's only trip to America, he needed security guards to protect him from autograph hounds. Above, he and Henkel win the U.S. Doubles over Budge and Mako at Longwood. Below, they accept their spoils.
Only Gottfried von Cramm could look as radiant in defeat as in victory. After losing another five-setter to Budge in the Forest Hills final, he and Budge have a moment of respite with their trophies.
At the end of 1937, Cramm, Henkel, Budge, and Mako all sailed Down Under for the Australian Championships. Cramm (above and below) practices his elegant game.
After he turned pro, Budge flourished financially and otherwise. Gossip columns linked "the Romeo of tennis" to many prominent ladies, but none more impressive (whether the rumors were true or not) than movie star Olivia de Havilland. (Jeff Budge)
In 1939, Budge, Ellsworth Vines, Lester Stoefen, and Tilden sailed to England to begin a European pro tour. They never made it out of the UK, as war began and they escaped for home.
As for Cramm, he narrowly escaped the fate of most German homosexuals. Prisoners like these, displaying the pink triangle at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, were singled out for the most debasing and deadly punishments.
Stuck stateside, Budge and Tilden made do with occasional pro tournaments and exhibition matches, like the one above, in Florida. Below: Tilden, 47, played the part of the frail old man after losing to Budge in a 1940 match to raise money for the Finnish Relief Fund. But the next year the Old Master actually beat the world champ seven times in fifty-four matches.
In the mid-1940s Tilden was in Los Angeles, giving lessons, playing exhibition matches to benefit the war effort, and filming promotional shorts with Hollywood child actors (above.)
In 1946, at age 53, Big Bill was still playing the U.S. Pro Championships at Forest Hills.
In 1947, Budge and Bobby Riggs went on a European pro tour with Sarah Palfrey Fabyan and Pauline Getz. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
Frank Parker, only 21 in 1937, had a successful postwar tennis career, winning both the French and U.S. championships twice each.
In 1949, Tilden (above and below) was sent to prison for his second stint in three years, both times for morals violations with teenage boys. At the end of the year, a few days after his release, the press almost unanimously voted him the greatest tennis player of the half-century. Nonetheless, he was ostracized from L.A.'s tennis clubs and had to scratch out a living giving lessons on public courts.
After the war, Cramm returned to Davis Cup play as West Germany's top player. In 1951, at age 42, he played his final Wimbledon and made headlines by escorting Barbara Hutton to the tournament. She finally got "her tennis player" in 1951, when they married, but it didn't last. The ill-starred heiress was one of the few friends that Cramm was ultimately unable to help.
When his playing days were through, Budge seemed content teaching tennis, here at Town Tennis in New York City, where he was head pro, and running his own tennis camp in Jamaica and then Maryland. (Courtesy Jeff Budge)
To the end of his life, as a socialite, a businessman, and an ambassador of German tennis, Cramm mesmerized with his elegance, his charm, his joie de vivre.