Ellsworth Vines

Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr. (September 28, 1911 – March 17, 1994) was an American tennis champion of the 1930s, the World No. 1 player or the co-No. 1 for four years in 1932, 1935, 1936 and 1937, able to win Pro Slam titles on three different surfaces. He later became a professional golfer, and won three titles on the PGA Tour.

Ellsworth Vines
Full nameHenry Ellsworth Vines Jr.
Country (sports) United States
Born(1911-09-28)September 28, 1911
Los Angeles, California
DiedMarch 17, 1994(1994-03-17) (aged 82)
La Quinta, California
Height6 ft 2.5 in (1.89 m)
Turned pro1934
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF1962 (member page)
Career record502-183 (73.2%) [1]
Career titles36 [2]
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1932, A. Wallis Myers)[3]
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenQF (1933)
WimbledonW (1932)
US OpenW (1931, 1932)
Professional majors
US ProW (1939)
Wembley ProW (1934, 1935)
French ProW (1935)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian OpenW (1933)
US OpenW (1932)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
US OpenW (1933)
Ellsworth Vines
Personal information
Weight155 lb (70 kg; 11.1 st)
Nationality United States
CollegeUniversity of Southern California
Turned professional1942
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Professional wins3
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentT24: 1947
PGA ChampionshipT3: 1951
U.S. OpenT14: 1948, 1949
The Open ChampionshipDNP



Vines attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, where he was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity and played on the freshman basketball team.[4] Many believe that Mercer Beasley started him on his tennis career at age 14 in Pasadena. He was mentored by Perry T. Jones through the Los Angeles Tennis Club and the Southern California Tennis Association.


Vines was still 19 when he won his first Grand Slam singles title, the U.S. Championships, beating George Lott in the final in four sets. Vines played "erratically throughout the major part of match, but his brilliant placements and cannonball service were sufficient to overcome Lott's steadier volleying and effective service", according to The Daily News (New York). Trailing 5–2 in the fourth set, Vines won five consecutive games to close out the match.[5]


At Wimbledon Championships in 1932, Vines beat Bunny Austin easily in the final and the winning ace was hit so hard, Austin claimed he couldn't see it.[6][7] At the U.S. Championships in 1932, Vines beat Clifford Sutter in the semi finals in five long sets when he came very close to defeat.[8]. He then beat Henri Cochet in the final to retain his title.


1933 was a poor year for Vines. One of his most surprising losses was to young Australian player Vivian McGrath in the Australian championships quarter finals.[9] Vines reached the final of Wimbledon in 1933, but lost a classic five set battle to Jack Crawford. It was a "Wimbledon final that produced some of the greatest tennis in the history of the world famous tournament" and "the crowd gave Crawford one of the longest, wildest cheers that ever has echoed through Wimbledon".[10] At the US Championships, Vines lost in the fourth round to Bryan Grant.



Vines played his first professional tennis match on January 10, 1934 and then became the leading pro player until 1938 (and the World No. 1 or No. 2 in the combined amateur-professional rankings). In his first World series tour, Vines overcame the 41 year old Bill Tilden. From May to June, Vines participated in the US tournament circuit. Vines won tournaments at New York[11], Philadelphia[12], Boston[13] and Cleveland[14], beating Tilden in each of these events. Then Vines lost in the semi finals at Detroit to Karel Kozeluh and didn't play in the remaining events of the tour at Milwaukee and St. Louis. At the US Pro in Chicago, Vines lost surprisingly in the semi finals to Hans Nusslein. At Wembley, Vines won the title in a round robin that also featured Nusslein, Tilden, Martin Plaa, Bruce Barnes and Dan Maskell. Then Vines won in Paris beating Nusslein in the final.


Vines beat Lester Stoefen in the World series (after a disastrous start to the tour, Stoefen withdrew from the tour). At the French Pro at Roland Garros, Vines beat Nusslein in the final.[15] Vines then won the tournament at Southport beating Tilden. Vines then won tournaments at Deauville and La Baule. However, he surprisingly lost to Robert Ramillon at a tournament at Le Touquet. At Wembley, Vines trailed Stoefen 4–1 in the fifth set in the semi finals but won in five sets and beat Tilden in five sets in the final.


Over the next three years, Vines concentrated on playing tours and did not enter tournaments. He beat Stoefen to win the 1936 World series. In November, he toured Asia with Tilden and won the tour easily.


1937 featured the first of the Vines-Perry World Series tours. 1937 was a very successful tour, grossing $412,000.[16] The result was still in doubt until the penultimate match, when Vines beat Perry at Hershey. Vines then won the final match of the series at Scranton to win the series 32–29. Touring UK and Ireland, Perry won a short series against Vines, including winning two of the three matches at Wembley, where they played for the King George VI Coronation Cup.


The 1938 World Series was another tough battle. After coming back from four match points down to win at Richmond on 8th May, Vines said "I've got a good lead over that guy (Perry) and I'm going to keep it just to prove once and for all who's No 1 man" and "if Budge turns pro next year I want to be the one to play against him because that's where the money will be. After this tour ends there'll be no doubt who's the better man between me and Perry".[17] Vines won the series 49–35. In November, Vines and Perry toured South and Central America and won four matches each.


In 1939 Vines lost his world pro crown to Don Budge but narrowly: in their first pro tour against each other, Vines trailed Budge 17–22. The tour proved that at his best Vines was unbeatable, but also that Budge's consistency would prevail a majority of the time, making the latter the best player of the time. Touring Europe with Tilden and Stoefen in the summer, Budge won the tour and beat Vines more comfortably than he had done in the World Series. Vines lost in the final at Roland Garros to Budge. At the knock-out event at Southport, Vines lost in the semi finals to Nusslein. Vines, by now, was losing interest in tennis and was turning his attention more and more to golf. His final title came at the US Pro, where he beat Perry in the final in four sets (Budge did not play in the event).[18]


In April 1940 Vines, at 28 years old, played his last tennis competition at the West Coast professional tennis tournament in Los Angeles.[19] His physical problems, his desire to enjoy family life, his loss of the world crown, and above all his increasing passion for golf drove him to retire from tennis.

Vines' career earnings as of May 1938 were reported to be $185,000.[20][21][22]


Comparing Vines and Fred Perry after the 1939 tours, Budge wrote,

It was simply that after enduring Vines's power game, I never felt any real pressure against Perry.[23]

Years later, Budge deemed that the world's all-time best player had been Ellsworth Vines, "on his day". Budge was always astonished when someone had not ever heard of Vines whom he considered as the champion of the 1930s. In the opinion of Jack Kramer, himself a great player, Vines was, along with Don Budge, one of the two greatest players who ever lived. Budge was consistently the best, according to Kramer's 1979 autobiography, but, at the very top of his game, Vines was unbeatable by anyone:

...On his best days, Vines played the best tennis ever. Hell, when Elly was on, you'd be lucky to get your racket on the ball once you served it.[a]

Tall and thin, Vines possessed a game with no noticeable weaknesses, except, according to Kramer, because of his great natural athletic ability, laziness. He was particularly known for his powerful forehand and his very fast serve, both of which he generally hit absolutely flat with no spin. Although he could play the serve-and-volley game, he generally played an all-court game, preferring to hit winners from the baseline. Playing in the white flannel trousers that were standard dress for the time, he greatly impressed the youthful Kramer in a 1935 match in Southern California:

And here is Ellsworth Vines, 6'2½" tall, 155 pounds, dressed like Fred Astaire and hitting shots like Babe Ruth.

Kramer made up his mind on the spot to concentrate on tennis. Vines had, according to Kramer,

the perfect slim body, that was coordinated for anything. Elly won Forest Hills the first time when he was still only nineteen, but at the same time he was also devoting himself to basketball at the University of Southern California. He went there, on a basketball scholarship.

(NOTE: The school's official all-time roster does not list him; however, this does not mean that Vines did not earn a basketball scholarship.)

In his chapter on 1932, Bud Collins writes in Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia that Vines . . .

had a curious windmill stroke in which the racket made an almost 360-degree sweep. Starting on high as though he were going to serve, he brought the racket back almost to the ground and swept up to the ball. He put no spin on it, however, thereby hitting a flat shot with tremendous force that made him unbeatable when he was on.

Collins goes on to say that:

Opponents came to realize that the way to beat him was to keep the ball in play, hitting him soft stuff until he started making errors.[24]

After becoming bored with tennis while only in his late twenties, Vines became a professional golfer in 1942 and over the years had a number of high finishes in tournaments, including at least two professional victories (1946 Massachusetts Open, 1955 Utah Open) and a semifinal position in the prestigious 1951 PGA Championship when it was a match play tournament. Writes Kramer,

He was twice in the top ten of golf money winnings, and he was surely the best athlete ever in the two sports.

He compares Vines to another great tennis player, Lew Hoad:

Both were very strong guys. Both succeeded at a very young age.... Also, both were very lazy guys. Vines lost interest in tennis (for golf) before he was thirty, and Hoad never appeared to be very interested. Despite their great natural ability, neither put up the outstanding records that they were capable of. Unfortunately, the latter was largely true because both had physical problems.

Vines was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1962.


Vines (l) and Henri Cochet in 1932

Major finalsEdit

Grand Slam tournamentsEdit

Singles (3 titles, 1 runner-up)Edit
Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win 1931 U.S. Championships Grass   George Lott 7–9, 6–3, 9–7, 7–5
Win 1932 Wimbledon Grass   Henry Austin 6–4, 6–2, 6–0
Win 1932 U.S. Championships (2) Grass   Henri Cochet 6–4, 6–4, 6–4
Loss 1933 Wimbledon Grass   Jack Crawford 6–4, 9–11, 2–6, 6–2, 4–6

Doubles (2 titles)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1932 U.S. Championships Grass   Keith Gledhill   Wilmer Allison
  John Van Ryn
10–8, 6–4, 4–6, 7–5
Win 1933 Australian Championships Grass   Keith Gledhill   Jack Crawford
  Edgar Moon
6–4, 6–3, 6–2

Pro Slam tournamentsEdit

Singles (4 titles, 1 runner-up)Edit
Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win 1934 Wembley Pro Indoor   Hans Nüsslein 4–6, 7–5, 6–3, 8–6
Win 1935 French Pro Clay   Hans Nüsslein 10–8, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1
Win 1935 Wembley Pro Indoor   Bill Tilden 6–1, 6–3, 5–7, 3–6, 6–3
Loss 1939 French Pro Clay   Don Budge 2–6, 5–7, 3–6
Win 1939 U.S. Pro Hard   Fred Perry 8–6, 6–8, 6–1, 20–18


Tournament winsEdit

Results in major championshipsEdit

Tournament 1939 1940 1941 1942
U.S. Amateur R64 NT
The Amateur Championship R64 NT NT NT
Tournament 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957
Masters Tournament NT NT NT T24 T28 38
U.S. Open NT NT NT T26 T51 T14 T14
PGA Championship NT R64 R32 SF R64 R64 R64 R32

Note: Vines did not play in The Open Championship.

  Top 10
  Did not play

NT = no tournament
"T" indicates a tie for a place
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = round in which player lost in match play

Source for The Masters: www.masters.com

Source for U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur: USGA Championship Database

Source for PGA Championship: PGA Championship Media Guide

Source for 1939 Amateur Championship: The Glasgow Herald, May 26, 1939, pg. 21.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In his 1979 autobiography Kramer considered the best player ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg, and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately but felt they were among the very best.


  1. ^ "Ellsworth Vines: Career match record". thetennisbase.com. Tennis Base. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "Ellsworth Vines: Career match record". thetennisbase.com. Tennis Base. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  3. ^ "Tennis; World's stars" (PDF). Advocate. Burnie, Tasmania, Australia: Harris publications: 9. September 15, 1932. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  4. ^ Ed Atkinson Ellsworth Vines: Ultimate Ball Striker, tennisplayer.net, Accessed July 8, 2008.
  5. ^ "The Daily News from New York, 13 September 1931". newspapers.com.
  6. ^ https://bleacherreport.com/articles/612431-pete-sampras-and-the-top-25-servers-in-the-history-of-mens-tennis
  7. ^ Tennis's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Baseline Blunders, Clay Court Wonders, and Lucky Lobs by Floyd Conner, 2002
  8. ^ Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 10 1932
  9. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald, January 28 1933
  10. ^ "The Hartford Courant, 8 July 1933". newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Des Moines Register, May 28 1934
  12. ^ The Greenwood Commonwealth, June 4 1934
  13. ^ Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 10 1934
  14. ^ Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18 1934
  15. ^ Excelsior, July 8 1935
  16. ^ The Dictionary of World Biography The 20th Century O-Z (1999)
  17. ^ The Richmond Times Dispatch, 9 May 1938
  18. ^ Arizona Republic, October 23 1939
  19. ^ The Bakersfield Californian, April 3 1940
  20. ^ "Roundy Says". Wisconsin State Journal. April 30, 1938. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ "Vines' Earnings in Pro Tennis Hit $175,000". The Fresno Bee The Republican. January 31, 1938. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Bill Braucher (May 13, 1936). "Tales In TidBits". Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ A tennis memoir, by Donald Budge
  24. ^ Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia, by Bud Collins, page 53


  • The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis (1979), Jack Kramer with Frank Deford (ISBN 0-399-12336-9)
  • Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia (2003), by Bud Collins (ISBN 0-9731443-4-3)
  • How to Play Tennis (1933), by Mercer Beasley
  • Tennis, Myth and Method (1978), by Ellesworth Vines
  • Los Angeles Tennis Club

External linksEdit