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 in 1932 as an amateur, and in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937 as a professional. He won three Grand Slam titles, the U.S. National Championships in 1931 and 1932 and the Wimbledon Championships in 1932. Vines also was able to win Pro Slam titles on three different surfaces. He later became a professional golfer and reached the semifinals of the PGA Championship in 1951.

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 record621-227 (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)
Sporting 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

Career edit

Amateur edit

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, aged 15, reached the quarter-finals of the Pacific Northwest Championships in Tacoma in July, where he lost to Dick Stevens. [5] In September Vines lost in the last 16 of the California state championships to Bowie Dietrick. "Vines had the first set, 5-3, on his own service, but was unable to sustain the pace against his able and more experienced opponent, and lost the first set, 8-10. He seemed pretty well tried out by that time, and Dietrick put the second set away at 6-2".[6]


Vines reached the quarter-finals of the Pacific Southwest tournament in October, where he lost to Christian Boussus. "Vines forced Boussus to the limit in their match. The young Pasadenan's service was far better than that of Boussus, but the Frenchman's marvelous placements and his steadiness brought him through victoriously. He usually was content to hit the ball back, without trying fancy shots, and forced Vines into errors in long rallies."[7]


In July, Vines lost in the final of the Western Championships in Chicago to Keith Gledhill.[8] At the Wisconsin Championships in Milwaukee in August, Vines lost to Gledhill in the final.[9]


In February, Vines beat Lester Stoefen in the final of the Los Angeles championships.[10] In May, Vines won the Southern California championships beating Gledhill in the final.[11] In June, Vines won the Pasadena championships, beating Stoefen in the final.[12] In July, Vines beat Frank Hunter in the final of the New York Metropolitan championships.[13] In September, Vines won the Pacific Southwest championships, beating Wilmer Allison in a long and close five sets in the quarters, Clifford Sutter in four sets in the semifinal and Gregory Mangin in the final.[14]


Vines won his first title of the year in February, beating Stoefen in five sets to win the Los Angeles championships.[15] Vines won the River Oaks tournament in Houston in April beating Bruce Barnes in the final. "Vines's service had so much pace that at times today it almost knocked the racquet from Barnes's hand."[16] Vines won the Ojai valley championships in April over Stoefen.[17] In May, Vines won the Southern Californian championships beating Alan Herrington in the final. "The flashiness of Vines's playing is shown in the fact that he scored forty placement aces to Herrington's three during the four sets. Vines also led in practically every other department of the game."[18] Vines won the California State championships in June beating Ed Chandler in the final.[19] In July, Vines won the U. S. clay court championships in St. Louis beating Gledhill in the final.[20] and the same month won the Longwood Bowl in Brookline, Mass. over John Doeg.[21] Then at the Seabright tournament, Vines came from two sets down to beat Doeg in the final. "The turning point of the match came in the tenth game of the fourth set. At this stage Doeg was leading five to four in games and won the first two points from Vines' service in the tenth. Employing his powerful backhand stroke, the Pasadena youngster pulled the match out of the fire by winning the next four points to take the game."[22] In August, Vines beat Fred Perry in the final of the Newport Casino tournament.[23] 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.[24] In September Vines beat Perry in the final of the Pacific Southwest championships in five sets. "Vines served the almost unbelievable total of twenty-three double faults during the match. When he finally got going, he didn't score many aces, but he was getting his first ball in regularly, and although the Englishman, who battled furiously to the finish, usually managed to get his racket on the ball, he couldn't handle the serve at all. Perry covered the court brilliantly, making many seemingly impossible gets."[25] In October, Vines beat Perry again in the final of the Pacific coast championships.[26] Vines was ranked world No. 2 by Pierre Gillou[27] and by Didier Poulain.[28]


In April, Vines beat Allison in the final of the Mason-Dixon tournament at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.[29] At Wimbledon Championships, Vines beat Bunny Austin easily in the final and the winning ace was hit so hard, Austin claimed he couldn't see it.[30][31] Vines beat Allison in the final of the Newport Casino event in August.[32] At the U.S. Championships, Vines beat Cliff Sutter in the semi-finals in five long sets when he came very close to defeat.[33] He then beat Henri Cochet in the final to retain his title. In November Vines beat Allison in five sets in the final of the New South Wales championships.[34] Vines was ranked World No. 1 amateur by A. Wallis Myers,[35] Bernard Brown,[36] Pierre Gillou,[37] F. Gordon Lowe[38] and Jean Borotra.[39]


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.[40] Vines won the Ojai Valley championships in April beating Gledhill in the final.[41] Vines reached the final of Wimbledon, 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".[42] At the US Championships, Vines lost in the fourth round to Bryan Grant.

Professional edit


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 Professional Championship 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,[43] Philadelphia,[44] Boston[45] and Cleveland,[46] 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 the Parc de expositions tournament in Paris beating Nusslein in the final. In December, Vines beat Tilden in the final of the Roubaix tournament. Vines was ranked World No. 1 pro by Ray Bowers[47] and was ranked No. 1 in combined pro/amateur lists by Pierre Gillou[48] and Tennis (Italian newspaper).[49]


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.[50] Vines then won the tournament at Southport beating Tilden. Vines then won tournaments at Deauville and La Baule (also over Tilden). 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. Vines was ranked World No. 1 pro by Bowers[51] and no. 1 in a combined amateur/pro list by Henri Cochet.[52]


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. Vines was ranked World No. 1 pro by Bowers[53] and Fred Perry.[54] Vines was also ranked combined pro/amateur World No. 1 by Bill Tilden[55] and Robert Murray[56](Sports Illustrated).


1937 featured the first of the Vines-Perry World Series tours. 1937 was a very successful tour, grossing $412,000.[57] 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. Perry and Vines were ranked joint no. 1 pros by Bowers.[58]


The 1938 World Series was another tough battle. After coming back from four match points down to win at Richmond on 8 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".[59] Vines won the series 49–35. In November, Vines and Perry toured South and Central America and won four matches each. Vines was ranked World No. 1 pro by Bowers.[60]


In 1939 Vines lost his world pro crown to Don Budge but narrowly: in the World Professional Championship tour against each other, Vines trailed Budge 17–22. The tour proved that at his best Vines was unbeatable, although Vines laboured with a shoulder problem and a pulled stomach muscle in the series, losing five straight matches while injured.[61][62] Vines commented, “I thought I could beat Budge, and I think I would have,” Vines said. “I had to serve side-armed and he was just knocking the ball down my throat.”[61]

Budge's consistency prevailed a majority 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.

In June, Vines won the Brussels Professional Spring Championships, defeating Budge and Tilden in close matches. Vines lost in the final at Roland Garros to Budge. In the Edinburgh professional tournament, Vines won the event with wins over Budge and Tilden. At the knock-out event at Southport, Vines lost in the semi-finals to Nusslein, who then defeated Tilden in the final.

His final title came at the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships in October at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club on cement, where he beat Perry in the final in a close and brilliantly played four sets (Budge declined to participate in the US Pro).[63]

Vines was ranked world No. 2 professional by Alfred Chave[64] and combined amateur/pro world No. 2 by Didier Poulain.[65] Vines, by now, was losing interest in tennis and was turning his attention more and more to golf.


In April 1940 Vines, at 28 years old, played his last tennis competition at the West Coast professional tennis tournament in Los Angeles.[66] 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.[67][68][69]

Abilities edit

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

It was simply that after enduring Vines's power game, I never felt any real pressure against Perry.[70]

In 1975, Budge ranked his top five players of all-time and rated Vines number one. He also said Vines had the best serve.[71] Budge stated that "[Vines] was the best hitter of a tennis ball I’ve ever seen. He hit the ball harder and better and closer to the line than anybody. When he was on, no one could beat him.”[61]

In 1983, Fred Perry ranked the greatest male players of all time and put them in to two categories, before World War 2 and after. Perry's pre-WWII nominees all below Tilden and excluding himself "Budge, Cochet, Ellsworth Vines 'so powerful!', Gottfried von Cramm, Jack Crawford, Jari Sato, Jean Borotra, Bunny Austin, Roderick Menzel, Baron Umberto de Morpurgo".[72]

In the opinion of Jack Kramer, 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]

In 1990, Kramer opined that "Nobody ever served better.”[73] Kramer's summation of Vines' stature in the game was “He was the best.”

Perry, who never beat Vines as an amateur, said Vines’ serve was one of the greatest weapons in the history of tennis. “He had the greatest serve I have ever seen anywhere by anybody,” Perry said. “In one of our pro exhibitions, in 1937, I believe, he had one clocked 118 m.p.h. from hitting to the landing. Nowadays, they use the radar gun to tell you the speed when it leaves the racket."[74]

In 1935, another measuring device was used in Philadelphia to measure Vines' service speed, recording speeds averaging 130 mph for ten serves.[75]

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.[76]

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.

Kramer compared 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.

In 100 Greatest of All Time, a 2012 television series broadcast by the Tennis Channel, Vines was ranked the 37th greatest male player, just behind Australian Lleyton Hewitt at 36th, and just ahead of Pancho Segura at 38th. Vines' contemporary rivals were also included in the list, Perry (a player whom Vines had beaten in two pro championship tours) was ranked at 15th, Cochet was ranked at 27th, and Crawford was ranked at 32nd.[77]

Tennis edit

Vines (l) and Henri Cochet in 1932

Major finals edit

Grand Slam tournaments edit

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 tournaments edit

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

Singles performance timeline edit

Vines was banned from competing in the amateur Grand Slams when he joined the professional tennis circuit in 1934.

(W) winner; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (DNQ) did not qualify; (A) absent; (NH) not held; (SR) strike rate (events won / competed); (W–L) win–loss record.
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 SR W–L Win %
Grand Slam tournaments 3 / 7 31–4 88.6
Australian Open A A A QF A A A A A A 0 / 1 2–1 66.7
French Open A A A A A A A A A A 0 / 0
Wimbledon A A W F A A A A A A 1 / 2 13–1 92.9
US Open 3R W W 4R A A A A A A 2 / 4 16–2 88.9
Pro Slam tournaments 4 / 7 20–4 83.3
U.S. Pro A A A A SF A A A A W 1 / 2 5–1 83.3
French Pro A A A NH A W A A A F 1 / 2 6–1 85.7
Wembley Pro Not held W W NH A NH 4th 2 / 3 9–2 81.8
Win–loss 2–1 6–0 13–0 10–3 7–1 7–0 6–3 7 / 14 51–8 86.4

Golf edit

Tournament wins edit

Results in major championships edit

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 also edit

Notes edit

  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.

References edit

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  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 Tacoma Daily Ledger". July 15, 1927 – via Newspapers.com.
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  33. ^ Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 10, 1932
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  36. ^ Brown, Bernard (September 13, 1932). "Vines Heads Ranking of World's First Ten Tennis Players". Brooklyn Times-Union. p. 12.
  37. ^ "Les dix meilleurs joueurs et joueuses de tennis du monde : Le classement de M. Pierre Gillou" [The ten best male and female tennis players in the world: the ranking of Mr. Pierre Gillou]. L'Auto (in French). September 14, 1932. p. 1.
  38. ^ "WORLD SPORT". The Referee. No. 2381. New South Wales, Australia. November 9, 1932. p. 2. Retrieved November 28, 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
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  43. ^ Des Moines Register, May 28, 1934
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  45. ^ Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 10, 1934
  46. ^ Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 1934
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  50. ^ Excelsior, July 8, 1935
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  59. ^ The Richmond Times Dispatch, 9 May 1938
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  65. ^ "Il y avait des leçons à prendre hier, au stade Roland-Garros !" [There were some lessons to learn yesterday, at Roland-Garros stadium!]. L'Auto (in French). 1939-07-03. p. 5.
  66. ^ The Bakersfield Californian, April 3, 1940
  67. ^ "Roundy Says". Wisconsin State Journal. April 30, 1938. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
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  69. ^ Bill Braucher (May 13, 1936). "Tales In TidBits". Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.
  70. ^ A tennis memoir, by Donald Budge
  71. ^ "Budge Names 'Top Five' Tennis Stars". The South Bend Tribune. August 10, 1975. p. 37 – via newspapers.com.
  72. ^ "Perry's No. 1 pick? Tilden in straight sets". The Miami Herald. April 25, 1983. pp. 1B, 6B – via newspapers.com.
  73. ^ A Fine Vines. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-12-11-sp-6213-story.html
  74. ^ A Fine Vines. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-12-11-sp-6213-story.html
  75. ^ A Fine Vines.https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-12-11-sp-6213-story.html
  76. ^ Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia, by Bud Collins, page 53
  77. ^ "The List ::Tennis Channel". www.tennischannel.com. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2022.

Sources edit

  • 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 links edit