To William Renshaw, Esq., Champion of England,this book is dedicated by his friend and pupilthe Author.
WRIGHT & DITSON, BOSTON, U. S. A.,
“PASTIME” OFFICE, 28 PATERNOSTER ROW,
LONDON, E. C.
By JAMES DWIGHT.
There is at present no work on Lawn-Tenniswritten by any of the well-known players or judgesof the game, and it is with great diffidence that Ioffer this book to fill the gap until something bettercomes.
It is intended for beginners, and for those whohave not had the opportunity of seeing the bestplayers and of playing against them.
To the better players it would be presumption forme to offer advice. I should not, indeed, have venturedto write at all had I not had unusual opportunitiesof studying the game against the best players,and especially against the Champion, Mr. W. Renshaw,and his brother.
|I.||How to Learn to Play||1|
|II.||The Court and Implements of the Game||6|
|IV.||The First Stroke||18|
|III.||The Double Game||56|
|IV.||Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Doubles||64|
|V.||Umpires and Umpiring||68|
|VIII.||Cases and Decisions||80|
|IX.||List of Winners||88|
One is often asked the best method of learning to play.I fancy that the best way, could one often adopt it, wouldbe to let a marker, as in a tennis-court, hit the ballsgently to the beginner, pointing out to him his mistakes,so that he might not acquire a bad style. If he beginsby going on to the lawn and playing a game, his onlyobject will be to get the balls over the net, and he willbe almost sure to fall into bad habits of play. This is,however, the most amusing way to learn, and will probablyalways be the one in general use. If the novicedoes adopt it, let him at least watch good players wheneverhe can, not with any idea of trying their severevolleys, &c., but in order to see the position of thefeet and of the racket in play. When he has learnedto play fairly well, he should still watch good playersat every opportunity; but what he then needs to studyis the position in the court where they stand; whenthey go forward and when back, and what balls theyvolley instead of playing off the ground. He will, inthis way, get some idea of the form which he should tryto acquire. Mr. E. L. Williams, in a recent article inthe Lawn-Tennis Magazine, advises playing against awall, and I believe in the benefit obtained from thissort of practice. In fact, I have often advised playersto try it. Any sort of a wall will do; the wall of aroom, if there is nothing better. Hit the ball quietlyup against the wall, wait till it has bounded and isjust beginning to fall, then hit it as nearly as possiblein the same place. Always make a short stepforward as you hit, with the left foot in a forehandedstroke, and with the right in a backhanded one. Tryto hold the racket properly (see page 10), and do nothit with a stiff arm. The shoulder, elbow, and wristought all to be left free, and not held rigid. As soon asyou can hit the ball up a few times forehanded, try thesame thing backhanded, and when you are reasonablysure of your stroke, take every ball alternately fore andbackhanded. This will give you equal practice in bothstrokes, and will also force you to place the ball eachtime. Add now a line over which the ball must go; ina room a table or bureau will do very well, and, if possible,mark out a small square in which the ball shallstrike. This may sound very childish to a beginner, butI am sure that very valuable practice can be got in thisway, and I have spent a great many hours in a room atthis occupation. After a time you should volley everyball, first on one side and then on the other. Then half-volley,and after that try all the different combinations:volley forehanded, and half-volley backhanded, &c.Always stick to some definite plan, as in that way youget practice in placing. There is another stroke thatcan well be learned in this way. Hit the ball up againstthe wall so that it will strike the ground on your leftand go completely by you, then step across and backwardwith your right foot, swing on the left foot tillyour back is towards the wall, and try to return the ballby a snap of your wrist. With practice, you will manageto return a ball that has bounded five or six feet beyondyou. Try also the same stroke on the forehand side.You can get in this way alone more practice in handlinga racket, and in making the eye and hand worktogether, than you are likely to get in ten times thelength of time out of doors. Ask some friend, who reallyknows, to tell you if you hold your racket in the right way,and to point out to you any faults of style that you mayhave. It is of the greatest importance not to handicapyourself at the start by acquiring bad form. Good formis simply the making of the stroke in the best way, soas to get the greatest effect with the least exertion.While nothing can be more graceful than good form, noone should make it his chief object to play gracefully;the result will only be to make him look absurd.
When you begin to play games, do not try all thestrokes that you see made. Begin by playing quietlyin the back of the court. Try simply to get the ballover the net, and to place to one side or the other, andto do this in good form, i.e., to hold the racket properly,and to carry yourself in the right way. As you improveyou can increase the speed of your strokes, and canplay closer to the side-lines. Remember that a volleyinggame is harder to play, and you should learn to play welloff the ground before trying anything else. Above allthings, never half-volley. If you can return the ball inno other way, let it go and lose the stroke. This maysound absurd, but I feel sure that most young playerslose more by habitually trying to take half-volleys whenthere is no need of it, than they gain by any that theymay make. It is a stroke that should never be used ifit is possible to avoid it. If you make up your mind tolet the ball go unless you can play it in some other way,you will thus learn to avoid wanting to half-volley.When you become a really good player, you can add thisstroke to your others, and you will not have got into thehabit of using it too often. It is a mistake to play longat a time. For real practice three sets a day are quiteenough. When practising for matches, you can play thebest of five sets three times a week. Almost all playersplay too much, and by the middle of the seasonmany of them are stale. Always try to play withsome one better than yourself, and take enough odds tomake him work to win. In the same way give all theodds that you can.
Remember, while playing, certain general principles.Don’t “fix” yourself. Keep the knees a little bent, andyour weight thrown forward and on both feet, so thatyou can start in any direction. If the feet are parallelit is impossible to start quickly. Always keep moving,even if you do not intend to go anywhere. Play quietlyand steadily without any flourish, and try to win everystroke. A great many players seem unable to keepsteadily at work, and play a careless or slashing strokeevery now and then. This is a great mistake, and oneoften loses a great deal by it. Try to acquire a habit ofplaying hard all the time. The racket should be carriedin both hands, for, if you let it hang down, more timewill be needed to get it across your body. Never cutnor twist a ball except in service; it tends to make theball travel more slowly, and will deceive nobody. Theunderhand stroke puts a little twist on the ball, but it isan over twist and not a side one. Try to meet the ballfairly, i.e., to bring the racket against it in the line of itsflight; or, in other words, don’t hit across the ball.
Watch carefully your own weak points. Any goodplayer ought to be able to show them to you, and youshould then try to improve your game where it is weak.If you practise carefully and your only object is to learn,there is no reason why you should not get into the secondclass. To be among the very best players requiresphysical advantages, as well as a stout heart and greatinterest in the game. One is often advised to pretend toput a ball in one place and then to put it in another.I can assure you that it does not pay. Too manystrokes are lost by it. Exactly the same thing is trueabout pretending to go to one side and then coming backagain. One is apt to get off one’s balance in making sucha feint, and it is quite hard enough to get into position fora ball without having to start the wrong way first.
It is well to observe the rules carefully in practice, orelse they may distract one’s attention in a match. Thisis especially true of the service. Frequently foot-faultingin a match spoils your service altogether. In practiceyou should always see that the net is at theright height, and should always use good balls. It isbad practice, and is also very unsatisfactory, to play withbad balls. When the weather is too bad