The Art of Lawn Tennis

by William T. Tilden, 2d, Champion of the World. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1921. xvi+175 pp. Illustrated. $2.00.
WHETHER justly or unjustly, people are apt to think of exceptionally proficient and talented performers in any branch of sport as either contemptuous of the efforts of the ungifted, or indifferent to them. The impression is fairly general that the higher the degree of skill, the more selfishly competitive the interest, and that those who are, to use the vernacular, ‘in a class by themselves,’ manifest little concern for those who are in a class with everybody else.
Mr. Tilden shows that he at least has no narrowly personal interest in the game of which he is the superlative exponent, and that he has at heart the further development of lawn tennis and the improvement of those who play it. A genuine desire to he helpful animates his book—a fact that will surprise no one who has seen him playing with youngsters and with duffers, and earnestly criticizing their strokes.
He is as individual in his writing as he is in his tennis-playing, as crisp and as decisive. It is seldom that a book which is professedly a manual of practical instruction achieves distinct interest by reason of the personality of the writer. We do not ordinarily think of manuals as having pronounced individuality. But one does not read far in Mr. Tilden’s book without becoming pleasantly aware that the writer is original and, in his own right as well as in that of his subject, interesting. He does not deal merely with the technique of lawn tennis: he finds the human nature that is revealed in the course of play quite as worthy of study. ‘ A steady phlegmatic base-line player is seldom a keen thinker. ’ Such a player will not ‘stir up his torpid mind to think out a safe method of reaching the net.’ On the other hand, ‘the hard-hitting, erratic, net-rushing player is a creature of impulse. . . . He will make brilliant coups on the spur of the moment, largely by instinct; but there is no mental power of consistent thinking.’
Mr. Tilden makes an individual contribution to the ethics, or etiquette, of match-play:’When you are the favored one in a decision that you know is wrong, strive to equalize it, if possible, by unostentatiously losing the next point. Do not hit the ball over the back-stop or into the bottom of the net, with a jaunty air of “Here you are.” Just hit it slightly out or in the net, and go about your business in the regular way. Your opponent always knows when you extend him this justice, and he appreciates it, even though he does not expect it. Never do it for effect. It is extremely bad taste. Only do it when your sense of justice tells you you should.’
Suggestive comment on leading players, and entertaining anecdotes of personal experience, give variety to the book. Both novice and adept will find the work of value. It is written in a spirit of sportsmanship as well as of helpfulness, and it is refreshingly free from egotism. A. S. PIER.