1 December 2015

The other British Davis Cup winners

With their first win in 79 years at the weekend Great Britain won their 10th Davis Cup in the 115 year history of the tournament but who were the other nine teams who lifted the cup.

When the tournament started in 1900 it was a match between the USA and Great Britain. It also initially wasn't annual with the USA winning in both 1900 and 1902. But from 1903-1906 Great Britain recorded their first four wins on the bounce.

The Doherty Brothers
Those first winners in 1903 had a lot in common with the team of 2015. It was comprised of the brother Reginald and Laurence Doherty. Both were Wimbledon Singles Champions and claimed the cup in Boston, Massachusetts. . But Reginald gifted the Americans the first game as a walk over. But the two managed to win all four of the remaining matches to bring the cup to Britain for the first time.

The following year the tournament took place outside the USA for the first time on the turf at Wimbledon. It also saw more countries taking part with France and Belgium playing off for the right to challenge the champions.
Frank Risely

Just like in 2015 it was Belgium that would face the British in the final. Reginald no longer took part in the singles his place taken by Frank Riseley who had been beaten by Laurence Doherty in the previous two Wimbledon finals. He secured the first rubber for the lose of just 4 game, Laurence took the second for the lose of just 6. It was then the Doherty brothers who sealed the defence with a 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 win in the doubles.

1905 saw the tournament return to the All England Club in Wimbledon. With the addition of teams from Australasia and Austria plus the return of the USA to the tournament. The other five nations played a challenger series for the to take on Great Britain in the final and it was the USA who for the first time earned the right to play the British for the title.

Frank Riseley was not present this time his place was by his partner in the doubles that would take on the Doherty brothers in every Wimbledon doubles final from 1902-1096, Sidney Smith. Smith himself had lost to Reginald Doherty in the 1900 Wimbledon singles.
Sidney Smith

This time it wasn't so much of a walkover the first match saw the reigning Wimbledon Champion (1905) Laurence Doherty take on the reigning US Champion (1904) Holcombe Ward. Ward took a two set lead 9-7, 6-4 before losing the final three 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. Smith then stepped up for his debut and took the better end of four tough sets against William Larned 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

It was the Doherty brothers next who took five sets to overcome Ward and Beals Wright 8-10, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 8-6. With the remaining two rubbers being dead it didn't stop Larned taking Laurence Doherty to his third five set rubber of the match before losing to the Brit. Larned didn't play the final rubber and Smith took an easy win over Goerge Clothier.

The following year saw an unchanged Great Britain team take on a USA team of Ward and Raymond Little who had made the trip to also take on the best at Wimbledon. The two American's lot all five of the rubbers taking only the first set in the doubles off the Doherty brothers and Little taking the first and third off Laurence in the final rubber before succumbing in five sets.

It was to the be the last of that era of played although when Great Britain next won some of the players then had been the young stars trying to make an impact against the Doherty brothers, Riseley and Smith.

Charles Percy Dixon
One of them was Arthur Gore who only played in the challenger round in Folkestone and didn't make the trip to Australia for the final. Another was Herbert Roper-Barrett who had partnered Gore to the gold in the doubles at the 1908 Olympics and well as the following year's Wimbledon title, but by 1912 was the partner of the only British player to play in both the challenger and final series Charles Dixon.

Dixon made the trip to Australia he was to win the men's doubles at the Australian Open as part of that trip in what was an all British final. He also reached the quarter finals of the men's championship. His partner in that final was James Parke, who had won the men's singles as well, he teamed up for one of the beaten pair in that doubles final, Alfred Beamish, as well as playing the other single's matches in the final against the Australians. Beamish had actually knocked Dixon out of the Australian championship.

James Parke
Parke took the first match in the final beating the 1911 Australian men's champion Norman Brookes in four sets. Dixon then took the second rubber with a win over the 1905 and 1910 Australian men's champion Rodney Heath also in four sets.

Parke and Beamish lost out in the doubles and Dixon experienced his only lose in 5 matches in the 1912 International Challenge to Brookes in the reverse singles. It all came down to the final rubber and a battle between the new Australian champion Parke of the British Isles and the previous year's champion Heath of Australia. In the end it was the easiest of the three British wins with the Irishman taking that final rubber 6-2 6-4 6-4. After a five year gap the Davis Cup was returning to Great Britian, little did the players then realise it would be another 21 years before Britain won it again.

The second phase of British dominance in the Davis Cup came in the 1930s. As has been mentioned many times during the recent run of the GB team it was a team with one of the best played in the world as its talisman.

Fred Perry
Fred Perry was that talismanic figure in the British team of the 30. He played in 20 matches and his record was 34 wins from the 38 matches singles and 11 out of 14 doubles that he played in those matches. Andy Murray's current record is 27 wins from 29 singles and 7 out of 12 doubles  matches is comparible.

But unlike Murray who was so far head and shoulders above any other singles player for his nation at the time throughout this period of British dominance Perry had an able spur in Bunny Austin who himself had been world number 2 in 1931 and reached at least the quarter finals in all four of the grand slam tournaments.

Bunny Austin
Between them Perry and Austin were two of the strongest singles players in the world at the time and were more than a match for any of the teams then met along the way. In 1933 they had to come through the Europe zone with wins over Spain, Finland, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Australia between 21 April and 15 July for the right to face the USA in the Inter-Zonal.

The Interzonal match was at Roland Garron on clay and came one week after the Europe zone final on the grass at Wimbledon and a week before the final also in Paris.

The Australian's had Jack Crawford who in 1933 won three of the four legs of the Grand Slam, only missing out in the final of the US championship. He beat both Perry and Austin in the Zone final, but the Brits won both their reverse singles against Vivian McGrath. Perry had paired up Patrick Hughes with whom he's won the French championship pairs that year to secure the vital other point.

Pat Hughes with Fred Perry
For the Inter-Zonal the USA has the 1932 Wimbledon and US Singles champion Ellsworth Vines and Wilmer Allison in the singles. The Brits started with Austin beating Vines and Perry beating Allison both in straight sets. The doubles team were the 1931 French and Wimbledon doubles champion pair of George Lott and John Van Ryn, the latter teaming up with Allison to take the US title as well that year. This pair took a straight set win over Perry and Hughes.

Austin took on Allison in the first of the reverse singles and won it four sets. Perry v Vines was the battle of champions and though it may have been a dead rubber was hard fought. The score was 1-6 6-0 4-6 7-5 7-6 to Perry when Vines had to retired injured.

The final against France feature three of the famous Four Musketeers, the only one missing being the other player from the two nations with a later name in sportswear René Lacoste.
Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon teamed up for the pairs and Henri Cochet took part in the singles along with André Merlin.

Merlin lost the first rubber to Austin in straight sets before a five set classic between Cochet and Perry which saw the Englishman triumph 8-10 6-4 8-6 3-6 6-1. Patick Hughes had been joined by Harry Lee in the doubles but the French duo won in straight sets. Cochet won the first of the reverse singles but only by taking the fourth and fifth sets 6-4. It teed up Perry the chance to regain the cup after 21 years and though he lost the first set 6-4 he won the next three 8-6 6-2 7-5.

The following year GB only had to take part in the Challenge round at Wimbledon, the same four players would take to the court. Again the British won both singles on the first day but lost the double. Perry was first up against Frank Sheilds who in 1931 at Wimbledon became the only Grand Slam finalist in history to default without hitting a ball due to injury. That match would have been against his Davis Cup team mate Sidney Wood. The fourth set went to 28 games but was enough to earn Perry a three sets to one win and Bunny Austin also won the dead rubber.

In 1935 there was one change in the GB team with Raymond Tuckey partnering Hughes in the pairs. The opponents were the same nation but Don Budge had taken Shields place in the singles and Wilmer Allison was now partnering John Van Ryn in the pairs. But the British whitewashed the Americans on the grass of Wimbledon.

Which brings us to 1936 and the last of those previous triumphs, it was to be an unchanged side from the year before up against the Australians Jack Crawford and Adrian Quist. Once more on day one the Brits took both rubbers, and once again lost the doubles.

On the final day Austin faced Quist first but lost in four sets so it was Crowford v Perry just as in the zone final that led to the start of the run. This time however it was Perry who had earlier in the month won his third Wimbledon title on the same court who came away victorious in a straight set win to give GB a 3-2 win.

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