Men's Tennis Profile: Bill Tilden
William Tatem Tilden II was born on February 10, 1893 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. William would later take on the nickname "Big Bill" and become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Things were not always wonderful for Big Bill from the beginning though. He went through many heartaches, trials, and struggles on his path towards becoming one of the greatest athletes of the early 20th century.
Bill Tilden was born to a family that was plagued with the death of three of his older siblings. The struggles of his life did not continue here however. When he was just 15 years old his mother passed away and a short 4 years later his father followed in passing away. With the death of his parents and siblings he was alone. This begun a life of struggle for Tilden and he spent the majority of his life living with his Aunt.
Tilden's tennis career did not start off so well either. He was never a star tennis player in his prep school and wasn't a good enough player to make his team in college. Despite these setbacks he was dedicated to becoming a tennis player. He dropped out of college and began working on his tennis game, seeking to become a star.
Tilden began by practicing hitting against a backboard. Over time he won a few Canadian Doubles titles and began to move up the rankings. In 1919-1920 he moved to Rhode Island near an indoor tennis court. On this court he sought to perfect his backhand shot, which had been a weak point in his game. One can see that this was effective by the success that followed these efforts.
Tilden's career began to take flight. From 1920-1925 he won the U.S. Singles Tennis Championships each year, a record that he still holds today and went on to win it seven times total in his career. He also went to England to play in Wimbledon and won three times there out of 6 attempts. He was the first American ever to win at Wimbledon.
Tilden was known for one of the most powerful serves in history. He was rumored to have hit a serve at 163 miles per hour. This number is even higher than the modern record recorded by radar. This would be an incredible feat considering he was using a wooden racquet that lacks in power in comparison to the racquets used by players today. Though his serve could force weak returns, he never played much at the net, but rather preferred to play in the back court.
Tilden's tennis career extended into his 40's even though he was a heavy smoker and paid little attention to health. In 1953 he passed away at age 60.
Tilden held the No. 1 ranking in the world for tennis players for seven years and dominated the tennis scene in the 1920's. An AP poll named him the greatest player of the first half of the 20th century which is recognized by Professional Tennis Players from all around.