Jules Verne vs. The Ghost. Nom de Racquette in early tennis

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by urban, Oct 4, 2009.

  1. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Some intriguing thing about early tennis is imo the use of pseudonyms and alias-names. Overall many tennis origins had some mysteries in it, including the word "tennis" itself, whose etymology isn't clear. Some say, it derivates from tense or tendon. The word "love" could come from egg.
    Many early players appeared under alias-names, when making entries in tournaments. Often they took names form literature or mythology. Hamilton called himself 'The Ghost'. The Irishman and later murderer Thomas Vere Goold called himself St. Leger. In Wimbledon some guys like Jules Verne made the draw. Dr. Joshua Pim, another Irishman, played a Davis Cup final tie against American Whitman (not Walt) as Mr. X. As late as in the twenties, Tilden played against some guys who called themselves Mr. Tennis. Even in the 50s at an US pro, a masked man appeared and played under the name of Mr. Tennis. Was it Bobby Riggs?
     
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  2. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, this is what heppens when a bona fide tennis historian has a few drinks in him.

    Very interesting past, this game of tennis! Jeu de paume. Shpairistike.

    The pseudonyms, the noms de plume/racquette....why? To hide the noble identity? The lineage? A living literary reference? Humility or self-preservation?

    INteresting thread.
    Best regards,
    Slice BH Compliment
     
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  3. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Good questions, slice bh. In the case of Swedish King Gustav, who called himself M. G, when playing on the Riviera, it was humility. The later King George played doubles in the 20s at Wimbledon. I forgot the alias-name, he used. It wasn't Willie Windsor.
     
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  4. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Tournament drawsheets must have been like hotel guestlists with the celebrity set.

    You've got guys like Francis X. Shields using his own name (while he could clearly have gone with 'Mr. X.) traveling wtih his whiskey and his fancy pajamas.
    Now, it's all about how many crunches so-n-so does every morning. BO-ringggg.

    So cool, the great Jules Verne played a good level of tennis. Sneaking on a cargo ship ....and playing on the exotic courts of the East. Journey to the Center ...Court. From the Baseline to the Net.
     
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  5. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Now if someone is called Monsieur G, it's more likely a French Rapper, LOL!

    Still laughing about Willie Windsor.

    Wouldn't it have been great to travel the grass court circuits back in the day? Play the international championships and all. Monte Carlo on clay. I'm not much on royalty, but that was a remarkable era to be an athlete (pre-big business).
     
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  6. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Its reminds me somehow of the users names on internet forums, ha,ha. In other sports is was quite usus. Jack Dempsey borrowed his name of an older boxer The Nonpareil. I think, Sugar Ray Robinson was originally Walker Smith, and borrowed the name from a friend. In soccer, Pele, Garrincha, Raul or Romario are all artistic names. Not to speak of Gary Grant, John Wayne and Tony Curtis.
     
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  7. liesl

    liesl New User

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    This is an intriguing topic

    Not wanting to nit-pick ^^, but if I'm not mistaken, "The Ghost" was really W.J. Hamilton's nickname, rather than a pseudonym - so named according to Herbert Chipp "in allusion to his pallid and somewhat frail physical appearance, or to his surprising ubiquity in the court, or to both" or more straightforward put by F.R. Burrow (one time Wimbledon referee): "Small and slight, he was active as a cat, and covered the court with amazing speed." Unfortunately for him, his health was later on to mimic his appearance, he became very ill in 1891 and had to retire from the game.

    As for reasons behind the pseudonyms: in the case of King Gustave V of Sweden I agree that it can't have been anything other than humility. As I understand it, he was a great benefactor to tennis in Sweden - and by all accounts a skilled player himself. (Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1980 by the way).

    King George VI entered in the doubles champs of the Jubilee Wimbledon (in 1926) as "H.R.H. The Duke of York" . . . so dissapointing. His partner was Wing Commander Louis Greig, and they were beaten in the first round by A. W. Gore and H. Roper Barrett (the ex-champions of 17 yrs before!).

    The latter was a great user of pseudonyms, according to F.R. Burrow in his book "The Centre Court and Others". His reasons were business-related, afterall proceedings and results were reported in the press, so in amateur times some players probably had good reason to want to remain anonymous.
    Some names used by Roper Barrett: "A.L. Gydear", and the in above posts mentioned "Verne" and "Mr. Player".

    Some are quite boring, others I've come across in draws are "Surface" and "Baron Frankenstein".

    In an Outing article it's said that an the Homburg entry-list of 1898 included Dr. Pim, who hid under the name of J. “Wilson.”
     
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  8. Borgforever

    Borgforever Hall of Fame

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    Yes I would give my left arm to be able to go back and watch these old grass championships at their peak 1880s to 1920s. It's heart-breaking to read about all these wild and jaw-dropping things and know for certain that you never, ever going to get a good look at even half a match from that era.

    Glory gone with the wind. Forever. Sad.

    The world back then was so much more colorful, crazy and grandiose than now. Arabian Prince's with elephants and panthers in cages (not that that was animal friendly but it would've been a crazy sight next to a tennis court at Monte Carlo where that did happen for several years).

    And all the crazy players with their own style in everything. S. H. Smith. Can you even believe that man?! Forehand all the way. No! I only play in England -- preferably at Edgbaston where I've won ten years straight. Exotic to the hilt from our perspective. Five times the entertainment value.

    Many former greats were using pseudonyms when they returned to Wimby in their twilight years. Wilfred Baddeley returned and played at Wimby in the early 1900s under some other name and got beat directly. Pim usually also went under pseudonyms during the early 1900s in his special-guest-starring episodes into the circuit, and not only as Mr. X.

    If one studies the draws at Wimby the first 50 years the pseudonyms could sometimes be T. Ennis, A. Player or A. Raleigh (A rally?! Hahahaha...)

    It does break the monotony sometimes when reading them...
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2009
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  9. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    That's true about Willoughby Hamilton, Liesl. According to Volume 2 of "The History of Irish Tennis", "On court Hamilton was distinguished by his running forehand, which became known as the 'Irish drive'. Off court he had a frail and pale complexion and was duly known as the 'Ghost Hamilton'. His good looks were thought to have attracted many fashionable ladies to the courts to watch. He was a bundle of energy and was once heard shouting to a ballboy, 'Give me the ball quickly while my luck is in'."

    In 1890, Hamilton took the Wimbledon singles title for the only time, beating Arthur Gore, Wilfred Baddeley and Joshua Pim along the way. In the final he beat William Renshaw, seven times the champion, 6-1 one in the fifth set. According to the "Sporting Life" In the decider, Hamilton played so well that his opponent never had a chance of getting to the net, his play repeatedly calling forward well-merited applause, no less than six games, with the exception of the fourth, being taken against his hitherto unbeaten opponent."

    Apparently Hamilton did not defend his Wimbledon title the following year due to blood poisoning. But he lived to the age of 78.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
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