Major Ritchie (1870-1955) - An Early English Lawn Tennis Player
By Mark Ryan
Part I of V
Major Josiah George Ritchie was born on 18 October 1870 in London, England. His parents were Josiah Ritchie (b. 1841) and Elizabeth Anne Ritchie (née Edis; b. 1850). According to the Censuses of England, Josiah Ritchie’s father George (b. 1807) had been at various times a hat maker (1841), a dissenting minister (1851) and a “proprietor of houses” (1861). In addition to Josiah, he and his wife Ann (b. 1813) had two other children: another boy, also called George (b. 1833), and a girl, Charlotte (b. 1838).
In the census returns for 1861, Josiah’s profession is given as commercial clerk (Charlotte has no profession, while 27-year-old George is unemployed). The same census also states that George Ritchie, senior, was born in Blackheath in the county of Kent, while Ann Ritchie was born in the City of London. George, junior, the eldest child, was born in Margate, also in Kent, while the two youngest children were both born in Gracechurch Street, also within the City of London. At the time of their births Gracechurch Street was a bustling area that included Leadenhall Market.
The Quakers had a meeting house on Gracechurch Street; this building was burnt down in 1821, but rebuilt in later years. It is possible that Josiah Ritchie preached there, although by the time the meeting house was rebuilt, many members had moved away from the area. The Ritchie family’s movements are in accordance with these events because in 1841 they were living in Gracechurch Street. However, in the census of 1851, they have moved and are now living in George Street in the London borough of Westminster. By the time of the 1861 census, the family has moved again, this time further outside central London, to Isleworth, a small town in the west London borough of Hounslow.
Major Ritchie’s mother, Elizabeth Anne Ritchie (née Edis), was born in the county of Cambridgeshire, in the east of England. Elizabeth’s parents, John (b.1822) and Hannah (b. 1822) were both natives of the same county. According to the census of 1851, John Edis was a college servant, in other words more than likely employed as a servant within Cambridge University, then as now one of the two most prestigious universities in England.
By the time the next Census of England was taken, in 1861, the Edis family had moved from their native Cambridgeshire to Fetter Lane, a busy area located just off Fleet Street in the City of London. According to the same census, Hannah Edis is now a widow and the mother of four children. In addition to Elizabeth, these are Agnes (b. 1851), George (b. 1853) and Carrie (b. 1856). Agnes and George had both been born in Cambridgeshire, but the youngest child, Carrie, was born in the London borough of Saint Pancras. This indicates that the Edis family had moved to London at some point during the years 1853-56.
According to the “London Post Office Directory” for 1859, John Edis, a grocer, was running a business from 29 Tottenham Court Road, near the heart of the capital. This might well be Elizabeth’s father. However, John Edis’s death was recorded soon after, in September 1860, as occurring in Ely in his native Cambridgeshire. It appears that Hannah Edis moved the family – and the grocery shop – to Fetter Lane soon after her husband’s death. In the 1861 Census of England, Hannah Edis and her family are living at 220 Fetter Lane. Hannah’s profession is given as grocer, while the four children, including the eldest, 11-year-old Elizabeth, are all listed as scholars.
By the time of the next census, taken in 1871, the Edis family is still living in Fetter Lane, but at number 143, not at number 220. Hannah Edis is still a grocer, while Agnes, now aged 17, is a (private) governess; 17-year-old George is a commercial clerk and 14-year-old Carrie is still a scholar. Elizabeth, the eldest child, is no longer residing in the Edis household. At some point in the years intervening between the previous census she had met Josiah Ritchie and become engaged to him.
Elizabeth Edis had married Josiah Ritchie on 1 January 1870 in Saint John The Evangelist Church in Drury Lane, Westminster. The witnesses were Thomas Edis (probably an uncle of Elizabeth), Agnes Edis and George Ritchie. By the time of the marriage Josiah Ritchie’s profession was being given as manufacturing dentist. At this point in time he was working and/or living in Saint Anne’s parish in the Soho area of London, also located within Westminster.
Major Ritchie was born almost exactly nine-and-a-half months after his parents’ marriage. Although his mother was only twenty-two years old (nine years younger than her husband) at the time of his birth, Major would be their only child. Despite some later confusion, the boy was actually christened Major. His second name, Josiah, clearly came from his father (although some evidence points to him having being christened as Joseph), while Major’s third name, George, came from his paternal grandfather.
Like many other male children of that time from middle class backgrounds, Major Ritchie was sent off to be privately educated when still very young, probably at the age of seven or eight. When the census of 1881 was taken, the nine-year-old Major was a boarder at Laburnum House in Broadstairs, Kent. This establishment was run by one William Oak and his wife, Hannah. In the census return Mr Oak describes himself and his wife as schoolmasters. Another boarder in the house was one Maria Whittaker, a French governess. Four other boys of a similar age to Major Ritchie were also boarding with the Oaks at that point in time.
It is likely that Major Ritchie received a basic education while at Laburnum House. In addition to French, the curriculum would have included English, history and mathematics. Latin and Greek were probably also part of the curriculum, especially for boys hoping to go to university later on. But Major Ritchie did not go on to university.
It is also likely that the boys would have played some sport, such as cricket and, perhaps, the nascent sport of lawn tennis, as it was then called, the modern form of the game having first been played on lawns in the British Isles. In the early 1880’s, lawn tennis was still such a novelty that it was considered more of a pastime, or hobby, than an actual sport (the first Wimbledon tournament, consisting only of a men’s singles event, had taken place as recently as July 1877, when Major Ritchie was six years old).
Part II of V
According to one source, Major Ritchie learned the basics of lawn tennis between the ages of ten and fourteen, in the grounds of the family home, The Cedars, in Putney, a suburb located in south-west London, not far from Wimbledon. The Ritchie family might well have had a lawn tennis court in their garden. It appears that Major Ritchie stopped playing lawn tennis around the age of fifteen and that he did not start to play again until he was nearly twenty-five. It was at this point in time that he joined two lawn tennis clubs – the Norwood Club in Croydon, a suburb in south London, and the Chiswick Park Lawn Tennis Club in Chiswick, a suburb in the west of the capital.
Major Ritchie would probably have joined both clubs at some point in 1895 or 1896. By this time he, his parents and a number of servants had moved to a new residence, The Grange, in Upper Norwood, Croydon. According to the 1891 Census of England, the family were already living at The Grange, a twelve-room residence, perhaps with a lawn tennis court in its gardens. The same census states that Josiah Ritchie, now aged 50, is a dental surgeon. No profession is given for Elizabeth Ritchie, who is now 41, nor for the 19-year-old Major.
One of Major Ritchie’s first appearances in the final of a singles event at an important tournament came in July 1897 at the London Championships, held on the grass courts of the Queen’s Club in London. At this particular tournament Ritchie met another up-and-coming English player, namely Lawrence (“Laurie”) Doherty, against whom Ritchie lost rather easily, by the score of 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. However, at this stage Ritchie still lacked sufficient experience at the highest level.
Almost two years later, in April 1899, Major Ritchie won his first singles title of real significance at the French Covered Court Championships, held each Easter on the wooden courts of the Tennis Club de Paris in the suburb of Auteuil. In the final of this tournament Ritchie beat the talented Frenchman Paul Aymé, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
In the late 1890’s, lawn tennis was still something of a fledgling sport in France and other countries on the European Continent. However, by taking part in tournaments such as the French Covered Court Championships, top players from the British Isles ensured that the sport achieved growing attention and a corresponding growth in popularity.
In later years Major Ritchie and a number of the top British and Irish players would patronize not only the French Covered Court Championships, but also the nascent tournaments held early each year on the French Riviera, as well as tournaments in countries such as Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria. For example, in the years 1903-06 and 1908, Major Ritchie won the singles event at the prestigious German Championships tournament, held in Hamburg around late August.
What might appear as one of the striking features of Major Ritchie’s tennis career, if such it can be called, is that he enjoyed most of his success after his thirtieth birthday. Although most players nowadays tend to reach their peak around their late twenties, this was not necessarily case in the early decades of the sport, when a good number of players continued to win tournaments well into their thirties and even on into their early forties.
It could be argued that the sport in its infancy was less strenuous than it is nowadays. However, in the early years, many players liked to play not only singles, but also doubles and mixed doubles as well as what were known as handicap events, where less-talented players were given a head start in each game by the top players. This meant that a player might have to compete in four of five matches in one day on several days during the same tournament.
Moreover, in those days players like Major Ritchie, in other words amateurs, were not playing for prize money. But there were very few complaints about this at the time, to a great extent because tennis was played mainly by the well-to-do who lived on independent means and therefore did not need to earn their living through sport. Indeed, the thought of earning a living through sport would have been completely foreign to many players.
When the next Census of England was taken on 31 March 1901, the 30-year-old Major Ritchie was still living with his parents, Josiah and Elizabeth, at The Grange in Croydon. Once again, no profession is listed for Major, although by that time his father had become managing director of the Royal Aquarium in Westminster, London, a short-lived, but rather fascinating-sounding establishment located almost opposite Westminster Abbey.
One year later, in 1902, Major Ritchie enjoyed his greatest successes on the tennis court to date. These included a first appearance in the penultimate round of the singles event at the Wimbledon tournament, then as now the most important tournament in the tennis calendar. In late June, Ritchie made his way through the draw at Wimbledon before reaching what was known as the All-Comers’ Final. In those days, in fact up until 1922, the defending champion in the men’s and women’s singles event at Wimbledon did not have to play through the tournament, but was able to “sit out” and see whom he or she would face in what was known as the Challenge Round. The other players in the draw would play through the All-Comers’ Final, with the winner facing the titleholder.
In 1902, Major Ritchie’s opponent in the All-Comers’ Final was a familiar face, namely Laurie Doherty, who by then was really coming into his own as a singles player. Born in 1875, Laurie Doherty had had to serve an apprenticeship to his brother Reginald (known as Reggie; b. 1872), who dominated the sport in the British Isles in the years circa 1897-1901, before ill health forced Reggie to limit his appearances in singles events. As a doubles team the Dohertys remained virtually invincible for the next five years or so, until 1907.
At Wimbledon in 1902, Laurie Doherty beat Major Ritchie in straight sets in the All-Comers’ Final, the score being 8-6, 6-3, 7-5. Doherty then went on to win his first Wimbledon singles title by beating another Englishman, Arthur Gore, the holder, in the Challenge Round. Despite his defeat at Wimbledon, the fact that he had made it to within match of the title was proof of how much Ritchie’s game had improved.
Part III of V
The following year, 1903, Major Ritchie once again reached the All-Comer’s Final at Wimbledon. This time his opponent was Frank Riseley (b. 1877), a native of Bristol, and not only an excellent singles player, but also a top doubles player. In 1903, Riseley defeated Major Ritchie in the All-Comers’ Final, although not before Ritchie had put up a great fight. The final score was 1-6 6-3 8-6 13-11. In the Challenge Round Riseley lost easily to Laurie Doherty, the defending champion.
One year later, in 1904, Major Ritchie reached the All-Comer’s Final of the singles event at Wimbledon for the third year in a row, an exceptional feat and another indication of just how well he was playing in those years. Once again he faced Frank Riseley and once again the younger man emerged the winner, this time by the very one-sided score of 6-0, 6-1, 6-2. In the Challenge Round Riseley lost again to the virtually invincible Laurie Doherty, this time in four sets.
This was the last time Major Ritchie would appear in the All-Comers’ Final of the singles event at Wimbledon until 1909, although he would be a semi-finalist there in 1905, 1907, 1908 and as late as 1919, and a quarter-finalist in 1906. His form at Wimbledon and, indeed, at many other tournaments over the years, is evidence of his great consistency.
In 1908, Ritchie achieved what was probably a lifetime ambition, even in the days when players did not speak of such things in public, by winning the Wimbledon doubles title alongside Anthony Wilding (b. 1883), who would become New Zealand’s greatest player and a multiple Wimbledon singles and doubles champion. In the All-Comers’ Final of the doubles event at Wimbledon in 1908, Ritchie and Wilding beat Arthur Gore and another Englishman, Herbert Roper-Barrett, by the unusual score of 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 1-6, 9-7. (In 1907, Wilding had won the same title with the Australian Norman Brookes, but because Brookes did not enter the Wimbledon tournament in 1908, there was no Challenge Round in the doubles event, or in the singles event, where Brookes was also the titleholder.)
As already indicated above, Major Ritchie reached the All-Comers’ Final of the singles event at Wimbledon again in 1909. By this time Ritchie was 38 and might well have felt that this was his last chance to win the most coveted prize in the sport. His opponent in the All-Comers’ Final was Herbert Roper-Barrett (b, 1873). Ritchie had little difficulty in beating his countryman, the final score being 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
In the Challenge Round of the men’s singles event at Wimbledon in 1909, Major Ritchie faced Arthur Gore (b. 1868), one of the most doggedly persistent players in the history of lawn tennis. After winning his first Wimbledon singles title in 1901 at the age of 33, Gore had won his second seven years later in 1908, at the age of 40, easily making him the oldest player to win the title in question. The 1909 Challenge Round match thus pitted a 41-year-old against a 38-year-old (their individual ages, and the combined age of 79, are still records for a singles final at Wimbledon).
For just over two sets, a victory by Major Ritchie looked very likely. He won the first set, 8-6, and the second easily, 6-1. However, after the beginning of the third set the whole atmosphere of the match changed and, slowly but surely, the indefatigable Gore began to take control, winning the last three sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. There can be little doubt that Major Ritchie would have been very disappointed following this loss, although it is impossible to know exactly what he felt or said afterwards because players rarely gave interviews in those days, and Ritchie never wrote a biography.
One year after his defeat in the Challenge Round of the singles event at Wimbledon in 1909, there was what might have been consolation of a sort for Major when, together with Tony Wilding, he once again won the Wimbledon doubles title. In 1910, Ritchie and Wilding defeated Arthur Gore and Herbert Roper-Barrett, the titleholders, in the Challenge Round, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. (This is still the most one-sided victory ever in the final match of the men’s doubles event at Wimbledon.)
In late 1909, Major Ritchie had married Ethel Wolfe (b. 1886). They would have one child together, a boy called Richard Josiah Ritchie, who was born on 22 April 1911 in Nice, France. Like his father, Richard would go on to become an accomplished tennis player, although he would never be as good a player as his father.
Because Richard Ritchie was born in Nice, it is likely that Major and Ethel Ritchie had been residing, or at least holidaying, there for some time. In those days it was not unusual for well-to-do Britons to spend several months in the south of France during the colder months of the year. By 1911, the aforementioned fledgling tennis tournaments on the Riviera and in other parts of France had become fixtures in the tennis calendar. Major Ritchie had enjoyed much success at the Riviera tournaments in particular.
For example, in 1907, Ritchie won the singles event at the Riviera Championships in Mentone, beating the Englishman George Simond in the final, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4; at the Monte Carlo Cup in Monaco, where he beat the previously almost invincible Laurie Doherty in the final, 8-6, 7-5, 8-6 (to be fair to the latter, he had virtually retired from tournament tennis by that point in time); and at the Cannes championships, held at the Beau Site Hotel in Cannes, where Ritchie’s final opponent, another Englishman, Dunstan Rhodes, was beaten, 6-4, 6-2. Ritchie’s only defeat in singles during the 1907 Riviera tennis season came at the South of France Championships in Nice, where Tony Wilding easily beat him, 6-0, 6-0, 6-3.
One year later, in 1908, Major Ritchie managed to score a rare victory over Tony Wilding, this time at the Riviera Championships tournament in Mentone in mid-March, where Ritchie beat Wilding in the final match, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5, 2-6, 8-6. In subsequent weeks, Wilding easily defeated Ritchie in the final of the singles event at both the South of France Championships in Nice and the Cannes Championships. However, it should be remembered that at that point in time Ritchie was 37 years of age, whereas Wilding was only 25.
Part IV of V
Ritchie’s successes at the Riviera tournaments are proof that he could play very well not just on grass or wooden (indoor) courts, but also on slow clay, the most prevalent outdoor surface on the European Continent. Virtually all of Ritchie’s successes in Continental European tournaments, including the aforementioned victories at the German Championships, came on this surface. Nowadays, many tennis players tend to have a “favourite” surface, e.g. hard (concrete-type) courts or clay courts. But when Major Ritchie was playing, such predilections were relatively unusual.
Besides, in the early decades of the sport, starting with the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, the most common surface within the British Isles was grass and, as already indicated, on the European Continent, clay. The main type of court to be found in a particular country depended on that country’s climate, and indoor (usually wooden) courts initially came about mainly to facilitate the playing of tennis during the colder months of the year.
Major Ritchie also played very well on the aforementioned indoor wooden courts, which suited a fast, attacking game. As indicated above, he won his first singles title of real significance at the French Covered Court Championships in 1899, at the age of 28. He won the same title again in 1902, 1905 and 1908, and was runner-up in 1903 and 1906.
At the British Covered Court Championships tournament, the primary tournament of its kind in the world for many years, held on the wooden courts of the Queen’s Club in Kensington, London, usually in late April/early May, Major Ritchie won the singles title twice, in 1909 and 1914. (At the time of his second victory he was already 43 years old.) Before World War One, Ritchie was runner-up at the same event in the same tournament in 1900, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1909 and 1911.
In 1903, a second important indoor tournament was inaugurated at the Queen’s Club. This tournament became known as the London Covered Court Championships and was usually held around mid-October. Before World War One, Major Ritchie took the singles title here in 1909 and 1911, and was runner-up in 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908 and 1912.
It was in October 1903, at the first edition of the London Covered Court Championships, that Ritchie beat Laurie Doherty, who at the time was not only Wimbledon singles champion but, a month or so earlier, in September, had become the first non-American to capture the men’s singles title at the US Championships. In the third round of the tournament at the Queen’s Club Ritchie beat Doherty, 6-2, 6-4, 8-10, 1-6, 6-4. It was Doherty’s only defeat in singles in the years 1902-06. As already stated, Ritchie would beat Laurie Doherty in singles again, in the final of the Monte Carlo Cup in early 1907.
Some of Major Ritchie’s other tournament victories before World War One included the Middlesex Championships, held at Chiswick Park, London, in early June. Ritchie, who had become a member of the Chiswick Park Lawn Tennis Club at an early age, won the singles title there in 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910 and 1911. At another pre-Wimbledon tournament, the London Championships, held around mid-June at the Queen’s Club, Ritchie won the singles title in 1902, 1904, 1906 and 1909.
At the popular Northumberland Championships tournament, held in Newcastle in that county in late July/early August, Ritchie took the singles title in 1909, 1910 and 1911. Ritchie also won the singles title at the modest Berkshire Championships tournament, held in Reading in mid-July; he was champion there in five consecutive years, 1908-12. It is possible this tournament was not simply a favourite of Ritchie’s, but that he also had some sort of special connection with Reading or Berkshire.
The Middlesex Championships, London Championships, Northumberland Championships and Berkshire Championships tournaments were all held on grass courts.
The outbreak of World War One in the late summer of 1914 meant the cancellation of all lawn tennis tournaments in Great Britain until the cessation of hostilities in November 1918. Indeed, lawn tennis tournaments as such would be held again in Great Britain until April 1919. It is not clear how Major Ritchie spent the war years, but it is very likely that he contributed to the war effort in some way.
Once meetings had been resumed, Major Ritchie returned to tournament play and continued to enjoy success, not just in veterans’ events. At the first tournament held in Great Britain since the end of World War One, the Covered Court Championships, held in mid-April at the Queen’s Club, London, Ritchie, the holder, lost in the Challenge Round to his countryman Percival Davson by the score of 6-2, 6-3, 8-6.
As already indicated above, in 1919 Major Ritchie also once again reached the semi-finals of the singles event at Wimbledon, an extraordinary feat considering he was 48 years old at the time. He was beaten in four sets by the eventual champion, the Australian Gerald Patterson; the score was 6-1, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.
In 1920, Ritchie reached the semi-finals of the singles event at the short-lived World Covered Court Championships tournament, held that year at the Queen’s Club in London instead of the London Covered Court Championships. Ritchie played his semi-final at the former tournament on 20 October 1920, in other words two days after his fiftieth birthday. He was beaten in four sets by another Englishman, Walter Crawley.
Part V of V
In later years Major Ritchie continued to add to his long list of tournament victories. He was singles champion in Monmouth (Wales) in 1921, the year in which he also won the singles title at Angmering-on-Sea in West Sussex. In late October 1922, in fact in the week in which he celebrated his fifty-second birthday, Major Ritchie achieved one of the most remarkable successes of his long lawn tennis career when he won the singles title at the London Covered Court Championships at the Queen’s Club where he defeated the Indian Athar-Ali Fyzee in the final, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
As late as 1924, when he 53, Ritchie won the singles title at the spring hard court tournament in Roehampton and at the autumn Phyllis Court tournament, held in Henley, North Hampshire (this tournament was also played on hard courts).
One year later Ritchie was singles champion at the tournament held in Fleet, North Hampshire, in early June. In the same year, 1925, Ritchie won the Epsom tournament, which was held in early July. He had already won the singles title at Epsom in 1905, 1910 and 1911, and would do so again in 1926 and 1927, his last victory there coming at the age of 56.
In 1925, Ritchie was also runner-up at the Bridhurst tournament, held in South Croydon, close to the Grange, the former Ritchie family home. At this same tournament in 1925, the fourteen-year-old Richard Ritchie won the boys’ singles event. As already stated, Richard Ritchie would enjoy a certain amount of success at the sport of lawn tennis in later life, but not as much as his father. Nevertheless, Major Ritchie must have followed Richard’s progress with a strong sense of pride.
It appears that Major Ritchie separated from his wife, Ethel, at some point in the late 1920s. According to the electoral register of England for 1929, Major and Ethel are still living together, at a house called Riverholme in Thames Side, Surrey. However, one year later Major is still living at the same address, but this time with a woman called Amelia Ellen Reid. Ethel Ritchie was still alive at this point and, indeed, would live on until 1970, when she died aged 83.
In the electoral register of England for 1936, Major Ritchie and Amelia Reid are still living together in Thames Side, Surrey. Richard Ritchie is also living with them at this point in time. Richard would marry in 1947 and have several children with his wife, Daphne Flower. Richard Ritchie, known to family and friends as Dickie, died on 8 April 1999, two weeks before what would have been his eighty-eighth birthday.
Major Ritchie lived on until 1955, when he died in London on 28 February at the age of 84. Several obituaries and tributes appeared, including ones in the London “Times” and “Lawn Tennis and Badminton”. The latter tribute does justice to not just Major Ritchie the player, but also to Major Ritchie the person, and is reprinted in full here:
“The late M.J.G. Ritchie
“We record with much regret the passing on February 28 of Mr Major Josiah George Ritchie in his 85th year. For many years in the early part of the century he had been one of the best known and most successful tournament players in this country, and in more recent times he was a familiar figure at the Queen’s Club, playing almost daily on the club courts or in the role of critical spectator at some of the season’s big events. His son Richard J. Ritchie acts as secretary of the club.
“From about 1900 until the first World-War there was probably no more successful a tournament player or prolific winner on European courts than ‘M.J.G.’. His biography in those days occupied over a page in Ayres’ almanack and he won practically every honour in the game, save the [Wimbledon] Championship itself. Beaten three times in the final of the All-Comers’ singles at Wimbledon, he reached the challenge round once (over Herbert Roper-Barrett) in 1909, then losing to Arthur W. Gore. He was doubles champion in the years 1908 and 1909 with Anthony Wilding.
“Ritchie’s record would naturally have been even more distinguished if his peak form had not coincided with the reign of the immortal Doherty brothers, but he had his successes too over these idols of Wimbledon. He brought about the first defeat for over three years of Laurie Doherty in the London Covered Court Championship of 1903, and he did it again in Monte Carlo in 1907.
“Ritchie represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup in 1908, and after the European war he won the All England veterans’ title at Eastbourne, and on his fiftieth birthday achieved the remarkable feat of reaching the semi-final of the world’s covered court championship at Queen’s Club in 1920.
“No player, save perhaps Jean Borotra a generation later, was more familiar with conditions on the east covered court at Queen’s than Ritchie, whose usual practice it was to request a full panel of linesmen for his key matches. He used to assert and with every justification: ‘I play for the line itself, and in indoor conditions it is not possible for the chair umpire to see me hitting the line consistently!”
“Ritchie’s ball control was phenomenal and he possessed such an attacking forehand that he seldom had to visit the net. The embodiment of physical fitness, he never played a really bad match and was therefore unusually immune from defeat except by the player of real champion class.”
“A Great Player and Sportsman
“Mr Stanley Doust contributes the following appreciation:
“The passing of M.J.G. (‘Major’ to his friends) Ritchie will be a sad blow to players and spectators of his generation. I was one generation younger than he, nevertheless when I became a regular tournament player in this country we seemed to be doomed to meet each other either in the finals or semi-finals of the singles. Needless to say that Major generally beat me, but once or twice I had the luck of the game and managed to beat him.
“It was those isolated wins of mine that led to my admiration of him as an opponent. Admittedly Ritchie loved to win. At the end of a close match, when he had won the last stroke his face would wreath in smiles, and he and his defeated opponent would retire for some liquid refreshment.
“But I found Ritchie just as good a loser as a winner. Talking over our matches, he always praised my good points and if I had won he would give me a nudge in my midriff and say, ‘Wait till the next time’; and usually that ‘next time’ ended in his favour.
“Playing against each other so often, both in British and Continental tournaments, drew us together as friends. We both liked each other for a doubles partner. His returns of the service were so accurate that one never had any doubts on that score. My returns were erratic (always were) and if he ever felt peevish with me he never let me know, but would plod along with returning the best services and quietly wait until I could support him.
“Ritchie seldom gave up trying. He used to say, ‘We must win the last shot. That is all that matters.’ I remember one rubber in the London-Paris match in which we played together, the Paris pair led by two sets to one, 5-4 and 40-15 in the fourth set with Frenchmen serving. Ritchie made an outright winner off the next return, I managed to win mine and the score was deuce. Again Ritchie scored another brilliant return and the French muffled my return and the score was 5 games-all. Believe it or not, he and I won the match without losing another game. How well I remember Major’s delight.
“I found Ritchie’s lobbing his most potent shot. In my early days I used to ‘live’ at the net, but when I came up against Ritchie, his depth of lob was so accurate that I was forced to play the return from the ground. Seldom did he put up a short lob.
“He was a great tactician. His footwork was not considered first class, but his sense of anticipation was so good that he was seldom beaten by an outright return or by a lightning service. His victories over Laurie Doherty in 1903 and against Beals Wright in the Davis Cup a few years later are proof of Major being a very great player. He certainly was a good sportsman and nobody will regret his passing more than I.”
Mark this again is a superb piece of Tennis history you have given us. Its a pity theres si little appreciation for your hard work
Hope you will keep up the good work nevertheless!
thank you for that:) thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Great article, once again.
Also reminds me to rename his Wikipedia article which now mentions his name as Josiah Ritchie. Is there an online reference available to a census showing that his christened name is 'Major'?
Surely by now you have a book in the works? :D
^^^^ Thanks for the nice, encouraging comments. I don't plan to write a book on Major Ritchie, or on any other tennis player, at least not at the moment.
To "Wolbo": By all means, quote from this article if you want to in your wikipedia entry on Major Ritchie, but please mention the correct source.
In your wikipedia entry on Anthony Wilding you've copied almost all of the results that I and some others found, but you've given the incorrect sources. I listed the correct sources in the "A Chronology of Anthony Wilding's Singles Thread" I originally created and which can be found here: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showt...=322819&page=3
Thank you Newmark - well done.
You've made 1st team, All-Talk Tennis !
i was just wondering, whether there is actually enough biographical material available(internet and others) to be able to write a book about Major Ritchie.
or any other player really from the first decades.
i suspect the answer to be no, sadly
Of course, such a work would take a great deal of research, but I believe it could be done. Hopefully someone will at some point try to write a detailed biography of someone like Major Ritchie, or of an even more successful early lawn tennis player.
Seems that Ritchie was also active in other sports. Gillmeister in his book "Tennis : A Cultural History" mentions that Ritchie competed in a regatta in Laleham in 1903 and won the single sculls and coxless pairs events. In addition he apparently was an avid table tennis player and was the secretary of the Table Tennis Association, founded in 1902. That year he also co-authored a book on table tennis titled "Table tennis and how to play it, with rules''.
“Ritchie’s ball control was phenomenal and he possessed such an attacking forehand that he seldom had to visit the net. The embodiment of physical fitness, he never played a really bad match and was therefore unusually immune from defeat except by the player of real champion class.”
Sounds like a modern baseline player
I wasn't aware that he was keen on table tennis and had co-authored a book on it.
Thanks for the additional information.
Thanks Mark. Ritchie is one of only a few players to have won more than 100 tournaments. By my accounts Ritchie won 122 tournaments, leaving him behind Laver (200), Tilden (160), Drobny (142) and Rosewall (130) but in front of Emerson and Wilding (120), Connors (109 official) and ER Allen (103).
newmark401, wonderful share, great thread.
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