Join Date: Aug 2009
Part III of V
The following year, 1903, Major Ritchie once again reached the All-Comerís 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-Comersí 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-Comerís 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-Comersí 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 Zealandís greatest player and a multiple Wimbledon singles and doubles champion. In the All-Comersí 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-Comersí 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-Comersí 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 menís 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 menís 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 Ritchieís final opponent, another Englishman, Dunstan Rhodes, was beaten, 6-4, 6-2. Ritchieís 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.
Last edited by newmark401; 01-22-2013 at 10:24 AM.