The story of the men’s singles event at the early German Tennis Championships (1892-1

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by newmark401, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Aug 10, 2009
    This is a companion piece to my translation of the piece on the Bad Homburg tournament, which can be found here:

    Like the piece on the Bad Homburg tournament, the original article was written by Karl Grauhan and featured in the “Official Annual of the German Tennis Association” in 1927, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the German Lawn Tennis Association.

    Although there was a women’s singles event at the German Championships from 1896 onwards, the focus of this piece is the men’s singles event. I have translated the most relevant sections of the article.

    The story of the men’s singles event at the early German Tennis Championships (1892-1913)

    By Karl Grauhan (translated by Mark Ryan)

    Part I of III

    “‘Non-handicap men’s singles for the Championships of Germany, for the Challenge Cup donated by Herr Karl Laeisz.’ That was the somewhat longwinded title of the first Championships of Germany tournament, which took place in Hamburg in 1892. In 1927, the year in which the German Tennis Association is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, the German Championships tournament can thus already look back on thirty-five years of history.

    “In the early days the German Championships took place in very modest circumstances. The four championship tennis courts surrounded by towering stands did not yet exist, and thousands of spectators were not in the habit of visiting the tournament held in Grunewald around Pentecost as they have been doing in recent years. In the early years the German Championships tournament was ‘closed’, which meant that only German and Austrian players could take part in it. However, in order to draw top-class foreign players to Hamburg nevertheless, the Championships of Hamburg were held simultaneously with the German Championships, and a number of top-class foreign players took part in the former tournament during its early years. Foreign players were allowed to take part in the men’s singles event at the German Championships only from 1897 onwards.

    “The first German Championships tournament, in 1892, took place in unfavourable conditions. A whole range of non-local top players had indeed sent in their names, and some of them had already arrived in Hamburg. However, once there they heard the alarming news that cholera was spreading throughout Hamburg, so it is therefore understandable that most of the non-local players immediately packed their suitcases and left the city. The only non-local player to remain and to expose himself to the dangers of contagion by cholera was Dr du Bois-Raymond.

    “The following are some of the names from the list of participants, a number of whom later became famous: Baron James von Fichard (now a retired lieutenant colonel and living in Karlsruhe), Dr du Bois-Raymond, Carl von der Meden (later the first president of the German Tennis Association), L. Gerdes (from Bremen) and Gerhard Adler (from Hamburg). From among the few remaining participants in 1892, Walter Bonne (from Hamburg) became the first champion of Germany. In the final he beat R.A. Leers 7-5, 6-3. As can be seen from the score, two sets were enough to win German Championships at that time. Bonne was still a very youthful player, being only 19 years old at the time. Much too early for German tennis Dr Walter Bonne died in 1911.

    “The following year, 1893, a somewhat larger number of people visited the championship tournament, when August von der Melden acted as chief referee. Count Viktor Voss was among the participants for the first time, as was Baron Robert von Fichard. The latter did a great service in relation to introducing the sport of tennis to Germany by translating the English sporting and tournament regulations, and by publishing the first lawn tennis handbooks. Some of the other participants in 1893 included the aforementioned Dr du Bois-Raymond (from Berlin), J. Gabe, F. Grobien and R. Westendarp (from Hamburg).

    “In the semi-finals Johannes Schneider beat Westendarp 6-3, 6-1, while Christian Winzer beat Count Voss 6-4, 6-4. As can be seen from the scores, in 1893 the Count from Mecklenburg, who was later to become very famous in the tennis world, had not yet reached the form which would later enable him to challenge even the top English players on equal terms. In 1893, Christian Winzer beat the holder, Walter Bonne, in the Challenge Round by the score of 6-4, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. Winzer thus became the second winner of the German Championships. The relatively modest circumstances in which the tournament was held at that time is indicated by the fact that only nine players had sent their names in.

    “The three-year reign of the Mecklenburg-born aristocrat Count Viktor Voss began in 1894. However, this year the count had to stretch himself in order to be able to beat Christian Winzer, the holder, in the Challenge Round by the score of 11-9, 6-1, 6-4. In those days tournaments did not take place as quickly as they do today, and in 1894 the tournament lasted a whole nine days despite the rather modest entry list.

    “Year by year the superiority of Count Voss over the other German players would become ever more obvious. In 1895, Christian Winzer was brushed aside 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the Challenge Round. Emphasis should be placed on the championship tournament of 1895 because for the first time we find the name of H.O. Behrens among the participants. Although Behrens was only fifteen years of age at the time, he made it all the way to the All-Comers’ Final, where he lost 6-1, 6-0 to Winzer. On the way to the All-Comers’ Final Behrens recorded a noteworthy victory when he beat the Berlin-based player von Schneider 6-2, 6-4. Since Dr Behrens played his first tournament in 1892, and was still actively participating in tournaments in 1926, he must, with his thirty-four years of tournament participation, surely be one of our oldest active players.

    “The following year, 1896, Behrens once again reached the All-Comers’ Final before losing to George Wantzelius (from Berlin) by the score of 6-1, 6-2. However, the superiority of Count Voss was then so great that he annihilated Wantzelius in the Challenge Round by the score of 6-1, 6-0, 6-1. Count Voss also won the Hamburg Championships that year by beating the Bremen-based American player W.S. Thomson 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. 1896 appears to have been the high point in the career of Count Voss because, as already mentioned, in the autumn of this year he succeeded in beating the youngest of the Doherty brothers, Laurence (Laurie), in Baden-Baden by the score of 6-3, 3-6, 8-6. Until the turn of the nineteenth century Count Viktor Voss towered above all other German players, and embodied an exception to an even greater extent than Otto Froitzheim, the man who inherited the Mecklenburg-born count’s mantle ten years later.

    “As already mentioned, the German Championships were open only to German and Austrian players until 1896. However, in 1897 they were opened to foreign players, too. In earlier years only the Hamburg Championships were open to foreign players, which naturally resulted in the events in this tournament being of a greater sporting value than those in the German Championships, where German (and Austrian) players competed against each other. By opening up the German Championships to foreign players it was also hoped that some of the famous English players, who were in the habit of participating in the Bad Homburg tournament, would be tempted to play in Hamburg, too. This hope was very much fulfilled in 1897, when several of the most famous English players sent in their names for the first international German Championships.

    “Reginald (Reggie) Doherty came to Hamburg, although not without any serious intentions of becoming ‘German champion’. He entered most of the events and it is worth pointing out that the then 17-year-old H.O. Behrens had no less a partner for the handicap men’s double event than the same Reggie Doherty. At that time there was still no championship men’s doubles event. However, the young Behrens won the open men’s doubles event with George Hillyard, later secretary of the All England Club for many years and still a dangerous doubles today at the age of sixty-two. In 1897, George Hillyard also became the first foreign player to win the men’s singles title at the German Championships. In the All-Comers’ Final Hillyard beat his doubles partner of many years, the Irishman George Ball-Greene, 7-5, 4-6, 5-7, 6-0, 6-0. In the semi-finals Ball-Greene had beaten H.O. Behrens, while Hillyard had defeated George Wantzelius. Count Voss did not defend his title in 1897.
  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Aug 10, 2009
    Part II of III

    “Despite the apparent success of the German Championships tournament in 1897, it was evident with each succeeding year that, for various reasons, the sport of tennis was on the decline in Hamburg. From 1898, the German Championships were thus held simultaneously with the Homburg Cup tournament in Bad Homburg. In both 1898 and 1899, the top English tennis players were present in Bad Homburg, which meant that the German Championships tournament in these years had a top-class entry list. For example, in 1898, the participants included the Doherty brothers, Reggie and Laurie, and two famous Irish players – Harold Mahony, the 1896 Wimbledon champion, and his equally famous countryman, Dr Joshua Pim, who had won the Wimbledon title in 1893 and 1894. Dr Pim played under the pseudonym of ‘J. Wilson’.

    “The German participants in 1898 included Count Voss, H.O. Behrens and George Wantzelius. The extent of the Doherty brothers’ superiority in relation to the German players (with the exception of Count Voss) can be seen from the fact that Reggie Doherty beat Wantzelius 6-1, 6-1, 6-0. Count Voss also lost in straight sets, to Harold Mahony, the score being 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. H.O. Behrens achieved a comparatively good result against Dr Pim, who won 6-0, 8-6, 6-4.
    “Then, as in later years, both of the Doherty brothers placed a greater value on the Homburg Cup than on the German Championships. This is why they both gave a walkover in the semi-finals of the latter tournament, against Harold Mahony and Dr Pim respectively. The All-Comers’ Final was thus played by both of the Irishmen. Harold Mahony, younger player, won it by the score of 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. George Hillyard did not defend his title in 1898.

    “In 1899, the most spectacular German Championships tournament yet took place in Bad Homburg. Besides the eventual champion, the American Clarence Hobart, the participants included Reggie and Laurie Doherty, Arthur W. Gore (a future Wimbledon champion), Harold Mahony, W.R. Martin and J.M. Flavelle. In addition, a third Doherty was taking part, namely W.V. Doherty, the eldest of the three brothers who, although in holy orders, did not shy away from taking part in tournaments.

    “In 1899, both of the younger Doherty brothers remained true to their habits and gave a walkover in the German Championships in order to focus on the Homburg Cup. Arthur W. Gore was lucky to receive a walkover from Reggie Doherty in the quarter-finals. In the next round Gore beat his countryman, J.M. Flavelle 6-1, 6-4 before losing to the American Clarence Hobart in the All-Comers’ Final by the score of 7-5, 6-3, 6-0. The Challenge Round, between Hobart and the holder, Harold Mahony, was an exceptional match. After a remarkable five-set struggle, Hobart became German champion for the year 1899 by the close score of 8-6, 8-10, 6-0, 6-8, 8-6.

    “In 1900, in the first tournament of the new century, fewer foreign players sent in their names than had done so in 1899. In contrast, the number of German entrants was increasing year by year. In 1900, these included the Berlin-based player Rolf Schindler, the Frankfurt-based champion Carl Schmidt-Knatz, Kurt von Lersner and Count Voss. Schmidt-Knatz lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to the very tall American player Wylie C. Grant, while Rolf Schindler lost to Count Voss by the score of 6-3, 6-1, 10-8. Since Laurie Doherty gave a walkover in the All-Comers’ Final, George Hillyard became German champion for the second time. Clarence Hobart did not defend his title in 1900.

    “In 1901, both Dohertys were missing from Bad Homburg for the first time. This was probably because the other top-class players from the British Isles chose not to travel to Bad Homburg. The best English player was Frederick W. Payn, who had also made a name for himself as a writer. However, participation was greater than ever before because the draw contained 32 players for the first time. The participants included the current president of the Dutch Tennis Association, A. Broese von Groenou, the Frenchman Jacques Worth and the American W.C. Thomson. However, in 1901 the title did not fall to an Englishman but, surprisingly, to a 19-year-old Frenchman, Max Décugis from Paris. In the presence of the King of England, Décugis beat the Prague-based champion, Kurt von Wessely, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 before easily defeating Frederick W. Payn in the All-Comers’ Final by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. George Hillyard did not defend his title in 1901.

    “In 1902, the German Championships were moved back to Hamburg from Bad Homburg. Max Décugis succeeded in defending his title by beating the Englishman Dr J.M. Flavelle in the Challenge Round by the score of 4-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, 5-0, retired, after Flavelle had led 6-4, 6-2, 5-1. However, Décugis proved definitively that he was the better player this year by beating Flavelle 7-5, 9-7, 6-1 in the final match of the Hamburg Championships.

    “In 1902, H.O. Behrens reached the All-Comers’ Final before losing to J.M. Flavelle by the surprisingly one-sided score of 6-0, 6-2, 6-0. However, in the semi-finals Behrens had recorded a particularly noteworthy victory over the redoubtable French player Maurice Germot by the score of 6-3, 6-2. Together with Germot, Max Décugis also succeeded in 1902 in winning the newly-created doubles championship of Germany against the then famous Bremen-based combination of Thomsen and Bornemann. The final score was 7-9, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

    “In 1903, the reign of the Englishman Major Josiah Ritchie began. From 1903 to 1906, he would win the German Championships four years in a row. However, in 1903 Ritchie had to win a five-set match in order to beat Dr J.M. Flavelle by the score of 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in the All-Comer’s Final. Max Décugis did not defend his title in 1903.

    “In 1904, for the first time, Otto Froitzheim was to be found among the participants at the German Championships. However, Froitzheim was not yet a match for the Austrian champion, Kurt von Wessely, who beat Froitzheim in the fourth round by the score of 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 using what in those days was an outstanding net game. The participants also included a number of players who are still wielding the racket today, such as P. Reisland (from Leipzig), Dr H.O. Behrens, the Dusseldorf native and future president of the Rhenish district authority, Dr A. Frese, Dr C. Brandis and Otto von Müller.

    “From 41 participants, Kurt von Wessely obtained the right to take on the previous year’s champion, Major Ritchie, in the Challenge Round without facing any real resistance and without losing a single set. Ritchie became German champion for the second time by the score of 6-4, 6-0, 10-8. The sweeping report of the match featured in the German sports periodical ‘Der Lawn-Tennis-Sport’ ended with the following comparison: ‘He – Ritchie – is like a commander on the battlefield, the man with a head like Helmuth von Moltke [a famous Prussian soldier], while on the other side of the net stands the temperamental son from a southern land, with his wonderful, daring style. Despite the obvious superiority of the winner, von Wessely was always on the attack, never defensive, honour in victory or death! Morituri te salutant, imperator! [Emperor, those who are about to die salute you!]’

    “In 1905, the famous New Zealander Anthony F. Wilding, at that time a 21-year-old student at Cambridge in England, was the big attraction at the German Championships in Hamburg. Otto Froitzheim did not come to Hamburg so that Rudolf Schindler was the best German taking part. However, Wilding beat Schindler easily in the All-Comers’ Final by the score of 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. There was an outstanding match in the Challenge Round between Ritchie and Wilding. However, this time Wilding, who attacked with youthful impetuosity, lost against the deadly accuracy of Ritchie by the score of 8-6, 7-5, 8-6. By winning the title for three consecutive years Ritchie gained permanent possession of the valuable Challenge Cup. In 1905, Friedrich W. Rahe also took part in the German Championships for the first time, as did Heinrich Schomburgk, from Leipzig. Schomburgk was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by Schindler.

    “The great sponsor of tennis in Germany in that era, Grand Duchess Anastasia von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, donated a new Challenge Cup for the German Championships of 1906. Major Ritchie came, saw and conquered for the fourth time. In 1906, he had a particularly easy victory because there was no foreign player of his class and the young German players were not yet a match for him. Oscar Kreuzer was considered to have excelled when he took a set from Ritchie. However, Ritchie ultimately won their match 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. In the other half of the draw Friedrich W. Rahe did not face any top-class players and easily reached the final. However, once there he could make no headway against Ritchie and lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.
  3. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Aug 10, 2009
    Part III of III

    “1907 marked a turning-point in the history of the German Championships because for the first time in ten years the title once again fell to a German player, to Otto Froitzheim from Strasbourg, who beat the redoubtable Englishman Major Ritchie 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in front of an uproarious public. The joy of the spectators in Hamburg was all the greater because, as already mentioned, it had been ten years since another German, Count Viktor Voss, had won the German Championships. In the intervening ten years an Englishman had won the title six times, a Frenchman twice and an American and an Irishman both once. The 1907 tournament also had a stronger entry than in previous years. In addition to the German players Otto Froitzheim, Friedrich W. Rahe, Oscar Kreuzer and Moritz von Bissing, there were the English players Major Ritchie and Ernest Lane, the Dane Erik Larsen, the Dutchman Otto Pierre Blom and the Belgian Paul Trasenster. Trasenster beat Rahe 7-9, 6-4, 8-6 before being beaten 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 by Froitzheim. In an earlier round Froitzheim had beaten Kreuzer 6-3, 12-10. In the All-Comers’ Final Froitzheim defeated the Dane Larsen 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 before gaining his first victory of international importance in the Challenge Round against Ritchie.

    “Up until 1907, the German Championships were held over a long period of time, the tournament lasting from nine to twelve days as a rule. In 1908, the assistance of the well-known tournament referee, the Englishman George M. Simond, was called on for the first time. Simond caused general astonishment by staging the tournament over a period of just six days. Otto Froitzheim had come to Hamburg to defend his title, but had to rush back to Strasbourg following the sudden death of his father. This meant that Major Ritchie was able to win the tournament for the fifth time. The Belgian Paul Trasenster was among the participants again in 1908. His old opponent Otto von Müller beat Trasenster 6-4, 6-3 before losing to Ritchie by the score of 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Heinrich Schomburgk beat Rahe 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 after a hard struggle, but then surprisingly lost to the young Dresden-based Scot George Logie, who won their match 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The All-Comers’ Final between Logie and Ritchie was very one-sided, Ritchie winning 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

    “1908 was also a special year because a German pair, in the form of Heinrich Schomburgk and Otto von Müller, won the men’s double championships for the first time. In the final they beat the team of Major Ritchie and Gerhard Adler 2-6, 6-1, 6-0.

    “In 1909, the German Championships tournament was a purely national affair because neither Ritchie nor any other foreign player came to Hamburg. However, Otto Froitzheim was back, as were most of the other top German players such as Friedrich W. Rahe, Heinrich Schomburgk, Kurt Bergmann and Heyden. In the semi-finals Froitzheim beat Heinrich Schomburgk 6-2, 6-4, while in the All-Comers’ Final he beat Rahe 6-0, 6-2, 6-3, thereby winning his second German Championships title.

    “There were no foreign participants in 1910, either. However, most of the participants were names which are still active in the sport of tennis in Germany today, such as Heinrich Schomburgk, Ferdinand Uhl, Kurt Bergmann, Count Ludwig Salm and C.A. Knorr. In 1910, the young Dresdner Kurt Bergmann really distinguished himself by beating, first, Otto von Müller by the score of 6-1, 6-3, and then Heinrich Schomburgk 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Regrettably, Bergmann did not then appear against Froitzheim in the Challenge Round because Froitzheim had already beaten him in the final of Championships of Hamburg by the score of 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0, and Bergmann was too exhausted to face Froitzheim again. This meant that Froitzheim did not need to play any matches at all in order to win his third German Championships title.

    “In 1911, the Austrian player Fritz Pipes was Froitzheim’s opponent in the Challenge Round. In previous rounds Pipes had beaten Kurt Bergmann 6-3, 6-1 and George Logie 6-4, 6-2, after Bergmann had beaten Heinrich Schomburgk 7-5, 6-2. However, Pipes had nothing to offer against the superior game of Otto Froitzheim, who won the match and his fourth German Championships by the score of 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.

    “In retrospect one has to consider 1912 and 1913 the ‘boycott years’. The German Tennis Association (GTA) disqualified a number of our top players of that time because, despite a warning from the GTA, they had played in an invitational tournament in Baden-Baden, which had not been approved by the GTA. The players missing from the German Championships in 1912 included Otto Froitzheim, Friedrich W. Rahe, the Kleinschroth brothers (Robert and Heinrich) and Otto von Bissing. In this respect, it must be stressed that neither of the Kleinschroth brothers played at all in Hamburg before the First World War. This situation meant that other players had their name engraved on the trophy for the first time, such as Otto von Müller.

    “In 1912, Heinrich Schomburgk beat Paul Trasenster and Count Salm, the most dangerous foreign players, while Otto von Müller had easier opponents. In the All-Comers’ Final Otto von Müller played better tennis than ever before and was able to beat his old rival from Leipzig, Heinrich Schomburgk, by the score of 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

    “In 1913, during the last German Championships before the First World War, Heinrich Schomburgk was able to turn the tables and beat the previous year’s champion, Otto von Müller, in the Challenge Round, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5. 1913 was a notable year because the famous Austrian combination of Rolf Kinzl and Kurt von Wessely took part in the German Championships again for the first time after a break of ten years. Due to their better teamwork, Kinzl and von Wessely were able to win the doubles title once more, but neither of them had any success in the singles event. Heinrich Schomburgk’s victory was welcomed with great joy within tennis circles in Hamburg because the versatile Leipzig-based sportsman had been one of the most faithful and regular participants in the tournament.

    “In 1914, when the first advertisements for the German Championships had already been sent out and final preparations were being made in Hamburg for the forthcoming matches, the First World War broke out like lightning out of the blue, forcing German tennis players to deal with more serious matters for a number of years.”

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