Roger Federer aspires to tie Bill Tilden's 84-year old record of six consecutive U.S. Open Men’s Singles Championships this week in Flushing Meadows, New York. As the LA Times reported, "The silken Swiss is on the cusp of history... gunning for a sixth consecutive crown, a record that would make him the first man since American Bill Tilden in the 1920s to capture a sextet of unbroken titles."
Long before the tennis world was captivated by the wild excitement of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick and previous to the awe-inspiring accomplishments of André Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors - there was Bill Tilden.
If a player's value is measured by the influence he exercised over his sport, then William Tatum Tilden II could be considered the greatest and most dominant player in the history of tennis.
During the "Roaring Twenties" he was part of a quartet of All American sports icons, including Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones and Babe Ruth, who forever changed the games they played.
A larger than life figure, Tilden, nicknamed Big Bill, reigned supreme over the world of tennis in the 1920's and it was his unmatched domination of the game that earned him the love and admiration of fans and ushered in the modern era of the sport. He was the man who made tennis a big-time sport, everything else is prologue. He was to tennis what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He gave the game muscle, backbone and a new popularity.
Tilden was tennis. As S. Malinowski said in “tennisweek.com”, on 8/21/09, “Tilden did not wait for opponents, media or fans to coronate him as tennis king, he seized the throne.”
A majestic presence on the court, "Big Bill", was 6-foot-2 of powerful serve, impressive ground strokes and a master of spins (from anywhere on the court), slices, drop shots and lobs. He overwhelmed his opponents, calculating their every move and ultimately defeating them with his superior intellectual understanding of the game and his arsenal of unstoppable weapons. He had total control of his game.
From 1920 through 1926 he dominated the game as has no player before, or since. He won six consecutive U.S. Open Men's Singles Championships (1920-25) and again in 1929. He led the American Davis Cup Team to seven straight victories (1920-26) and won Wimbledon Singles Championships in 1920 and 1921 and later won a third Singles Championship in 1930 and a Doubles Championship in 1927. He was the first American to ever win a Wimbledon title and the oldest player to accomplish that feat.
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