Biography::James Dwight


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Biography Sometimes called the "Founding Father of American Tennis", James Dwight won the first recorded tournament in the U.S. (and probably in the world, before the first Wimbledon Championships) played in August 1876 on the property of his uncle, William Appleton, at Nahant, MA. After graduating from Harvard in 1874, he traveled in Europe, saw the new sport of lawn tennis being played, and brought the necessary equipment home. Then he persuaded his uncle to mark out a court on his smooth front lawn so he could play a game with his cousin, Fred Sears.

That first attempt was disappointing. Dwight later wrote, ". . . we voted the whole thing a fraud and put it away." About a month later, they tried again, as a way of passing time on a rainy day. This time, tennis seemed much more interesting, even though they were wearing rubber boots and raincoats. The 1876 tournament was a neighborhood affair : "it was played on handicap on a round robin basis. There were two players on scratch, James Dwight and Fred D Sears Jr., each of whom played against 11 other players until a final between them. Rackets scoring was used ... Dwight beat Sears 12–15 15–7 15–13.<ref>The Guinness book of Tennis Facts & Feats, 1983 edition, page 11, by Lance Tingay</ref> By then, Dwight and Sears had taught the game to a number of people, including another cousin, Richard Dudley "Dick" Sears, who went on to win the first seven national singles championships.

Dwight was one of the founders of the U. S. National Lawn Tennis Association in 1881, and he served as its president for twenty-one years. He never won the singles championship, but he reached the tournament final in 1883 losing to Richard Sears, with whom he did team to take five national doubles titles, from 1882 through 1884 and from 1886 through 1887. In a very rare transatlantic trip in those days, James Dwight entered the 1884 and 1885 Wimbledon tournaments, reaching the semi final in 1885.

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