Wikipedia states: "Sidney
Burr Wood Jr. (Nov. 1, 1911 - Jan. 10, 2009) was an American
tennis player who won the 1931 Wimbledon singles title. Wood
was ranked in the world Top 10 five times between 1931 and 1938,
and was ranked World No. 6 in 1931 and 1934 and No.5 in 1938."
Also: "Wood is credited with inventing, designing and patenting
Supreme Court, a synthetic playing surface used for indoor courts.
It was used by the World Championship Tennis tour from 1973 to
1978. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1964. At
the time of his death he was the oldest living Hall of Famer."
Sidney Wood was born in Black
Rock, Connecticut and died at age 97 in Palm Beach, Florida.
His son David Woods remembers, "While most children were
being read bedtime stories about Goldilocks, the Three Little
Pigs or other such perfunctory fairy tale fare to lull them to
sleep, we were being treated to the likes of Bill Tilden, Don
Budge and other titans of tennis from the first part of the 20th
century. We came to call them "Nighttime Tilden Stories"
- no matter who was the subject."
David recalls that a few years
later, at the suggestion of one of his father's "delighted
listeners" Sidney started copying those stories from his
extraordinary life to paper. He intented to write his autobiography
and call it "Aged in Wood." David writes, "This
book is unique in that you get a perspective, particularly about
the game itself, as told by one who started as protégé
of Tilden and had played, or watched play and studied and known
personally every player since, all the way up to Roger Federer.
There was simply no one else on the planet who could speak with
his authority and first-hand knowledge of the game."
Over time, David observed that
his dad was so devoted to writing the book and adding story after
story that he never got around to finishing it. "He just
couldn't bring himself to stop witing it, even as projected publishing
dates came and went." He contemplated that his dad didn't
want to let go of the past and reliving it gave him joy and vigor,
a reason to rise in the morning. "It wasn't until after
his passing in January of 2009 at the age of 97, that I was able
to retrieve his writings and many files and made the decision
to pick up the mantle and finally get this wonderful manuscript
in shape for publishing for all to enjoy."
on the back cover?
It's the only
time in the history of Wimbledon that the men's singles final
was not played. Sidney Wood won the 1931 Wimbledon title by default
over Frank Shields, his school buddy, doubles partner, roommate,
Davis Cup teammate in one of the most curious episodes ever in
Wood, in his
writings published after his 2009 passing, tells the story of
how Shields was ordered by the U.S. Tennis Association to not
compete in the championship match to rest his injured knee in
preparation for an upcoming Davis Cup match for the United States.
He then discusses his "private understanding playoff"
between he and Shields that saw their match at the Queen's Club
tournament three years later be played for the Wimbledon trophy.
could be called the greatest story teller tennis ever had, also
relates in a compilation of short stories fascinating anecdotes
that involve the most famous personalities from Hollywood and
across the globe. Wood also uniquely documents the play and styles
of the legends of tennis throughout the 20th century."
does the co-author describe the book?
David Woods writes:
"As you will see in the
following pages, I have interjected some narration throughout
the book to fill in some gaps in my father's writing or to provide
proper context. It is an invaluable and unique first-hand perspective
for tennis fans and students of tennis history from one who lived,
and contributed to, that history."
do others describe this book?
"The book details the life
and times of Wood with a focus on one of the most unusual episodes
ever in sport when he won the men's singles title at Wimbledon
in a default - the only time in history of The Championships
when the men's singles final was not played.
Tennis stories featuring many
of last century's most famous celebrities - including Errol Flynn,
Grace Kelly, Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, the Shah of Iran,
Gary Cooper, Bobby Fischer, Fay Wray and many others - are also
featured in the volume. David Wood of Queens, N.Y., the youngest
son of Wood, serves as contributor to the volume."
New Chapter Press (the book's publisher)
"[Wood] is George Plimpton-esque
in his marvelous prose which gives one a Great Gatsby feel to
recollections of the champions he competed (very successfully)
against and then observed through the modern era of Roger Federer
and Rafael Nadal."
"The book's charm lies in
the way it recreates early 20th century tennis history. . . .
A rich source of stories about tennis history."
Long Island Tennis
The book takes you behind the
curtains into a time when lines were blurred between Old Hollywood
and tennis. Wood tells of Charlie Chaplin's bi-weekly tennis-infused
breakfasts bringing Hollywood and tennis stars together; of "inveterate
tennis devotee Gary Cooper" delivering laundry to unsuspecting
clients; of sponsoring then-budding actor Errol Flynn and teaming
up with him to qualify for the U.S. Nationals (now US Open) in
doubles; of his one-time relationship with Grace Kelly, to whom
he is not too kind.
The Wimbledon Final That Never
Was... is full of anecdotes and history, and also demonstrates
the way a tennis player views the sport. You can find out the
identity of the server posing in the original ATP Tour logo,
learn about the virtues of IMG founder Mark McCormack, get a
feel for Bobby Fischer's tennis prowess, and learn tennis strategy
from a Hall of Famer, all within a few pages. If going back in
time and taking a ride through the decades with a top tennis
player sounds like a good way to spend a few hours, then this
book is for you.
Photo: New York Times
did I get out of reading this book?
Since Wood's book came out in
2011 I can't believe it took me 6 years to read it. As a student
of tennis history for the past 20 years and a fan of legends
like Tilden, Lenglen, Wills, Budge, Kramer, Ash, I thoroughly
enjoyed reading this autobiography. It added to the information
previously obtained in other books. Example: Frank DeVore wrote
superbly about "Big Bill Tilden" but the story about
him being served backwards by Nicolai Mishu in the first round
match at St.Cloud, where the French Championships where then
played, was new to me. Tilden was outraged but the serve was
good. 15-0. Very funny.
Many of those little anecdotes
made me smile. Some made me laugh out loud, like stories about
Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin. So, I learned a lot about Woods,
a man with stories to tell and incredible tennis achievements
who I unfortunately had paid little attention to in the past.
And about all those tennis playing Hollywood celebrities at a
time when tennis was called the "gentleman's sport."
In the last chapter Woods got
a little sentimental and, believe it or not, I liked reading
If the premise
of kinship through competition ever needed confirmation, it was
dramatically there for all to view in 1977 when about 50 former
Wimbledon singles champions, men and women, once again made their
way from all compass points to the Centre Court to receive medallions
commemorating Wimbledon's centenary and to take part in an unforgettably
I had phoned
Don Budge hoping to arrange a flight over with him. Tony Trabert,
Jack Kramer and Dick Savitt had also called, but Don said he
just couldn't make it. Next scene - Don appeared in the nick
of time for the presentations and stood like the colossus he
had been astride the Centre Court.
As we lined
up, all hands linked, on the greenest of all turfs, with the
strains of "Auld Lang Syne" resounding in our ears
through the cheering crescendoes of spectators risen from their
seats, the memories paraded past my mind's eye, and a hundred
hard-fought victories and defeats fused into a single, glowing
experience. All that really mattered was being a part of this
matchless cohort of ageless fellow athletes who, with rare exception,
would be fast friends for life.
Well written. Great read regardless
if you are a pro, fan, or recreational player.