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Courting Success: The Early Years
Some of the most influential players have at one time called the Mid-Atlantic home. During our Centennial Celebration in 2023, USTA Mid-Atlantic will highlight 50 noteworthy and intriguing players.
Make sure to visit our Centennial Celebration page to learn more about this special, historic year and all the ways you can join in celebrating with us.
Learn about 14 early trailblazers in our tennis history. Stay tuned for more stories in the coming weeks!
Basil Spalding de Garmendia
A native of Baltimore, Md., Basil Spalding de Garmendia played in the U.S. National Championships (now the US Open) four times during the 1890s and was the first American to win an Olympic medal in men’s tennis. Among the initial wave of U.S. players to compete internationally, he teamed with Max Décugis of France to claim the silver medal in men’s doubles at the second modern Olympic Games, held at Paris in 1900. The following year de Garmendia reached the quarterfinals of the French Championships for his best result at a major. He was also an outstanding racquets player and captured the U.S. court tennis championship six times.
Lucy Diggs Slowe
Born in Berryville, Va., Lucy Diggs Slowe attended Howard University and received a master’s degree from Columbia University before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1915 to become a teacher. Black tennis clubs in the nation’s capital formed the American Tennis Association (ATA) the following year and staged the first ATA national championships, at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, Md., in 1917. Slowe captured the inaugural women’s singles championship to become the first African-American woman to win a major sports title. She won the ATA women’s singles championship again in 1921. While becoming Dean of Women at Howard University—the first Black woman to hold such a high position at a university—she continued to make time for tennis, occasionally partnering with Talley Holmes, the ATA’s first men’s singles champion, to win mixed doubles cups in New York and Philadelphia.
A lifelong resident of Washington, D.C., Talley Holmes was among the representatives of the more than a dozen Black tennis clubs that met in the city in 1916 to form the American Tennis Association, the nation’s first African-American sports organization. A Dartmouth College graduate, he won the first ATA men’s singles championship in 1917 and successfully defended his crown the following year. He also captured the ATA men’s singles championship in 1921 and 1924.
Johnny Van Ryn
Born in Newport News, Va., Johnny Van Ryn enjoyed a prominent singles career, ranking in the U.S. Top 10 for half a dozen years beginning in 1927. But it was in doubles that he shone brightest, winning six Grand Slam men’s doubles titles—three consecutive Wimbledon crowns, two U.S. Nationals/US Open titles, and a French Championship—while advancing to five other finals. His partner at all but two of those 11 majors was Wilmer Allison, with whom he posted a stellar 14-2 record in Davis Cup play. Van Ryn was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1963.
Frank “Buddy” Goeltz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and won his first junior tournament in 1922, his first adult tournament in 1930, and competed in the U.S. Nationals for the first time in 1932. Six years later he settled in the Washington, D.C., area to become a tennis pro and high school tennis coach. When he retired, the Rockville, Md., resident went back to playing tournaments and compiled an outstanding record, winning 49 USTA senior national championships, putting him fourth on the all-time list. Goeltz achieved a Gold Slam in singles and in doubles by sweeping the clay, grass, hard court and indoor U.S. Men’s 65s national championships in 1971, and he again accomplished the feat in singles and doubles five years later at the U.S. Men’s 70 national championships. He was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
C. Alphonso Smith
C. Alphonso Smith learned to play tennis at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where his father headed the English department. In 1924 Smith won the U.S. Boys’ 15s national championships in singles and doubles, and in 1927 he captured the U.S. Boy’s 18s doubles title with Eddie Jacobs. Thirty years later Smith and Jacobs teamed to win the U.S. Men’s 45s grass court doubles championship. Smith claimed his first Gold Ball in 1974 by capturing the U.S. Men’s 65s national doubles titles on clay, grass, hard court, and indoors en route to winning 31 national singles and doubles championships overall, while championing senior tennis and the creation of 55-and-over through 85-and-over age groups. He served as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team for its 1963 match in Iran and was for many years a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame board of directors. He was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1989.
Nicholas Powel was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a decorated World War II pilot who became a colonel in the U.S. Air Force after the war. Upon retiring from the military he settled in Arlington, Va., and took up senior tennis, winning four national singles championships and 17 national doubles titles. Along the way he desired to make tennis more fun and a better game for all and in 1981 produced The Code, a summary of the procedures and unwritten rules of tennis that custom and tradition dictate all players should follow. Streamlined by the USTA’s Friend at Court Committee in 1997, Powel’s The Code continues to be an indispensable guide for players to consult when tennis officials are not present for their matches. Powel was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1989.
A tennis champion who went on to champion the benefits of senior tennis, Gardnar Mulloy was born in Washington, D.C., broke into the U.S. Top 10 when he was 26, and became the nation’s No. 1 player at age 38 after reaching the 1952 U.S. Nationals/US Open final. He captured five Grand Slam men’s doubles titles, including four with Bill Talbert at Forest Hills, and was a Wimbledon mixed doubles finalist with Althea Gibson in 1956, the year before she became the first Black player to win a Wimbledon championship. Mulloy played competitive tennis into his nineties, amassing more than 125 national titles, and developed the international Mulloy Cup competition for men’s players 80 years of age and over. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1972.
Margaret Peters learned to play tennis with her younger sister, Matilda Roumania Peters, on a clay court at Georgetown’s Rose Park in Washington, D.C. They began competing in local tournaments organized by the D.C. Municipal Playground department in the late 1920s and soon made a name for themselves, becoming known as “Pete” and “Re-Pete.” Offered a full scholarship to Tuskegee Institute, Margaret opted to wait for her sister to graduate from school, and they enrolled at Tuskegee together in 1937, winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship four times. Beginning in 1938 they won the ATA women’s doubles championship a record 14 times in 15 years. Margaret Peters was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.
Matilda Roumania Peters
In addition to her doubles success at the ATA with her sister Margaret, Matilda Roumania Peters won the ATA women’s singles championship in 1944 and 1946, the latter victory coming over future US Nationals/US Open, Wimbledon, and French Championships winner Althea Gibson, although Gibson got her revenge the next year and went on to win 10 consecutive ATA titles. Like Margaret, Roumania earned a master’s degree after retiring from ATA competition in the early 1950s and worked in the D.C. public schools, inspiring and encouraging the area’s next generation of tennis players. She was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.
Raymonde Veber Jones
Raymonde Veber Jones was born and raised in Paris, France, and was an avid tennis player who in 1944 won the Tournoi de France, the tournament staged in Paris during World War II in lieu of the French Championships. The following year she played at a tournament in Cannes, where she met her future husband, a major in the U.S. Army, and they eventually settled in Annandale, Va., where Raymonde became a teaching professional and a top local player, winning the USTA Mid-Atlantic women’s championship nine times between 1961 and 1971 without losing a set and rising as high as No. 13 in the national rankings. She was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1997.
Pauline Betz Addie
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Pauline Betz Addie learned tennis on the public courts of Los Angeles and then played on the men’s team at Rollins College in Florida. She entered the U.S. Top 10 for the first time at age 20 and became the year-end No. 1 in 1942, when she won the first of four U.S. Nationals/US Open singles championships. She won five major titles in all, capturing Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1946, when she also held a match point in the French Championships final. The next year she was riding a 39-match winning streak when she mentioned her interest in playing professionally and was consequently barred from all future amateur competition, including Grand Slam tournaments. Her subsequent marriage to Robert Addie, a sports columnist of the Washington Post, brought her to Bethesda, Md., and she went on to enjoy a 13-year career on the professional tour circuit. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1965 and the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1990.
George Stewart was a trailblazing athlete who helped break tennis’s racial barriers in the United States. Born in Panama, he attended South Carolina State University and became with Bob Ryland the first Black players to compete in the NCAA men’s national championships, appearing in 1945 and 1946. Stewart also became with Reginald Weir the first Black men to play at the U.S. Nationals/US Open when they competed at Forest Hills in 1952. A fleet-footed lefthander who was called “The Father of Topspin,” Stewart won the ATA men’s singles national championship seven times and captured five national doubles titles between 1947 and 1964. He became a U.S. citizen in 1959 and was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1990.
Born in New York City, Elizabeth “Betty” Eisenstein took up tennis on a court at her parents’ Westchester County home and continued playing through college at Vassar and while earning her master’s and doctorate in history at Radcliffe College. She didn’t begin to put her mark on the sport, however, until she had settled in Washington, D.C., to teach at American University and began playing tournament tennis shortly before turning 50. During the next four decades she was consistently ranked in the Top 10 of her age group, winning 33 national championships, including three Gold Slams that saw her sweep the clay, grass, hard court, and indoor national titles in the same year. In 1998 she captured an ITF World Championship. A world-renown historian who published her masterwork on the cultural impact of the printing press in 1979, the same year she was appointed the inaugural scholar-in-residence at the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, Eisenstein was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.
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USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps people and communities grow stronger, healthier, and more connected through tennis. Learn about our impact in the Section and how you can help bring tennis to more communities throughout the region.
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