Friday, December 1, 2017

Review of "The United States Tennis Association"

While most books I read about a sport off the field have to do with baseball, I found this one on the history of the United States Tennis Association very interesting.  If nothing else, after reading this, one will understand why the sport was considered to be only for the elite.  Here is my review of "The United States Tennis Association"

The United States Tennis Association: Raising the Game” by Warren F. Kimball

Tennis, history, business

Publish date:
December 1, 2017

448 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Starting out as a group of elite white men from the northeastern part of the United States to help promote the game of “lawn tennis”, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has become the largest tennis association in the world. The organization boasts women in many leadership roles, revenues that total well into nine figures and is mostly run by volunteers.  The story of how this organization grew into a unique governing body is told in this book by Warren F. Kimball.

The UST(L)A – L for Lawn as that was the complete name for many years – had its humble beginnings in the Northeast and was composed of tennis clubs instead of individual memberships.  Indeed, the USTA did not begin soliciting individual members until the 1960’s, preferring instead to keep the organization as one of a collection of clubs.  The organization did grow from the Northeast all the way to California and spots in between but for most of its early years, it reflected the culture of the Northeast.  Kimball’s research and attention to detail bear this out well.

A major theme throughout the book is that the USTA would try to keep its championship tournament (which is today’s US Open) and the organization as a whole open to amateur players only.  Professionals who were collecting money for playing the game, in any fashion (prize money as we know it today was not won in those days), such as Suzanne Lenglen and Bill Tilden, were considered rogues.  In Tilden’s case, his rebellious ways against the USTA style did not help win him any fans in the organization.  However, this gradually changed as more people were willing to pay to watch these outstanding player and in 1968, professionals were allowed in the USTA and the US Open was truly an “open” tourney for both amateurs and professionals. 

The organization’s history after that point is also covered in the book as the game’s revenues and popularity grew out of being the reputation of being an elitist sport to one that can be enjoyed by all, both as a player and a spectator. Through the book’s entire description of USTA history, Kimball writes with meticulous detail that has to be read carefully.  This is not a book for the reader who wants a quick history lesson.  Instead, the reader who wants to learn everything he or she can about this extraordinary organization will want to pick up a copy of this one.  

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

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