Class of 1956
Singles World No. 2
Grand Slam Results
4-time major champion
Finalist at three other majors
United States Team, 1904 St. Louis Games
Gold Medal in Singles
Gold Medal in Doubles (with Edgar Leonard)
Team Member 1905, 1907, 1908, 1912
There’s no doubt that Beals Wright shined in domestic competition. He was the U.S. National Men’s Singles Champion in 1905 – a prolific 6-2, 6-1, 11-9 victory over Holcombe Ward. He advanced to three additional finals – twice losing to the wily veteran William Larned – and was a three-time U.S. National Men’s Doubles Champion (1904-06). His tennis legacy, however, can be traced to his international prowess as an Olympian, Davis Cup player, and as the first American to reach the All-Comers Singles Final at Wimbledon.
The 1904 Summer Games were originally scheduled for Chicago, but the venue was changed to St. Louis and held in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase. Competitors were forced to endure oppressive heat reaching 100 degrees, but the brutally hot conditions didn’t affect Wright. He became the first American in history to win a Gold Medal in tennis, defeating compatriot Robert LeRoy, 6-4, 6-4. Wright also won a Gold Medal in doubles, when he and partner Edgar Leonard upended fellow Americans LeRoy and Alphonzo Bell, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
While Wright couldn’t lead the United States to a Davis Cup Championship in four meetings against the Australasian team of Australia and New Zealand (1905, 1907, 1908, 1912), he did compile a respectable 9-6 record, 6-3 in singles competition. In 1910, at age 30, Wright made history by becoming the first U.S. player in history to advance to the Wimbledon All-Comers Singles Final. In a grueling five-set match, New Zealander Anthony Wilding roared back from two sets down to win the championship, 6-3 in the fifth set. Wilding then went on to defeat defending champion Arthur Gore. In the early days of Wimbledon, the reigning champion did not have to compete until the final round. This wasn’t Wright’s first trip to a Wimbledon Final, though, as he and partner Karl Behr lost in the 1907 All-Comers Doubles Final.
Wright sparkled north of the U.S. border, capturing the Canadian Tennis Championships that were played in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town located in Southern Ontario, in 1902, 1903 and 1904. In that same event, he and brother Irving Wright starred in doubles competition, winning four straight times from 1902-05. The victory in 1903 was significant enough that the New York Times reported the outcome in the July 13, 1903 sports section. In the early 1900s, Wright was what athletes refer to being “in the zone.” He won three consecutive singles titles (1904–1906) at the Cincinnati Open, now known as the Cincinnati Masters. When Fred Alexander lost to Wright in the semifinals of the U.S. Nationals at the Newport Casino in 1908 a story in the August 29 San Francisco Call described Alexander’s loss as a “stunning defeat against the former champion.” Wright couldn’t ride that wave of momentum in the final however, losing to Larned in straight sets.
From the book, On Lawn Tennis (1903) multiple Wimbledon champions Reginald and Laurie Doherty described Wright’s playing style: “Beals Wright is certainly the best in America at low volleys, and [has] a very good overhead. His volleying is distinctly superior to his ground strokes, and his forehand is somewhat stronger than his backhand. He has a good service, which he follows up to the net.”
Wright’s enshrinement into the International Tennis Hall of Fame completed a trifecta for the family as his father George Wright and Uncle Harry Wright were enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937 and 1953 respectively.
Wimbledon: F (1910)
U.S. Nationals: W (1905)
Wimbledon: F (1907)
U.S. Nationals: W (1904), W (1905), W (1906)