Class of 1972
World No. 6 (1937)
Member of the US Davis Cup Team 1935, 1936, 1937
Member of the US Championship Davis Cup Team 1937
Overall Record 8-2
Singles Record 8-2
The old adage “good things come in small packages” has long been used to describe that looks can be deceiving. At 5-foot-4, 120 pounds, Bryan Morel “Bitsy” Grant, Jr. could go stroke-for-stroke with the era’s bigger and stronger players. Despite being “undersized,” Grant defeated nearly all the top-ranked players of his generation, including victories over Ellsworth Vines in 1933 and Don Budge in 1935 at Forest Hills. It earned him the nickname “Itsty Bitsy the Giant Killer.”
Grant is the smallest American man to win a major tournament, slugging his way to the National Clay Court Championships in 1930, 1934, and 1935. He stormed through the 1930 field, defeating Wilbur Franklyn Coen in the final, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
He was groomed playing on Georgia red clay in Atlanta and it was always his most formidable surface. Grant was a counter-puncher retriever. His conditioning enabled him to run down every ball and he had excellent ball control and touch.
The Giant Killer recorded a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over then No. 1 ranked Ellsworth Vines in 1933 and reached the U.S. National Championship Singles quarterfinal in 1935, stunning the second-seeded Budge, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. He lost a hard-fought semifinal match against fellow American Sidney Wood, 6-2, 4-6, 12-10, 6-2. The following year, he proved his play on grass was no fluke, advancing to the semifinals again, where the great Fred Perry needed four sets to secure his finals appearance – and subsequent championship – 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. In 1937, Grant was a quarterfinalist, putting a huge scare into German Gottfried von Cramm in taking a one set lead before suffering a 9-7, 2-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat. Grant reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1936 and 1937, losing to favored sons Fred Perry (6-4, 6-3, 6-1) and Bunny Austin (6-1, 7-5, 6-4).
At the time, the Cincinnati tournament was a highly-regarded event on the circuit, and Grant won both the singles and doubles titles in 1933 and 1939. Both singles victories came over Hall of Famer Frank Parker, 11–9, 6–2, 1–6, 7–5 in 1933 and 4–6, 6–3, 6–1, 2–6, 6–4 in 1939.
Grant played three quality years with the United States Davis Cup Team in 1935, 1936, and 1937, helping the U.S. regain the prize in 1937 after an 10-year hiatus from the championship. He had an 8-2 Davis Cup record.
The Atlanta-born Grant ranked in the Top Ten of the world 9 times between 1930 and 1941 and won eight of 11 tournaments – all played on clay – that he entered in 1935, including the Bermuda Championships. He defeated Budge at the Mason & Dixon Tournament in 1936, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 and recorded a quality career win in defeating Wilmer Allison at the River Oaks Tournament, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 in April 1937. Grant was a feisty competitor, who found a way to beat the best, evidenced by a scintillating 3-6, 6-2, 7-9, 8-6, 6-3 victory over Bobby Riggs at the Miami Biltmore Tournament in January 1939.
Grant played college tennis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1933. He continued to compete as a senior, winning 19 U.S. singles titles on the four surfaces: grass court-45s (1956 and 1957), 55s (1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968); indoor 55s (1966); clay court-45s (1959, 1960, 1961 and 1963), 55s (1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969), 65s (1976 and 1977); and hard court-65s (1976).
In 1954, the city of Atlanta built the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, a public facility with thirteen impeccably manicured clay courts. He was a 1965 inductee into the esteemed Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Wimbledon: QF 1936, 1937
U.S. Nationals: SF 1935, 1936