Class of 1955
U.S. No. 1 (1885-87)
World No. 5 (1887)
Grand Slam Results
13-time U.S. Nationals champion, and 1-time finalist at the same event
Harvard-educated, Richard Dudley Sears looked more like a college professor than the dominant tennis player of his generation. He was bespectacled with a thick mustache and his playing ensemble was a black and white striped jacket and cap, adorned by a necktie. Sears dominated competitive tennis in America from its very beginning. He won the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships at the Newport Casino for seven straight years (1881-87), defeating seven different opponents. Only three men in tennis history have won seven U.S. National/US Open Championships: Sears, William Larned (1901-02, 1907-11), and Bill Tilden (1920-25, 1929). One glaring statistic separates Sears from that illustrious group: Sears won his successively – a record as enduring as any in our sporting culture. At America’s tennis event Sears won 13 combined titles (1881-87), second most in history behind the immortal Tilden.
In his first three title matches, Sears didn’t lose a set and only three total sets in his seven victories. He enjoyed an 18-match win streak that stood from 1887 to 1922, when Tilden earned his 19th straight victory. Sears employed an attacking style, which he frequently utilized to dismantle his opponent. He moved into the forecourt to end points with crisp volleys before other players fully perceived the tactic and could react. It was a strategic windfall for Sears who became a terrific net player, leading to six straight U.S. Men’s Doubles Championships (1882-87), five of those alongside James Dwight. The five titles won by that dashing duo is tied for best in U.S. history with the Bryan brothers. In total, however, Sears won six straight doubles titles, and that mark stands alone. The team of Sears and Joseph Clark won their 1885 title playing just 23 total games in defeating Henry Slocum and Wallace Knapp, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
After giving up playing lawn tennis, Sears won the U.S. Court Tennis singles title in 1892 and served as USNLTA President in 1887 and 1888. Sears career was chronicled in Lawn Tennis in America (1889), authored by Valentine G. Hall, a 1888 and 1890 U.S. National Men’s Doubles Champion.
U.S. Nationals: W 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887
U.S. Nationals: W 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887