Class of 1955
Grand Slam Results
5-time major champion, 1-time finalist
Contributions to Tennis
One of the many Harvard graduates of the late 19th century to excel in tennis, James Dwight is often recognized as the “Father of American Tennis.” One account says that the thickly mustachioed Dwight introduced tennis to the United States in 1874 when he set up a court on his Uncle William Appleton’s smooth lawn in Nahant, Massachusetts. As chronicled in Robert Lindley Murray’s book, The Reluctant U.S. Tennis Champion, Dwight wrote, “Mr. F.R. Sears, the elder brother of the champion, and I put up the net and tried the game. As we had no lines and as we hit the ball in no particular direction, very naturally we could not return it. So we voted the whole thing a fraud and put it away. Perhaps a month later, finding nothing to do, we tried it again and this time in earnest. I remember even now that each won a game, and as it rained in the afternoon, we played in rubber boots and coats rather than lose a day.”
Dwight subsequently taught the game to several people, including cousin Richard Sears, who won the first seven U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships. Dwight and Sears teamed to win five U.S. National Men’s Doubles Championships in six years (1882-84, 1886-87). In singles competition, Dwight wasn’t as proficient, but he did advance to the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship final in 1883 and the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Championship semifinal in 1885.
Dwight was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association, was instrumental in establishing the first U.S. National Championships held at the Newport Casino and the first Davis Cup match at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston in 1900. He served as President of the USNLTA for 21 years (1882-84, 1894-1911) and was a noted referee for more than 30 years at the U.S. Nationals.
“It was my first real match and I doubt if I ever worked harder. At the end of the game neither of us could go home.”
Dwight recalling an August 1876 round-robin tournament held on the Appleton property in which he defeated cousin Fred Sears using badminton 15-point scoring system, 12-15, 15-7, 15-13.
Wimbledon: SF 1885
U.S. Nationals: F 1883
Wimbledon: SF 1884, 1885
U.S. Nationals: W 1882, 1883, 1884, 1886, 1887