Class of 1962
World No. 1 (1932, 1935, 1936, 1937)
Grand Slam Results
6-time major champion
United States Davis Cup Team (1932-1933)
Overall record: 13-3
Singles record: 13-3
On August 1, 1932, a dapper black and white portrait sketch of Henry Ellsworth Vines wearing his distinctive white driving cap, donned the cover of Time Magazine. The handsome Californian had a twinkle in his eye and a devilish grin peaking from the corners of his mouth. In many ways, it was art-imitating life. The lanky, big-hitting Vines was a risky shot maker, a gambler on the court who pounded a flat forehand within inches of the line. His volleys were hit at acute angles and once he connected on an overhead, they rarely, if ever, were returned. His serve was a potent weapon – booming, flat and precise. In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer bestowed extraordinary praise upon Vines saying, “On his best days, Vines played the best tennis ever. Hell, when Elly was on, you'd be lucky to get your racket on the ball once you served it.”
Vines went from a shy and obscure 17-year-old to becoming just the fourth athlete to grace the cover of a Wheaties cereal box in 1934, just behind fictional radio series character Jack Armstrong and baseball stars Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. At age 19, he won the first of back-to-back titles at the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships, besting American George M. Lott in four sets in 1931 and a straight-sets thumping over Frenchman Henri Cochet in 1932, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. His 1932 Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles title was a ho-hum 6–4, 6–2, 6–0 victory over revered Englishman Bunny Austin. Vines’s bid to repeat at Wimbledon was dashed the following year, losing to Australian Jack Crawford in five sets. Before embarking on a dazzling professional career, Vines won doubles titles at the Australian National Championships (1933) and U.S. National Championships (1932) with fellow Californian Keith Gledhill and added a U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship with Elizabeth Ryan (1933). He played two years for the United States in the Davis Cup competition, compiling an impressive 13-3 record.
Vines won the 1931 Newport Casino Invitation Tournament over Fred Perry, and he parlayed that victory at the U.S. Nationals a month later with the championship over Lott. Vines then traveled west to win the Pacific Southwest Tournament in five arduous sets over Perry, which no doubt prepped him for his Wimbledon victory over Austin in 1932.
Vines debuted professionally in 1934 and took the circuit by storm. He won five titles, the indoor Wembley Pro from 1934-36, the clay court French Pro in 1935 and the hard court U.S. Pro in 1939 over a soon-to-be rival Perry, 20-18 in the fourth set. In competition, he went 47-26 against seven-time U.S. Singles Champion Bill Tilden, whose skills were diminishing, but was still a cunning player. In 1937 and 1938, the tour was ratcheted up a notch when Vines faced the three-time Wimbledon champion Perry. Culminating in a January 6, 1939 match at Madison Square Garden before 17,630 fans – the largest crowd ever assembled for a tennis match at the time – Perry prevailed, but Vines would win the compelling rivalry, one that was considered the best head-to-head competition for years. In 1939, his last year of competition, Vines was narrowly defeated by another tennis demigod, Don Budge, who was coming off winning the calendar-year Grand Slam the previous season, 21-18. Vines was the world’s No. 1 ranked player, or shared that ranking, in 1932, 1935, 1936 and 1937.
In 1940, at just 28, Vines apparently tired of tennis and walked away from the game to pursue playing golf. In 1942 he turned professional, and won several minor tournaments, including the 1946 Massachusetts Open and the 1955 Utah Open. On the PGA Tour, he was runner-up at the 1946 All-American Open and reached the semifinals of the 1951 PGA Championships at Oakmont, losing to Walter Burkemo on the 37th hole. He even played in the Masters with Bobby Jones.
Vines remained steeped in golf, teaching the game at country clubs. He later moved into the administrative side of golf and became Vice-President of Golf Operations at the La Quinta Hotel outside Palm Springs, California, in the 1980s.
Australian Championships: QF 1933
Wimbledon: W 1932
U.S. Nationals: W 1931, 1932
Australian Championships: W 1933
U.S. Nationals: W 1932
Australian Championships: F 1933
Wimbledon: QF 1932
U.S. Nationals: W 1933