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William Tatem Tilden II
(February 10, 1893 - June 5, 1953) U. S.A.

William Tilden

Tennis player, and writer


Born in Philadelpia, Pennsylvania into a wealthy fmily, he is regarded by many as the greatest player of all time. Tilden developed late, not winning his first major title (Wimbledon) until 1920, at the age of 27. He was the first American to win there, and during the 1920s he remained undefeated in any major match for seven years. He also represented the U.S. on the Davis Cup team every season from 1920 through 1930. His nickname was "Big Bill".

William TildenWhen his homosexuality became known, he was ostracised from the tennis world and was banned from the most prestigious tennis courts; his earnings were dramatically cut. In 1946, he was arrested for fondling a teenage hustler on Sunset Boulevard and convicted of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor", although it was clear that the young man with whom he was caught having sex had no objection to the sexual relations. He was sentenced to a year in prison, but released on probation after serving slightly more than seven months.

Less than two years later, he was arrested again for making advances to a 16-year-old hitchhiker. He was sentenced to a year term, and served ten months.

In 1949, despite these troubles, he was voted the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the twentieth century by the National Sports Writers Association, with ten times the number of votes of the nearest runner-up. He died of a heart attack in a Los Angeles rented room, impoverished (he had been reduced to pawning his trophies) and in relative obscurity.



  • The Phantom Drive and Other Tennis Stories (1924)
  • How to Play Better Tennis (1950)
  • They All Want Something (1926)
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