THE TIME THEY PLAYED THE DAVIS CUP AT RODNEY PARADE
|It would be hard to imagine now but
major tennis was played at Newport right up until the 1970's. The lawn
tennis courts at the Newport Athletic Club hosted the Welsh Tennis
Championships on numerous occasions before it came to an end in 1974. To
be precise it was held there in 1892, 1897-99, 1900, 1910-1914, 1920-39
and 1946-1974. The last men's winner was Armistead Neely of the United
States but winners included Ken Rosewall (1970-71) and John Newcombe
(1967). In the women's competition winners included Virginia Wade
(1971), Margaret Court (1969) and Evonne Goolagong (1970).
According to the history of Newport Athletic Club 1875-1925 lawn tennis featured at the site in 1879 with a tennis committee founded in 1881. By 1902 it states up to twelve lawn tennis courts were in use.
The Athletic Club at Rodney Parade also played host to a famous match in June 1906. Newport's prestige as a Lawn Tennis venue led to is selection for the semi final of the Davis Cup, known as the International Tennis Challenge. The winners of the contest between Australasia and America would go on to play the British Isles at Wimbledon in the final. A competition that the British Isles subsequently won 5-0.
The two teams playing in Newport comprised some of the finest players of the day. Pictured left, New Zealander AF Wilding was considered to be a superstar of the game (he went on to win three Davis Cups, won Wimbledon four times and the Australian Open twice). He had played at Newport before, going down to Sydney Smith of Britain in the 1904 Welsh final whilst a student at Cambridge University. His partner for Australasia was Leslie Poidevin, a first class cricketer from New South Wales, currently playing for Lancashire.
The United States team comprised Raymond Little, a top ranked US player for much of his career and Holcombe Ward who had won the US championship in 1904.
|The Evening Express excitedly reported
that the Americans, Little, Ward and Kreagh Collins (the third member of
the team) had arrived in Newport on Wednesday for practice.
On day 1 Ward beat Poidevin in three sets and Wilding beat Little to similar effect. The crucial match came played in front of a 'fair attendance' on day 2 the Americans running out victorious by three sets to love. The Times reported that the American pair showed better "generalship and combination". According to the Evening Express Little showed himself to be 'by far the smartest of the four'. They stated that Poidevin although he did some good things in the way of drop strokes 'was on the whole disappointing'.
On day 3 for the final set of singles matches Wilding squared the match at 2-all. The Times said his 'driving was very effective'. The Evening Express was more expansive on the 'exciting' five set encounter commenting that although Wilding had an early advantage that thereafter Ward proved very clever. His volleying and net play were 'wonderful'. However, Wilding was a stayer and made a fine 'up-hill fight'. Both showed extremely good placing but Wilding was the stronger player.
A valiant effort by Poidevin was not enough in the final match and despite winning the third set the Americans made it to the final by 3 matches to 2.