In the early days of Australian Tennis internationally, much of the focus has centred on performances of our players in England. Most noteworthy of this time were Norman Brookes, Tony Wilding (NZ), Rodney Heath, Alf Dunlop and others. From their arrival in 1905 to play Wimbledon and then the Davis Cup, their impact was significant over the next 8 years.
In no way as dramatic, yet still significant, on the other side of the globe in the USA, another lone Australian was also having a noteworthy impact on the game.
Edward Bury Dewhurst was born in Tamworth NSW in 1870. At aged 23, in 1893, he commenced playing with the NSW team against Victoria in the Intercolonial contests and became quite a formidable player. In one notable match he defeated Victorian player Mr. Green who had played in 12 Intercolonial tournaments undefeated until being beaten by Dewhurst in 1895.
Overall he played non consecutively in these prestigious matches from 1893 to 1897 against Victoria and in 1902 against Queensland.
In local tournaments he won the NSW Doubles Championships in 1898 with D.Webb and 1900 with A.Curtis. He also won the Strathfield NSW Metropolitan Championships, singles in 1895 and doubles in 1895, 1897 and 1902.
Circa mid 1903, Edward left Australia for the University of Pennsylvania USA to undertake a tertiary course in Dentistry.
In America, Tennis was also developing quickly and the main events of the time were the Davis Cup which started in 1900, the US Championships which had begun in 1881, the National Intercollegiate Championships which started in 1883 and the USLTA National Indoor Championships which began in 1898.
Representing Pennsylvania University, Edward won the Intercollegiate Singles title in 1903, came runner up in 1904 and won again in 1905 along with the Doubles title playing with H.B.Register. He was team captain in these years and the first Uni. of Penn. winner of the intercollegiate title. The local papers felt that while his performance was an excellent result they were very interested in how Australian tennis was progressing against the USA’s finest players. W. Clothier the current title holder was not able to play so this comparison remained unanswered for the time being. Later Dewhurst did meet Clothier in the 1904 US National Championships and was beaten in the 3rd round.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was winning the 1905 National Indoor Championships when he defeated the reigning champion of the previous two years, Wylie Grant 6-3, 8-6, 6-4. The event was played on board courts at the Seventh Regiment Armory and although in relatively poor light, Dewhurst managed to win by returning the serves he could, keeping the ball low and at the feet of Grant. Grant had a big serve and on wood courts the ball would fly through very quickly hence he was aced quite a few times.
In addition, he also won the Pennsylvania State Championships 1904, 1905, 1908 and Maryland State Championships in 1906 and 1907. The above photo from the 1905 Spalding Lawn Tennis Annual shows what a great year he had in many tournaments.
The Niagara trophy in the display above looks like this in real life.
Edward played was successful at the US Championships as well, reaching the Mixed Doubles final in 1905 with Elisabeth Moore to be runners up and then winners in 1906 partnering with Sarah Coffin. Interestingly, when attempting to pinpoint the first Australian to win “a major” outside of the Australasian championships which commenced in 1905, Edwards win in 1906 gives him this title. Norman Brookes did win the Wimbledon All Comers event in 1905 but lost in the Challenge round for the title. He did however win all three Wimbledon events in 1907.
The local SMH reported his results in 1905.
In 1906 he was ranked in the USA top 10 at #9.
In 1908 with the Davis Cup in Australia and USA leading players Beals Wright and W. Larned expressing a desire to withdraw, being quite tired of International tennis, Dwight Davis was keen to establish a younger squad which also included an invitation to Dewhurst.
The US ended up sending Beals Wright and Fred Alexander to play Wilding and Brookes in what was an amazing challenge.
Edward was highly regarded on the subject of tennis techniques and strategies. In 1910 he published a book titled “The Science of Lawn Tennis” and participated in providing comments for the quite famous book “Methods and Players of Modern Lawn Tennis” published in 1915.
He was also quoted in US papers providing specialist commentary regarding the Australian Davis Cup Teams progressing to the Challenge rounds, often against the US.
According to the New York Times in 1910 Edward was forced out of the top ranks due some form of blood posioning disease. He stayed and lived in America practicing Dentistry and died in February 1941 aged 70.
He was inducted into the University of Pennsylavnia Tennis Hall of Fame along with two other well known tennis players Wallace Ford Johnson and William Tatem “Big Bill” Tilden.
The photo below is taken from the “Serve to Authority” Story of Kooyong Page 14 which shows the 1893 Intercolonial teams of NSW & VIC.
Edward Dewhurst is lying on the ground to the right. We are attempting to source the original for greater clarity.
The photo of the 7th Armory iwas taken in 1908 yet it illustrates the setting. Shots of EB Dewhurst (courtesy of his book in which he is showing readers shot making techniques). A special thanks to the 7th Armory who provided material and Keith Jenkins for information from EBD’s book.