Tennis Prose



Book Review: “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” By Sidney Wood with David Wood

If you’re a tennis observer, surely you recognize the name of Sidney Wood, known most for having won Wimbledon in 1931 at age 19 by default over Frank Shields, who was ordered by the USTA to skip the final in order rest his injured knee for an upcoming Davis Cup match.

Despite the free pass to a Wimbledon title, though he did defeat “unbeatable” Fred Perry in the semis, Wood was such a talented player that he played his first French Open and Wimbledon at age 15, he won the Arizona State mens title at age 14 weighing in under 90 pounds, and he whupped Ellsworth Vines 62 60 in Seabright as a teenager, among countless other court accomplishments.

Wood, who started tennis as a protege of Bill Tilden, was a champion and a hero of his time. Though Wood passed away in 2009 at age 97, before the manuscript for this book was complete, his son David Wood organized the retrieved writings and files and whipped it up into an excellent compilation. It’s a compelling and fascinating read to learn the insights of any tennis champion on any level, particularly one with such a vast point of view of the game as Wood, who actually witnessed every top player compete with his own eyes, from Tilden all the way to Federer.

The book is an endless stream of wonderful nuggets of information, tales and anecdotes…

— “If you come into a match with a purpose or idea of how you’re going to play a match (even if it’s wrong) it stabilizes your psyche and your nervous system…”

— “Borotra did his routine and changed his beret, which he would do about four or five times a set sometimes. He’d change his racquets and rush over and change his beret. This was his game. He’d do it and it would look silly and it would not endear him to the gallery. He felt this and as a result, he played defensively against Frank (Shields). Frank read this too and for some reason or other, he played sort of disdainfully with Jean…”

— “(Grace Kelly)’d been to a cocktail party before we headed to Long Island and, apart from looking, to put it mildly, quite disheveled, she was somewhat argumentative. End of ‘romance!'”

— Playing tennis with chess master Bobby Fischer.

— Memories of times with Groucho Marx, Fay Wray, Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin.

— The plan he devised and executed to conquer Vines and how the media responded to the gigantic upset win by Wood.

Until his passing at age 97, Wood watched modern tennis and shares his evaluations on champions like Sampras, who he rates #6 all time (Budge is #1), McEnroe, Edberg, Connors, etc.

I’ve read dozens of tennis books, including “Hard Courts”, “A Handful Of Summers”, “The Roger Federer Story”, “Weekend Tennis” By Bill Talbert, “Winning Ugly”, and this one by Sidney Wood holds it’s own. “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was by Sidney Wood (with David Wood)” by New Chapter Press, is a four-star, classic read and you will not be making a mistake by adding it to your summer reading list.

“The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” is available at for $15.95.


  • Dan Markowitz · June 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I read a bit of this book, but can’t say it drew my attention greatly. I’m reading EPIC now by Matt Cronin and it’s good, some interesting stories about Mac and Borg, but I would prefer a book written about today’s players. I do think if someone went out and wrote a John Feinstein-like book, covering the men’s tour and maybe some of the women’s, for a year, it’d be much more interesting read.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I know what you are saying, there are some slow parts and some stories which are sort of blah, and the kneejerk reaction is, Why should I care what Sidney Wood has to say, Sidney Wood who I barely ever heard of? But there is quite a bit of gold in this book, both tactical, gamesmanship-wise and off the court. I read Bill Talbert’s Weekend Tennis and he mentioned how one time Wood psyched him out by taking him swimming before their match in Seabright and BT said he became tired from that swim which Wood did not partake in, he just stood on the beach. That was the only thing I ever heard of about Wood. But I think if you read the whole thing, you will enjoy it more, you will find the good stuff. Tell you what though, you would love the story I just got about Rios punching a guy out in the bathroom in Miami at the steakhouse, the night be became #1. Tennis sure could use a Rios type character.

  • Dan Markowitz · June 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    When do your project your Rios book will be available in hardcover, paperback or E-book?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 16, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Paperback for the US distribution. Not sure yet about Spanish version which will be later.



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