Sport An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library Rare Books Collection Introduction




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Tennis

27. “Susan Peacock v. Bobby Riggs”, cover of The Australian women’s weekly, 1 January 1975.



Bobby Riggs was a professional tennis player, former Wimbledon champion (1939) and US Open champion (1939, 1941), who was back in the limelight because of his challenges to prominent women players. He had defeated Margaret Court 6-1, 6-2, in 1973, then a few months later been beaten by Billie Jean King, 6-4. 6-3, 6-3. He played Susan Peacock at Kooyong on 4 January 1975 in “a fun spectacular for charity” where match finished at 3 all. Susan was an A grade competition player who had been runner-up in the Franklin Cup social competition at Portsea.


Susan Peacock, now Susan Renouf, is an iconic figure in Australia. She was married to Liberal politician Andrew Peacock, owner of the champion race-mare Leilani, winner of the 1974 Caulfield Cup; and then married to Robert Sangster, who was a major racehorse owner in the UK and Australia. He won the Melbourne Cup in 1980 with Beldale Ball.

28. Tilden, William Tatem, 1893-1953.

Match play and the spin of the ball / by William T. Tilden, 2nd, edited by Stephen Wallis Merrihew. (New York, American Lawn Tennis, 1925)



Bill Tilden was the dominant tennis player of the 1920s, winning seven US singles titles (1920-1925, 1929) and three Wimbledons (1920, 1921, 1930). He was in some ways similar to John McEnroe in his tendency to loudly question line-calls. In 1969 he was voted the greatest male player of all time.


The copy of his book on display is a presentation copy to the Australian champion, Norman Brookes, with a manuscript inscription from Tilden.


To Norman, the Greatest of them all from one who is proud to acknowledge the debt he owes to the Wizard and is proud of the friendship he can boast of, Sincerely, Bill.


Norman Brookes won Wimbledon in 1907 and 1914. He was part of the Australian Davis Cup team that won the trophy in 1907 and held it until 1911, creating great interest in the tournament in Australia. Tilden also played on several successful Davis Cup teams for the US throughout the 1920s.


Tilden wrote four books of boy’s fiction about tennis in the 1920s and several plays.

29. Official souvenir, 1946 Davis Cup challenge round, grounds of the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria, Kooyong, Australia, December 26, 27 and 28, 1946. (Melbourne : Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, 1946)

30. 1953 Davis Cup challenge round : Kooyong, Melbourne, December 28, 29, 30 : an official publication of the L.T.A.A. (Melbourne : Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, 1953]




31. The Federation Cup : third annual ladies international tennis competition at Kooyong, Melbourne on January 15, 16, 17, 18, 1965. (Melbourne : Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria, 1965)



The Davis Cup was long a traditional Australian pre-occupation over the Christmas break. However, after Australian tennis began to decline in the early 1970s and we could no longer look forward to our team making the finals, public interest has waned.


The Federation Cup is the women’s team tennis tournament held every year since 1963.


Behind the tennis items in the display is an original shop advertisement for “Bond’s cottontails briefs for women and girls” which features a lady tennis player from the 1960s.

Royal Tennis

32. Manevieux, Louis-Claude Bruyset de, 1738-1793.

Treatise on the royal game of tennis / by Monsieur de Manevieux ; translated by Richard Travers. (Romsey, Vic. : Historical Publications, 2004)




33. Garnett, Michael P. (Michael Pearson), 1938-

A history of royal tennis in Australia / Michael P. Garnett. (Mt. Waverley, Vic. : Historical Publications, 1983)



Royal tennis, or “Real Tennis” as it is sometimes called, descends directly from the medieval tennis game, Jeu de paume. It is played on specially constructed indoor courts, using a pear-shaped racquet and a hard cloth ball. The net is five feet high at the sides and three feet high in the middle. There are fewer than thirty courts in the world, but they include Henry VIII’s court at Hampton Court Palace, which is still used. In Melbourne, there is a court at South Yarra.


Manevieux’s Treatise was first published in French in 1783. This is the first translation of the book into English, a task undertaken by local Royal Tennis enthusiast, Dr. Richard Travers. Dr. Travers is one of the major benefactors of Monash University Library and has been gradually donating his collection of medical books to the rare Book Collection for years. He has loaned us for display in this exhibition two royal tennis racquets and two balls, and gives the following description of them:-


Royal Tennis racquets.


The older racquet was made by Prosser & Sons, London. It owes its pristine condition to the fact that it was used as a trophy – the gold plate at the throat of the racket reads “Royal Tennis Championship of Australasia won by W. Travers 1896. Walter Travers (1871-1906) was a son of Samuel Smith Travers (1826-1888) who built the real tennis court in Hobart, the first in Australia. He was a very good player, representing Cambridge University in 1893 and winning the Hobart Gold Prize the same year. He won the Melbourne Gold Racket in 1896 and 1897. He married Isobel a’Beckett in 1897. The racquet belonged to his son, Sir Thomas Travers, the Melbourne eye surgeon.


The racquet is made by bending a strip of wood about 5 feet long to form an eccentric head. The two ends of the strip are joined together over a centrepiece to form the handle. A racquet from the Sydney court, built in 1997, shows that this method of construction has not altered with time.


Of particular interest is that the older racquet is strung with gut, and there are three fine cords running horizontally at the top. This is the trebling – one side (the forehand side) is smooth and the other side (the backhand side, with the gold plate) is rough. This distinction, “Rough or smooth?” was used when tossing for the initial serve.


Also shown are two of the balls. One demonstrates the tightly-wound tape, tied with string, which forms the ball. This lasts for a year or more. The other shows the ball covered with hand-stitched cloth (this one was a commemorative souvenir). The cover lasts only 3 or 4 weeks.

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