Laurie & Reggie Doherty
(4) 1897-1906
The Doherty era 

Version française - French version
French translation

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The Doherty brothers were Cambridge University students. They first came to Wimbledon in 1895 when both the club and the tournament were seeing somewhat of a downturn in popularity. The successful Renshaw brothers had retired and newcomers now vying for the title did not have the same appeal to the crowd. The club registered a loss of £300 this year and had had to reintroduce a croquet section in order to attract new members!

Laurie and Reggie.
New blood and new talent were what was desperately needed. This is, of course, exactly what the Doherty brothers were to bring to the table. Where the 1895 final had only a few hundred spectators, by the time the club rose to the occasion of the last victory of a Doherty in 1906, there were some 30,000!

It could be said that these two brothers invented the modern game. They were practically unbeatable for nearly ten years and were the first players to be truly recognised on the international stage. They used this recognition, after their victory in the Davis Cup of 1903, to write what was to become a celebrated text and one of the very first books to provide an in-depth analyse of the game of tennis through it’s differing styles and techniques of play.

The oldest of the brothers, Reginald (R.L, known as Reggie or Big Do) dominated the Wimbledon Singles Title from 1897 onwards through the turn of the century winning four clear titles in a row. At the same time he played with his brother Laurie in the doubles winning six years out of seven between 1897 and 1903. His last attempt at the singles was in 1901 when he lost to the Gore in the final. He then unfortunately had to retire from the event due to a recurring arm injury. He none-the-less carried on to win in the singles challenge round of the Davis Cup against the Americans in both 1902 (where the Americans still went on to win the Cup itself) and in 1903 (where the British carried off a very famous victory). 

Reggie had a very agressive game, et and the expression "Cannon Ball" has been invented for him. He was probably better than his youger brother, who used to play softer but safer and withe a better technic. The two brothers met once in the final stage of the competition of Wimbledon in 1898, and Reggie win in five sets 6/3 6/2 2/6 5/7 6/1.

Reggie continued to play on in the doubles, firstly with his brother Laurie until Laurie decided to retire in 1906 and then for several more years afterwards with other partners. Winners of the 1902 and 1903 US Doubles Championships, the two brothers were the first foreign team to dominate at this event. In 1908 in London, Reggie then won the doubles gold medal at the Olympic Games with G.Hillyard. In 1900, he already had won the double gold medal in Paris withe his brother.

Reggie serves his 
famous cannon ball
Laurie (L.H, known as Little Do), the youngest of the two brothers, olympic champion in 1900 in Paris, took up the mantle when Reggie decided to retire. He went on to win the singles title at Wimbledon from 1902 to 1906. We should perhaps hesitate here to remember that between them, the two brothers had now won the singles title nine years out of ten between 1897 and 1906.

It is of Laurie that we can go on to talk about the first Grand Slam. From 1903 onwards, right up until he decides to retire, Laurie doesn’t lose one single singles match!! Let’s have a closer look at his results:

  • 1903: Champion in both the Singles and Doubles titles at Wimbledon, Laurie takes off for America, with his brother for the Davis Cup. Here he wins both of his singles matches and the doubles with his brother. This allows him to bring the cup back to Britain for the first time. Whilst in America, he uses the opportunity to win both the US singles and doubles titles, the latter again with his brother. This left effectively nothing else to win; a first Grand Slam!
  • 1904: Laurie retains both of the Wimbledon titles and keeps the Davis Cup in Britain.

  • 1905: Again, both Wimbledon titles and a successful defence of the Davis Cup.

  • 1906: Laurie finally decides to retire but not before a fifth consecutive singles title at Wimbledon and a fourth consecutive victory in the Davis Cup. This year he does lose with his brother in the final of the doubles at Wimbledon. This was a particularly rare event since he had practically never lost at doubles throughout his career. 
    Laurie's forehand.

     Reggie' backhand.

    The end of the domination of the two Doherty brothers (“The Doherty Era”) marks also the end of British domination of this sport. Their successors were to be the antipodians Brookes, of Australia, and Wilding, of New Zealand. Brookes had by this time already managed to get to the final of Wimbledon in 1905.

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    Dernière mise à jour : 12 Mai 2000
    Copyright BLANCHE NET communications.
    Mars 2000.