Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Historians have written little on sports in the United States compared to other topics. They have had even less to say about tennis than other popular sports in large part because the original research necessary to complete a full treatment of the history of the game appeared too daunting to undertake. By contrast, this study has made use of over a dozen arcHIVal collections around the country, many of which researchers have never used before, to tell the story of how tennis went from an amateur sport closely guarded by economic elitists and cultural purists to a professional sport thoroughly democratized and inclusive of individuals regardless of their financial standing or social position. That change connects a variety of heretofore unconnected developments beginning in the French Revolution and ending in the present: European aristocracy and Continental cultural exports; amateur athletic associations in cities and suburban country clubs; New Deal programs and urban recreational reform; the impact of World War II on the careers of global athletes; postwar prosperity in the United States and the growth of America's entertainment economy; race, ethnicity, and class in twentieth century athletics; cultural competition during the Cold War; tax policy and the globalization of professional sports; the cultural production of celebrity athletes; professional sports touring and stadium construction; as well as masculinity, femininity and gay and transgender athletes. Dozens of characters, both notorious and obscure, make this story as much about people as about social processes and places. Many of the important stops along the way from amateur to professional tennis took place in the United States, but given the global popularity of the game, this study takes a transnational perspective to analyze the professionalization of this world sport.
Ruth, Gregory I., "Pancho's Racket and the Long Road to Professional Tennis" (2017). Dissertations. 2848.
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Copyright © 2017 Gregory I. Ruth