Arthur Wentworth Gore (1868-1928) – Three times a Wimbledon singles champion
By Mark Ryan
Arthur William Charles Wentworth Gore was born on 2 January 1868 in Lyndhurst, Hampshire. He was the third of four sons of Augustus Wentworth Gore (b. circa 1835), and Emily Anne Gore (née Curzon; b. 1842). Augustus Wentworth Gore was a native of Parham in Sussex. Emily Anne Gore was a Londoner by birth. Her father, Edward Cecil Curzon, was a barrister by profession, cousin of the third Lord Scarsdale and grandson of the twelfth Lord Zouche. Arthur Wentworth Gore’s siblings were Charles Cecil Howard Gore (b. 1862), Frederick Wentworth Gore (b. 1865) and Francis Southwell Cecil Gore (b. 1879).
Little is known about Arthur Wentworth Gore’s early life, but it appears that he spent a good deal of it abroad, in the Brittany region of north-west France, where he probably received much of his early formal education. His youngest sibling, Francis, was born in the Ille-et-Vilaine département in Dinard, Brittany, in 1879. At just this time the relatively new sport of lawn tennis was being popularized in towns along the French coast by British holidaymakers, and it is very likely that the young Arthur Wentworth Gore first began to learn the game on the clay, or clay-like, courts in Dinard.
The Lawn Tennis Club de Dinard, probably the oldest lawn tennis club in France, was founded in 1879. In the mid-1880s, it would become the venue for one of the main early outdoor tournaments held on French soil. Arthur Wentworth Gore would win the men’s singles title at this tournament several times during his career, this fact indicating not just a fondness for the tournament, but also a familiarity with that part of France.
Arthur Wentworth Gore is missing from the Censuses of England and Wales, taken in 1871 and 1881, but he appears in the census for 1891. At this point in time Arthur Wentworth Gore is boarding at 6 Templeton Place in Kensington, London. According to the census he is single. Under the heading “Profession or Occupation” is written “Clerk wine merchant”. By this time Gore had already begun to play competitive lawn tennis, first taking part in the singles event at the Wimbledon tournament in 1888, at the age of 20, when he lost in five sets in the first round to his countryman William Taylor.
One of the distinguishing features of Gore’s lawn tennis career would be its almost unparalleled longevity. Following his first appearance in the singles event at Wimbledon, in 1888, he would appear in the same event every year thereafter up until the 1914 tournament, with one exception, that being the year 1895. Although he appears to have sent in his name in that particular year – he received a “bye” in the first round and was due to take on his compatriot Wilfred Baddeley in the second round – Gore did not, in fact, take part in the singles event at Wimbledon in 1895.
Gore won his first singles match in the main draw at Wimbledon on his fourth attempt, in 1891, when he beat another Englishman, James Baldwin, in four sets, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Gore then lost his next match, which was a quarter-final, to the Irishman Harold Mahony, 6-4, 8-6, 6-3. It was not until 1898, at his tenth attempt, that Gore reached the semi-finals of the singles event at Wimbledon for the first time. His opponent at that stage was Harold Mahony once again, and once again the Irishman, Wimbledon singles champion in 1896, beat Gore, although this time in five sets, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
By 1898, Arthur Wentworth Gore had married, his wife being “Minnie” Jane Alexander (b. 1865), from Brixton in London. Her parents were Francis and Clara Alexander; the former was an accountant by profession. Arthur and Minnie were married in late 1893, in Saint George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. It appears that they had no children.
In 1899, Arthur Wentworth Gore reached the Challenge Round in the singles event at Wimbledon for the first time, beating, along the way, Harold Mahony, in the semi-finals, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, and, in the All-Comers’ Final, his fellow Englishman Sidney Smith, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. In the Challenge Round the defending champion, Reginald “Reggie” Doherty, another Englishman, proved too strong for Gore who, nevertheless, managed to win the first two sets. The final score was 1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. (This was the second time the final match in the men’s singles event at Wimbledon had been won from two sets down, the Englishman Wilfred Baddeley recovering from match point down in the third set against the Australian-born Wilberforce V. Eaves in the All-Comers’ Final of 1895.)
In 1900, Gore had another excellent lawn tennis season, highlighted by three victories over the up-and-coming Lawrence “Laurie” Doherty, younger brother of Wimbledon champion Reggie. Gore had the first of these victories at the Irish Championships, then a prestigious tournament usually attracting the top British players and held in late May in Fitzwilliam Square near the centre of Dublin. In the All-Comers’ Final in Dublin, Gore beat Laurie Doherty, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. However, in the Challenge Round, Reggie Doherty, the defending champion proved too strong, although Gore once again pushed him to five sets before losing, 6-4, 7-5, 7-9, 7-9, 6-3.
In mid-June 1900, Gore beat Laurie Doherty for the second time, in the All-Comers’ Final at the Kent Championships, one of the top tournaments, held in Beckenham in the run-up to Wimbledon. This time the score was 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. In the Challenge Round, Gore beat Harold Mahony, the defending champion, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to take this top-class title for the first time.
A few weeks later, in early July at Wimbledon, Gore beat Laurie Doherty for the third time, in the semi-finals, the score being 4-6, 8-6, 8-6, 6-1. However, Sidney Smith was too strong for Gore in the All-Comers’ Final, and won, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Later on in the lawn tennis season of 1900, Arthur Wentworth Gore was one of three players chosen to represent the British Isles in what was effectively the first edition of the Davis Cup. The other members of the British team were Edmund D. Black and Herbert Roper-Barrett. The tie was held on the grass courts of the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, from 10-12 August. The Americans were represented by Dwight Davis (donor of the cup), Malcolm Whitman and Holcombe Ward.
In the first of the singles Davis beat Black in four sets, while Whitman easily beat Gore in the second singles, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. Davis and Ward then easily beat Black and Roper-Barrett to give the United States an unassailable 3-0 lead, the format being four singles separated by one doubles match. The British team was very unhappy about the condition of the courts at Longwood and the balls provided, but were powerless to prevent their defeat.
Soon after the end of the Davis Cup tie, Gore took part in the United States Championships tournament. In those days the men’s singles event was held on the courts of the Casino in Newport, Rhode Island, in mid- to late August. In 1900, Gore won three matches to reach the semi-finals in Newport, where he met George Wrenn, brother of Robert Wrenn who had won the men’s singles title at the US Championships four times in the mid- to late 1890’s. Although George was the lesser player of the two brothers, he beat Gore in the semi-finals in Newport in 1900, though only after a five-set battle, 9-7, 1-6, 0-6, 6-2, 6-2.
In 1901, Arthur Wentworth Gore enjoyed his most successful season of lawn tennis so far, in the sense that he won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon for the first time, at his thirteenth attempt and aged 33. Although Gore had lost twice to Laurie Doherty earlier in the season (after beating him three times in 1900), the younger Doherty was upset in the third round at Wimbledon by another Englishman, George Hillyard. Gore then beat Hillyard in five sets in the quarter-finals, 6-1, 2-6, 4-6, 8-6, 6-2.
In the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1901, Gore beat Herbert Roper-Barrett, 8-6 6-1 7-5, and in the All-Comers’ Final, another Englishman, Charles Dixon, 6-4 6-0 6-3. Gore’s opponent in the Challenge Round was Reggie Doherty, who had won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in the previous four years and in recent years had been virtually invincible in singles and, with his younger brother, in doubles.
However, by 1901, Reggie Doherty’s health, never robust, had declined significantly, and several people in his circle advised against his defending his Wimbledon singles crown. But he took to the court nevertheless and managed to build a 6-4, 5-2 lead before his energy began to dissipate. Gore made up the deficit in the second set, eventually winning it 7-5 and the next two as well for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Although Reggie Doherty had not been at the top of his form, it would be wrong to say that Arthur Wentworth Gore did not deserve his victory because few, if any, players had tried harder and for longer to win the most prestigious title in lawn tennis. What type of player was he? According to an unsigned obituary published in the London “Times” after his death, “… it is his peculiar distinction that his most famous victories were surprises. Perhaps they were not surprises to himself, for the more there was at stake, the more confidently he played – as is suggested by his poise, as he hit at the ball, that he had got it and his opponent just where he would have them. There could be no doubt that he liked the battle, and that was an advantage to him at a pinch.”
Referring to his forehand, the “Times” obituary writer called Gore a “one-stroke player”: “A horizontal drive, that met the ball the top of the bound and with the freest of sweeps. It seemed to be done with a flat racket, and that made the combination of accuracy with pace the more amazing. And the ball was travelling at its fastest after pitching. He never temporized when he had an opportunity for that stroke; if his hard one came back he hit the next harder still – realizing, like the fighter he was, that if he could not win with his forehand stroke, he could not win with any other.
“But besides the forehand he had court craft. Resolute as he was in hitting out with his forehand, he was quite as resolute in playing for safety when not allowed to bring it into action. His backhand drive was the least imposing of strokes, and he made his cross his crutch. It was much surer than it seemed to be, and it lured the enemy into attacking it before the ground had been prepared.
“… Gore volleyed little and without aptitude – but, when drawn up, resolution and coolness often provided another disappointment for the enemy. Well as he played lawn tennis, it was not his business in life. It was his pleasure…”
Gore’s victory in the men’s singles event at Wimbledon in 1901 was also the second occasion when he had won one of the national titles of the British Isles. In 1892, he had taken the singles title at the Scottish Championships, beating a Scotsman, R.M. Watson, in the final match, 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4. Gore successfully defended this title in 1893. In the latter year he was also appointed Scottish representative on the British Lawn Tennis Association Council.
Although, as the obituary quoted from above states, lawn tennis might have been more of a pleasure for Gore, there is no doubting his aptitude for the sport. He was not what used to be called a “gentleman of leisure”, in other words, unlike a number of his fellow lawn tennis players, including the Dohertys, he had to earn a living. According to the 1901 Census of England and Wales, taken on 31 March, Arthur Wentworth Gore was living at Barton Court, Chelsea, London, together with his wife, Minnie. In this census Arthur Wentworth Gore’s occupation is given as “wine agent”.
In 1902, Gore returned to Wimbledon in late June to defend his singles title. Because he was the defending champion, he did not have to play through, but instead “stood out” to see whom he would face in the Challenge Round once the All-Comers’ event had been completed. In 1902, Laurie Doherty proved to the challenger. At age 26, the youngest of the Doherty brothers had been enjoying an unbeaten season in singles – indeed, after 1901, he rarely lost a singles match to anyone anywhere – and duly won his first Wimbledon singles title by beating Gore in four sets, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.
Four more years would pass before Arthur Wentworth Gore again went at least as far as the All-Comers’ Final of the men’s singles event at Wimbledon. This was in 1906, when he won five matches to reach that stage for the fifth time in his career. In the semi-finals he beat Anthony Wilding, the up-and-coming New Zealander, 9-7, 6-1, 8-6. In the All-Comers’ Final Gore’s opponent was his compatriot Frank Riseley, who was perhaps better at doubles than at singles. However, Riseley nevertheless beat Gore at Wimbledon in 1906, by the one-sided score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
One year later, in 1907, Gore reached the All-Comers’ Final of the singles event at Wimbledon for the sixth time. This time his opponent was the redoubtable Australian Norman Brookes, who was bidding to become the first overseas player to win the men’s singles title. Brookes was in excellent form at Wimbledon in 1907 and easily beat the 39-year-old Gore, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. (Because Laurie Doherty, the holder, was not defending the men’s singles title, this win effectively made Brookes Wimbledon singles champion.)
One year later, in 1908, Gore returned to Wimbledon for a twentieth attempt at the men’s singles title. Although now forty years of age, he had been enjoying an excellent season, having won the singles title at the British Covered Championships, held at the Queen’s Club in London in early May. In the Challenge Round at the Queen’s Club, Gore beat Tony Wilding, the holder, 4-6, 8-6, 6-0, 8-6.
A week or so later, Gore took part in the indoor lawn tennis events forming part of that year’s London Olympic Games. The indoor lawn tennis events were also held on the wooden courts of the Queen’s Club, but received a very poor entry. Although Gore won the gold medal in the singles event, he had to play only two matches, defeating his compatriot Major Ritchie at the semi-final stage, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, and, in the final, another Englishman, George Caridia, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. (Together with Herbert Roper-Barrett, Gore also won the gold medal in the men’s indoor doubles event at the 1908 Olympic Games. In the final they beat Caridia and another Englishman, George Simond 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.)
In early June 1908, in the run-up to Wimbledon, Gore won the singles title at the Northern Championships tournament, held that year in Liverpool. In the final Gore beat the best Irish lawn tennis player of that era, James Cecil Parke, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-8, 6-4.
As already stated, Gore was forty years of age at the time of the 1908 Wimbledon tournament, held that year in late June-early July. However, his competitive powers were by no means diminished, and he won five matches on his way to the All-Comers’ Final, where his opponent was Herbert Roper-Barrett, who was aged 34. After winning the first two sets Gore dropped the next two before recovering to win the fifth and the match, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4.
Because Norman Brookes, the holder, was not defending, this effectively made Gore the Wimbledon men’s singles champion for the second time. At forty years of age, he was the oldest winner of any singles title at Wimbledon.
One year later, in 1909, Gore returned to Wimbledon in early July to defend his singles title. As in 1902, he was able to “stand out” as the defending champion until the winner of the All-Comers’ event came through to face him (the Challenge Round was not abolished at Wimbledon until 1922). In 1909, Gore’s opponent was Major Ritchie (Major was this player’s real first name; he had not been in the army). Like the 41-year-old Gore, Ritchie, aged 39, was also a veteran. The latter won the first two sets and appeared to be on his way to victory when the indefatigable Gore took the third and then fourth and fifth sets to win what had earlier looked like an improbably victory, 6-8, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
At 41, Gore extended by one year his record as the oldest winner of the men’s singles title at Wimbledon. This record still stands – although Gore attempted to defend his Wimbledon singles title one year later, in 1910, he lost in the Challenge Round to the now fully mature player that was Tony Wilding, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. Gore made a sixth and last appearance in the Challenge Round of the men’s singles event at Wimbledon in 1912, when he lost to Wilding again, this time by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. By this time Gore was 44 years of age, while Wilding was 27. No older player has ever reached the final round of a singles event at Wimbledon.
In 1909, Arthur Wentworth Gore had won the doubles title at Wimbledon with Herbert Roper-Barrett when they beat the Australian Stanley Doust and the New Zealand-born Harry Parker in the All-Comers’ Final, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. The holders, Major Ritchie and Tony Wilding, were not defending in 1909; one year earlier they had beaten Gore and Roper-Barrett at the same stage to become champions. In 1910, Ritchie and Wilding beat Gore and Roper-Barrett 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in the Challenge Round of the same event.
Despite their comparatively advanced ages, Gore and Roper-Barrett were an effective team. Some observers consider their greatest victory to be the one they achieved in the Challenge Round of the 1907 Davis Cup competition. Although the British Isles were the defending champions that year, neither of the Doherty brothers were taking part for the first time in several years, and the Australasian team of Norman Brookes and Tony Wilding, which came through to the Challenge Round to face Gore and Roper-Barrett, were considered the favorites.
The Challenge Round of the 1907 Davis Cup competition took place at Wimbledon in late July, soon after the end of The Championships tournament. In the first singles match Brookes easily defeated Gore, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5, while Wilding defeated Roper-Barrett in four sets in the second singles match to give Australasia a strong 2-0 lead after the first day. In the doubles Gore and Roper-Barrett took on Brookes and Wilding and, after losing the first two sets, found themselves match point down in the third set before the British pair staged a tremendous recovery, eventually winning 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 13-11. (On the third and final day Gore beat Wilding, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. However, Brookes thrashed Roper-Barrett for the loss of only five games to give Australasia the trophy for the first time by a margin of 3-2.)
It is not clear how Arthur Wentworth Gore spent the First World War. He was 46 when Great Britain declared war on Germany in the late summer of 1914. In 1919, after the end of the war and the resumption of lawn tennis in Great Britain and other countries, Gore returned to competitive play, but with little success. The first tournament in which he took part after the resumption of play was the North London Championships, also known as the “Gipsy” tournament because it was held at the Gipsy Lawn Tennis Club in Stamford Hill, London. At this tournament Gore entered only the men’s doubles event, with Herbert Roper-Barrett. They reached the final before losing to their compatriots William Ingram and George Thomas, 6-1, 9-7.
Arthur Wentworth Gore entered the men’s singles event at Wimbledon in the years 1919-22, but did not advance beyond the second round in any of those years. He turned 54 in January 1922 and had played in the men’s singles event 35 of the last 36 times it had been held.
Arthur Wentworth Gore continued to play occasional lawn tennis at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, until August 1927. He was taken ill at the beginning of September of that year, his activities being restricted thereafter. He was elected a vice-president of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at the beginning of 1928, having served as its president in 1911. (He had also been chairman of the council of the British Lawn Tennis Association in 1909-10. He left the council in 1923.)
Arthur Wentworth Gore died on 1 December 1928 at 12 Hereford Square in Knightsbridge, London. He was 60. The cause of death is not clear, although he had been ill for a long time. A memorial service was held for him on 4 December 1928 in the Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London. According to “Lawn Tennis and Badminton” of 8 December 1928: “... The Lawn Tennis Association, the All-England Club and many county associations were among those who sent wreaths.
“The chief mourners were Mrs A.W. [Minnie] Gore (widow), Mr Charles Gore and Mr Frederick Gore (brothers), Miss Eileen Gore and Mr Gerald Gore... Amongst others present at the service was Roderick McNair, Alfred Sterry, Dudley Larcombe, Theodore Mavrogordato, Arthur Wallis Myers (representing the International Club) and Harry Scrivener...”
After the memorial service the burial took place in Putney Vale Cemetery in south-west London.