From the Sheffield Lawn Tennis Association website (link now broken):
Ernest Black and the first-ever Davis Cup rubber
Alex Ritchie’s 2008 history of our Association tells of “Edmund Black”, actually born Ernest, of the Hallamshire Club, playing in the Davis Cup tie of 1900 versus the USA in Boston, Massachusetts. As a result of further research this week by Andy Lusis, and more research in Sheffield, it is now clear that this was the first Davis Cup match and was played at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston in August of that year.
Black’s two fellow British Isles team members, Arthur Gore and Herbert Roper Barrett were eventually to win Wimbledon titles and Olympic gold medals between them, and it is suggested that Ernest was picked because the Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie were not available. However, he had the privilege of playing in the opening singles rubber against Dwight Davis, originator of the competition and presenter of the trophy, who must have been surprised to lose the first set against this less well-known player, but eventually winning 4-6 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Ernest Black having given a good account of himself, he was selected for the crucial doubles with Roper Barrett, Gore having lost his singles in three easier sets. That doubles too was lost but only to three sets of 6-4, resulting in a 3-0 win for the US, the dead rubbers not being played.
So, our man from Nether Edge and the Hallamshire Club won the first ever set, in the world’s first international tennis competition, which in 2015 is the world’s largest annual international team competition in sport, with 122 nations taking part.
Ernest Black was born in Sheffield in 1876 to Scottish parents (why does that strike a chord with the 2015 Great Britain vs USA Davis Cup match?) and the family home was 26 Oakhill Rd, Nether Edge, although in 1911 he was lodging in 19 Wiseton Road, Brocco Bank, within walking distance of his then club, Hallamshire.
Ernest Black’s father, William, a mining engineer, was company secretary to the Nunnery Mine in Sheffield. Ernest played his early tennis at the Brincliffe Club off Cemetery Road. He served in World War One as a Captain with both the British and Canadian Infantry (Engineers), and died in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1931 leaving £3,868 in his will.
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