From its' beginnings in the 1870s through to the mid 1920s, tennis had always been an amateur game. Professional tennis was virtually unheard of before 1926 (in the early 1920s there were a few pro events scattered across Europe that few people knew existed). Then towards the end of 1926 a promoter called Charles C. Pyle signed up Vinnie Richards, Paul Feret, Howard Kinsey and Harvey Snodgrass to a U. S. tour. Pyle approached Bill Johnston and Bill Tilden but both wanted more money than Pyle was prepared to offer. Instead Pyle managed to persuade the great women's champion Suzanne Lenglen, fresh from her Wimbledon walk out, to sign up with his troupe to play Mary K. Browne. Lenglen was the biggest draw in women's tennis before the Second World War but her tour (which she won 38-0) was not a great success and her pro career ended there. In the next forty years on the women's side Alice Marble, Pauline Betz and Althea Gibson had brief pro careers, but they all failed to make much money from the game. At the end of 1930 Bill Tilden turned pro and organised his own tour with Karel Kozeluh, which he won comfortably. In the 1930s Henri Cochet, H. Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry and J. Donald Budge all turned professional. As war broke out tennis continued in America, whilst it stopped elsewhere. Bobby Riggs turned professional at the end of 1941. After the war ended Tilden was jailed and his promoting activities ceased. At the end of 1947 promoter Jack Harris signed Jack Kramer to compete in a tour against the reigning pro champion Riggs. After the tour ended Harris retired from promotion due to ill health and Riggs took over.
The contribution of Jack Kramer towards the history of tennis should never be overlooked. He was responsible for organising the pro circuit from 1952 to 1962. He was a great advocate of open tennis and, to hasten its' arrival, he persuaded most of the top players of that era to turn professional. In 1961 an ITF vote failed to sanction open tennis by just five votes. Kramer felt that part of the reason for this was the personal animosity some of the amateur officials felt towards him, which led to his decision to resign as organiser of the pro circuit and hand over to Tony Trabert. The problem was, Kramer let it be known that if an open tennis circuit was approved he wanted to run it, including possibly rescheduling big events like Wimbledon so they would fit in with the schedule for his pros. However, without Kramer's input, it is likely that open tennis would have taken a lot longer to have been implemented and the 1961 ITF vote would never have taken place, because the amateur bodies would have had enough star names in their ranks not to have to face the prospect of open tennis.
The great Rod Laver turned pro at the end of 1962. The Grand Slams struggled on for the next five years, with virtually all the marquee names in the pro ranks. To keep the remaining top amateurs from turning pro, under the table payments were commonplace, which is where the term 'shamateurism' derived. Meanwhile, the pro circuit continued to struggle for publicity. In 1967 Wimbledon hosted a pro event which was televised in colour. Then promoter Dave Dixon persuaded several of the top amateurs to turn pro and play in his new 'Handsome Eight' WCT circuit. George MacCall signed Roy Emerson and the existing top pros to the rival National Tennis League. This prompted the British LTA to take the brave step of defying the ITF in voting for open tennis and decreeing that the 1968 Wimbledon would be open. In the first year of open tennis in matches between pros and amateurs pros won 199 and amateurs won just 45. By 1970 the word amateur had become obsolete. That same year Jack Kramer set about organising the Grand Prix Circuit, another very significant move. Although many rightly cite Billie Jean King as one of the driving forces in the increase in prize money and prestige for women's tennis in the 1970s, none of this would have been possible without open tennis. Before the advent of open tennis, women's professional tennis was virtually non-existent. While Jack Kramer was starting the men's Grand Prix circuit, Gladys Heldman set about creating a women's circuit. Both circuits were successful and led to the huge money game that tennis is today.
The pro slams were the pro equivalent of the Grand Slams and consisted of the British, French and U. S. championships. The British was held indoors at Wembley. The final was often televised and it became a favourite of tennis fans in Britain. The French was usually held at Roland Garros on clay, but for the last few years was held indoors at Stade Coubertin. The U. S. was held on a variety of surfaces, but mainly on grass. The U. S. Pro had draws of 32 (or occasionally 64) from 1928 to 1950. Teaching pros were eliminated by the seeds in the round of 32, with very few upsets occuring. After 1951 the U. S. Pro always contained 16 players or less, in line with the French Pro and British Pro. The Pro Slams Archive was mostly transcribed from the excellent The History of Professional Tennis by the late Joe McCauley. Further newspaper archive research by this website has filled in the few remaining gaps in McCauley's results. All of the results of the three pro slams have been transcribed from last 16 onwards. Results of the finals of the 1936 and 1938 British Pro were recorded in publications such as McCauley's book and also Lance Tingay's book The Guinness Book of Tennis Facts & Feats, but the events never took place.
Pro tournaments were all about quality rather than quantity. Grand Slam events of the 1950s and 1960s typically contained sixty four or one hundred and twenty eight players who were mostly journeymen plus two or three great players who usually soon turned pro, whilst the pro championships typically contained eight great players giving their all to win. Despite this, the pro tournaments received patchy coverage in the written media, which was part of the reason that Joe McCauley had to spend years tracking down pro results.
The following is a list of players who reached Grand Slam finals and also entered one or more of the three main Pro championships: Bill Tilden, Wallace Johnson, Frank Hunter, Henri Cochet, Howard Kinsey, H. Ellsworth Vines, George Lott, Keith Gledhill, Fred Perry, J. Donald Budge, C. Gene Mako, Bobby Riggs, Elwood Cooke, H. Welby Van Horn, Frank Kovacs, Jack Kramer, Frank Parker, Yvon Petra*, Dinny Pails, Joszef Asboth, Richard 'Pancho' Gonzales, Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall, Kurt Nielsen, Tony Trabert, Rex Hartwig, Lew Hoad, Mervyn Rose, Ashley Cooper, Mal Anderson, Luis Ayala, Alex Olmedo, Rod Laver, Fred Stolle, R. Dennis Ralston and Andres Gimeno. Ken McGregor also had a brief pro career. Karel Kozeluh, Vinnie Richards, Hans Nusslein and Francisco 'Pancho' Segura achieved little as amateurs but were at their peak in the pro ranks. 'Little Pancho' was a stalwart of the pro game for many years and very difficult to beat.
* Petra became a teaching pro. He lost in preliminary round of U. S. Pro championships in 1950 to C. Gene Mako
THE FOUR PRO SLAM TITLES
There were eight pro champions and none of them ever regained the title after they lost their crown. So, crediting the pro champion with one major title, this would bring the total of major pro titles up to four (the other three were the British, French and U. S. Pro titles). Here is the list of the winners of the four pro Slams from 1927-67. Before 1931 the U. S. Pro had no former Grand Slam champions in the field. The 1933, 1936, 1937 & 1962 US Pro events also contained no former Grand Slam champion in the field. The 1943 & 1945 U. S. Pro championships had weak wartime fields and Tilden in his fifties was the only former Grand Slam champion in the field. The 1930-32 French Pro championships contained no former Grand Slam champions in the field. The British and U. S. Pro titles were held on grass or fast indoor surfaces (in line with Wimbledon and the U. S., which were held on grass). The French Pro (like the French) was held on clay at Roland Garros, but from 1963-67 was held indoors. However, as Rosewall (the best clay courter around at the time) continued to win it when it was held indoors, the winner of the French Pro from 1963-66 would probably have been the same if it had been held on clay. Laver would probably have won the French Pro in 1967 if it was held on clay, as he was totally dominant on all surfaces by this time.
Year PRO US BRI FRE
1927 ------ Richards ------ ------
1928 ------ Richards ------ ------
1929 ------ Kozeluh ------ ------
1930 ------ Richards ------ Kozeluh
1931 Tilden Tilden ------ Plaa
1932 Tilden Kozeluh ------ Ramillon
1933 Tilden Richards ------ Tilden
1934 Vines Nusslein Vines Tilden
1935 Vines Tilden Vines Vines
1936 Vines Whalen ------ Cochet
1937 Vines Kozeluh Nusslein Nusslein
1938 Vines Perry ------ Nusslein
1939 Budge Vines Budge Budge
1940 Budge Budge ------ ------
1941 Budge Perry ------ ------
1942 Budge Budge ------ ------
1943 ----- Barnes ------ ------
1945 ----- Van Horn ------ ------
1946 Riggs Riggs ------ ------
1947 Riggs Riggs ------ ------
1948 Kramer Kramer ------ ------
1949 Kramer Riggs Kramer ------
1950 Kramer Segura Gonzales ------
1951 Kramer Segura Gonzales ------
1952 Kramer Segura Gonzales ------
1953 Kramer Gonzales Sedgman ------
1954 Gonzales Gonzales ------ ------
1955 Gonzales Gonzales ------ ------
1956 Gonzales Gonzales Gonzales Trabert
1957 Gonzales Gonzales Rosewall ------
1958 Gonzales Gonzales Sedgman Rosewall
1959 Gonzales Gonzales Anderson Trabert
1960 Gonzales Olmedo Rosewall Rosewall
1961 Gonzales Gonzales Rosewall Rosewall
1962 Rosewall Buchholz Rosewall Rosewall
1963 Rosewall Rosewall Rosewall Rosewall
1964 Rosewall Laver Laver Rosewall
1965 Laver Rosewall Laver Rosewall
1966 Laver Laver   Laver Rosewall
1967 Laver Laver   Laver LaverFour pro slam titles won by the same player in the same year written in red and three titles written in blue.
GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE
PRO SLAMS ARCHIVE
PRO CHAMPIONSHIP 1931-1967
U. S. PRO CHAMPIONS 1927-1967
U. S. PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1927-1967
BRITISH PRO CHAMPIONS 1934-1967
BRITISH PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1934-1967
FRENCH PRO CHAMPIONS 1930-1967
FRENCH PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1930-1967