As one of the world’s oldest tennis clubs, the Longwood Cricket Club began its transition from the sport of cricket to tennis when the club added its first lawn tennis court in 1878.
Completing a move to Chestnut Hill, MA from downtown Boston’s medical district in 1922, the club has played an important role in the growth of tennis through hosting national and international tournaments and the prominence of its players and leaders.
Some of the most memorable events in tennis history occurred here, including the U.S. Pro Tournament from 1964 to 1999, which drew virtually every top male tennis player in the world--Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, and Bjorn Borg, to name a few. The U.S. Pro exposed tennis to wide national audiences as the first professional tournament played with a full television schedule, enlivened by commentary from tennis commentator and long-time Longwood member, Bud Collins.
Among many significant events, Arthur Ashe’s 1968 victory in the only National Amateur Championship played at Longwood remains one of the game’s great historical moments. Ashe’s win broke the color barrier for the sport at a pivotal time in U.S. social history, and he went on to win the professional championship later that year for an unprecedented double crown.
The most prominent tournaments hosted by Longwood between 1917 and 1999 included the National Doubles, Davis Cup and U.S. Pro which brought the greatest tennis champions of the day--from the eras of Tilden and Budge to McEnroe and Sampras – to the club.
However, Longwood’s involvement in tennis was not limited to men, as many women players--with members Eleonora Sears and Hazel Wightman leading the way--dominated the early national tennis scene, winning both singles and doubles championships. Mrs. Wightman, winner of three triple crowns and 45 national titles, became known as the “Grand Dame” of tennis and introduced international women’s team play by creating the Wightman Cup.
More recently Longwood hosted the Federation Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup. Alice Marble, Maureen Connolly, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova are among the great champions who have competed on the club’s grass.
Early Longwood members who were tennis pioneers included R. D. Sears (U.S. Open champion for seven consecutive years), Dwight Davis (founder of the Davis Cup) and James Dwight, known as the “father” of American tennis.
While the club’s role in professional tennis diminished after 1999, Longwood remains committed to top amateur play by hosting five national grass championships each year--the Father-Son, Grandfather-Grandson, Father-Daughter, Mother-Daughter and Men’s 85-90. Tennis is a lifelong sport and Longwood supports tournament play from juniors to seniors.
Longwood has also been well represented in national tennis organizations and has 15 members enshrined in Newport’s International Hall of Fame. Bud Collins, print and broadcast journalist and dean of tennis history, is among those members.
While the Longwood Cricket Club has seen many changes in its more than 135-year history, the club’s core values remain a love of the game of tennis, and the sharing of friendship and sociability in a unique and classically traditional setting.