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Oddness or quirkiness seems to be a fundamental career requirement for the modern tennis star. It wasn't always this way: back in the 1940s and '50s players were, for the most part, a level-headed, sober-minded bunch. Those who did not fit the mould of the 'typical player' in the highly constrained world of American tennis in the 1950s, were viewed, and treated, as outsiders. Richard Naughton's meticulously researched tennis biography, The Outcasts tells the story of two such men, now considered among the most fascinating characters in the history of American tennis—the strangely glamorous, yet odd figure of Art 'Tappy' Larsen, and the physically imposing, gruff Dick Savitt.
The two men were great champions. Larsen was the US National singles champion in 1950, and Savitt won the 1951 Wimbledon title.
By all appearances they had little in common. 'Tappy' was wild-living and free-thinking, while Savitt was serious, contemplative, seeming to be almost angst-ridden —he was also Jewish, which may have been an issue of contention for American tennis administrators of the time. The two men also played the game differently—the feathery touch of Larsen as he sped about the court, contrasted with the big booming ground strokes of Savitt, one of the hardest hitters of his era, or maybe any era. In spite of their differences, they shared a close friendship, bonding over their shared alienation from the inner processes and power circles of the United States tennis establishment. The Outcasts tells their story, and helps to untangle the broader picture of American tennis in the 1950s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Naughton is a sports historian and a senior Fellow in the Law Faculty at Monash University. His most recent academic title, The Shaping of Labour Law Legislation—Underlying Elements of Australia’s Workplace Relations System (Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2017) was a comprehensive study of Australia’s labour law system. Writing Daphne Akhurst—The Woman Behind the Trophy is part of an ongoing project to present detailed accounts of aspects of Australian tennis history. Richard is the author of The Wizard—The Story of Norman Brookes, Australia’s First Wimbledon Champion, (2011) and Muscles—The Story of Ken Rosewall, Australia’s Little Master of the Courts, (2012) each published by the Slattery Media Group, and The Outcasts—The story of Art ‘Tappy’ Larsen and Dick Savitt (Self-published, 2016).