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The ‘Ubiquitous Apostle of International Play’, Wilberforce Vaughan Eaves: The Forgotten Internationalist of Lawn Tennis.

Eaves, SJ and Lake, RJ (2017) The ‘Ubiquitous Apostle of International Play’, Wilberforce Vaughan Eaves: The Forgotten Internationalist of Lawn Tennis. International Journal of the History of Sport. ISSN 0952-3367

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Abstract

In the context of sustained imperial dominance during the late Victorian era, foreigners perceived British playing styles, methods and approaches to lawn tennis as ‘blueprints’ for aspiring players. Those seeking to learn the game were largely dependent on observing skilled performers, however before the mid-1890s, most of the best British players declined to venture to Australasia and America, perceiving the opposition as inferior and their championships unworthy of their participation. Moreover, while British-trained coaching-professionals – widely considered the world’s best – offered instruction in a small number of clubs, they also rarely ventured outside of Europe. Alongside these barriers, the parochial and ethnocentric Lawn Tennis Association was less than proactive in their approaches to fostering international relations. One man, however, Dr Wilberforce Vaughan Eaves, did more for the internationalization of the sport than anyone else during this period, travelling extensively in America, South Africa and Australasia, demonstrating his skills, offering instruction and advising officials. Consequently, he helped develop the sport’s international character, laying the foundations for the Davis Cup, helping to foster Anglo-Australasian and Anglo-American relations, and hastening the development of foreign players, particularly in Australasia. This paper assesses the notable contributions of a player, coach and diplomat who has been largely ignored.

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