More Info on Bill Tilden
Tilden, winner of 10 Grand Slam singles titles, was voted No. 45 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.
Sept. 6, 1920 - Though Bill Tilden had won Wimbledon this summer, he needed to beat Bill Johnston, his conqueror in last year's U.S. Nationals finals, in today's U.S. championship match to claim his place as No. 1 in the world.
Tilden came to the court in Forest Hills dressed in his camel's hair coat, the big sash tied, and carried an armful of rackets. Johnston brought two rackets. Tilden, with the backhand drive that he had developed last winter and a brilliant first serve, easily won the first set, 6-1.
Johnston won the second set by the same lopsided score. Then the two Bills put on a clinic, each raising his game to another level. Tilden won the third set 7-5; Johnston the fourth, also 7-5.
During the match, a military plane flew overhead as a photographer took pictures. Suddenly, the plane came crashing down, slamming into the ground some 200 feet from a grandstand. Both the photographer and pilot were killed.
The umpire asked Tilden and Johnston if they could continue playing. Both said yes.
In the decisive fifth set, Tilden broke Johnston's serve three times and won 6-3. Big Bill had finally defeated Little Bill in a significant match. He was No. 1, at last, at age 27.
It would be the first of six consecutive U.S. National titles for Tilden.
Odds 'n' Ends