Tennis at Brown began in the early 1880s. The 1881 Liber Brunensis notes the existence of the Alpha Delta Phi, Chi Phi, and Psi Upsilon tennis clubs. In the next two years there were several additional clubs, and on April 14, 1883, the Brown University Lawn Tennis Association was formed. The officers of the association were Abram Barker 1883, H. B. Gardner 1884, and J. B. Diman 1885. Two tournaments, spring and fall, were planned. Two weeks later the executive committee reported that two courts were ready for use. The next year there were 61 members of the association, four of whom represented Brown at an intercollegiate tournament. The 1890 Liber Brunensis reported, “Tennis has developed wonderfully. Four years ago there were but four courts on the college grounds, and those were hardly worth the name. Now the whole middle campus is covered with them, and it is no unusual thing to see twenty or thirty men playing at once, not to mention those who belong to clubs in the city.” Fred Hovey 1890, a future national champion who won the U.S. Doubles in 1893 and 1894 and the U.S. Singles in 1895, won the college championship in 1887 and successfully defended it against William R. Weeden 1891, the winner of the 1888 tournament. Hovey was second in the singles at the intercollegiate tournament in New Haven in 1889. The next two years he was first, but by that time he was playing for Harvard, where he was a law school student. J. D. E. Jones 1893 represented Brown at the intercollegiates for two years, but, like Hovey, his tennis career was at its best after college, when he won five Rhode Island state singles and five doubles titles and reached the semi-finals at the national tournament at the Newport Casino in 1906. In the intercollegiate tournament in 1893 Brown took firsts in both the singles and doubles, the former won by Malcolm Chace 1896, and the latter by Chace and Clarence Budlong 1897, a freshman who had won the interscholastic singles of the United States while he was in high school. The next year Budlong was second in the intercollegiate singles, losing to Chace, who had transferred to Yale.
At a tournament of the newly organized New England Tennis Association in 1900 at Longwood, Massachusetts, E. T. Gross ’01 won the singles championship, and teamed with Frank Gooding ’01 to win the doubles. The Tennis Association continued to hold an annual fall tournament for the college. There was a dual meet with M.I.T. in 1911, and in May 1912 a schedule of five games with Union, Williams, Harvard, Trinity, and Minnesota.
Tennis was revived in 1920 after a lapse of several years and became a recognized sport in 1922. In 1925-26 eleven new clay courts were added, and Brown won six of eight dual meets. The teams of 1927 and 1928 were undefeated, and teams of the 1930s were generally successful. J. D. E. Jones coached at the beginning of the 1950s. Football coach Charles A. “Rip” Engle took over from 1942 to 1944. Westcott E. S. Moulton served as coach from 1947 to 1949.
Brown won six and lost two in Arthur Palmer’s first coaching season in 1950, and Bill Crafts ’50 and Ed Alsop ’51 reached the quarterfinals of the New England Intercollegiate Lawn Tennis Tournament. John Houk ’55 compiled the best record at Brown of 35-5 for three varsity seasons in the number one position. There were more winning seasons, nine of the eleven seasons before Brown’s entry into the Ivy League in 1961. The stiff Ivy competition was too much. It was 1964 before the Brown team defeated its first Ivy opponent, Dartmouth with a 5-4 score. Palmer coached until 1965. Jim Dougherty coached from 1965 to 1975, Dave Johnson in 1977-78, and William Cullen from 1978 to 1982. Bob Woods began coaching in 1982. His first team in 1983 achieved a best ever season record, finished fourth in the Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Association, third in New England, and fourth in the ECAC’s. His ten-year record is 95-65 overall and 44-44 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Association. In 1987 Tim Donovan ’89 became the first Brown player to win the New England championship twice.
A women’s tennis association was formed in 1900 as an alternative to indoor gymnasium classes. The women participated in a college tournament and also competed with the Miss Wheeler’s School. Phoebe Smythe coached tennis in 1927-28, and Ruth E. M’Coy from 1930 to 1935. The women’s tennis team had its first undefeated season, 9-0 in the fall of 1974, followed by more successful seasons in the spring of 1975, 7-0, and the fall of 1975, 5-1, with the help of Nancy Fuld ’76 and Nancy Lewis ’77. The 1989 fall team finished off a 5-1 fall season by winning the Brown women’s first ECAC championship. The 1991 spring team finished its season with a 7-0 record and its first ever Ivy League championship. Coaches of women’s tennis have been Pat Schiltz from 1958 to 1964, Jan Lutz from 1964 to 1971, Joan Taylor from 1971 to 1978, Bill Cullen from 1978 to 1982, and Paul Moses from 1982 to 1985. Norma Taylor, who has coached since 1985, had a seven-year record of 48-67 overall and 22-27 in the Ivy League.