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Athletics] Willis, Helen.



Inscribed to Henry Huntington's Brother-in-Law
[Athletics] Wills, Helen. Tennis. With illustrations by the author. New York…: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928.
8vo.; several leaves unopened; mint green cloth; stamped in blue; photographic dust-jacket, printed in blue and brown, priceclipped; edgeworn. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition; with a frontispiece photograph of Wills, and 34 pencil drawings illustrating various serves and shots by Wills throughout. A presentation copy, inscribed: For E.B. Holladay - most sincerely. Helen Wills Moody April 3, 1930. Holladay was the husband of Caroline Huntington, and, therefore, the brother-in-law of Henry E. Huntingon, the American railroad executive.
In twenty-one chapters, with titles including, "The Value of Tennis," "The Beginning and the Goal," "Tactics and Strategy," "Experience and Confidence," "The Ideal Temperament for Tennis," "Tennis Dress," "Etiquette," and "An Outline of My Playing Days." The illustrations include drawings by Wills of contemporary famous tennis players - Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Betty Nuthall, Diddie Vlasto and Joan Fry among them. The dust-jacket reads:
This is a simple and direct presentation of the principles of tennis illuminated by personal anecdotes and reminiscenes by one of the great women players of the world - the champion world player of the United States. …Not only does the book have great clarity but it also has the charm which comes from a winning personality of the author, and from her drawings, which are not only notable as illustrating points, but are so artistically as well.
The majority of Wills's text promotes the value of tennis for mind and body; she also suggests methods and strategies for play-a literary version of coaching, of sorts. One of the more compelling chapters is the final one, "An Outline of My Tennis Days," where she begins the chapter by recounting her first match - at age 14 - at the Berkeley Tennis Club, in California. She won that match, and went on to participate in a flurry of others-winning trophies and being invited to play in several tournaments, including the prestigious Wightman Cup, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Paris. Wills mentions that her annual schedule was divided in half - during the fall and winter she attended college, and in the spring and summer she played tennis. She was not only a star on the courts:
Returning to college in the fall, I found that I had won a prize in my studies, which I shall cherish always more (I fear I must admit) than any of my tennis prizes - a Phi Beta Kappa key - and when they pinned it over my fast-beating heart, I experienced one of the happiest moments in my life (191).  
Wills (1905-1998) was born in California; her father, a surgeon, encouraged Wills to be involved in several types of physical activities to improve her health, and she started playing tennis when she was eight. She came under the tutelage of William "Pop" Fuller when she was fourteen, at the Berkeley Tennis Club. He arranged daily matches for her, where she played against the male Club members; "Dressed in her schoolgirl tennis outfits and signature white visor, pigtails flying, Wills was a formidable player, determined to defeat every player" ("Helen Newington Wills." The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 5: 1997-1999. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002.  Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007. She earned the sobriquet, "Little Miss Poker Face," due to her unshakable concentration and her seriousness during a game.
After winning the California State Women's Championship at age fifteen, she went on to rack up a breathtaking array of victories, including a string of 180 consecutive wins - she did not lose a single set - between the years 1927-1933.
Her professional victories are nearly overshadowed by her envious personal life. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California with a degree in fine arts (indeed, she painted her whole life), she was friends with Charlie Chaplin, was Diego Rivera's model for a mural he painted about California, and she sold her paintings and wrote three books: Tennis; a mystery novel, titled Death Serves as an Ace (1939); and her autobiography 15-30: The Story of a Tennis Player (1937).
Wills was twice married - to Frederick Moody and Aidan Roark - and had no children. She died in California at age ninety-two.

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