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James Outram Anderson (1894–1973)

by Virginia O'Farrell

This article was published:

James Outram Anderson (1894-1973), tennis player, was born on 17 September 1894 at Enfield, Sydney, eighth child of James Outram Anderson, clerk, and his wife Patience, née Laycock, both native-born. Educated at Camden Grammar School, in 1912 James was the first interstate player to win the Victorian schoolboys' singles championship. He became New South Wales singles champion in 1914. During World War I Anderson farmed at Forbes and married Maud Irene Whitfield (d.1955) at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 24 March 1917.

New South Wales champion in 1919, he represented Australasia that year in the Davis Cup Challenge Round and with G. L. Patterson defeated the British in Sydney. Anderson again represented Australasia in 1922 and Australia in 1923 in the challenge rounds played in New York. Between 1919 and 1925 he played in fifteen Davis Cup ties. His greatest achievement came in 1923 when he beat in five sets the American Wimbledon champion William ('Little Bill') Johnston, previously undefeated in the Davis Cup. As a result, Anderson was ranked number three in the world. He won the Australian men's singles in 1922, 1924 and 1925, and with (Sir) Norman Brookes the Australian men's doubles in 1924. The only important overseas title that Anderson won was the men's doubles at Wimbledon (with Randolf Lycett) in 1922, although he was twice a semi-finalist in the singles.

Nicknamed 'The Greyhound', Anderson had an extremely hard, flat, shoulder-high, forehand drive. He was celebrated for his mascot, a large toy kangaroo which he brought on court. William Tilden, the American champion of the 1920s, described Anderson as 'tall, ungainly, almost awkward, taciturn, grim, unsmiling, yet interesting and to a great majority of all who see him fascinating . . . [He] gives the impression of ruthlessness in plan which is so often belied by his charming smile and generous acknowledgment of his opponent's good shots'. Anderson was often seen as the archetypal colonial, tall and angular, with his hair parted down the middle and plastered to his head. Known to tennis enthusiasts as 'J.O.' and as Jim to his friends, he thrilled thousands with his 'sparkling armory of drives, stop, half and full volleys', but had a suspect backhand.

In 1923 the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia refused Anderson any reimbursement for business losses incurred during his five-to-seven-month tours in the three previous years. In 1924 he declined to represent Australia. That year he established J. O. Anderson & Co. Ltd to operate a chain of sports depots, but encountered difficulties and only retained one outlet in Pitt Street. In December 1926 Anderson turned professional and set up as a tennis coach in Sydney. He tried unsuccessfully to regain his amateur status in 1930. The New South Wales Lawn Tennis Association gave him a testimonial in 1940, after he had been seriously ill. On 18 November 1957 he married a widow Mabel Little, née Pearce, at the district registrar's office, Chatswood. Still 'quick-witted and very spry', he moved to The Entrance and continued coaching until the 1960s. Anderson died on 23 December 1973 at Gosford and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did the son and four daughters of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • W. T. Tilden, The Common Sense of Lawn Tennis (Lond, 1924)
  • P. Metzler, Great Players of Australian Tennis (Syd, 1979)
  • G. K. Smith, The Sweet Spot (Melb, 1982)
  • A. Voss, Tilden and Tennis in the Twenties (NY, 1985)
  • J. Barrett, 100 Wimbledon Championships (Lond, 1986)
  • Lawn Tennis and Badminton, 17, no 1, 1 May 1926, p 7, no 32, 4 Dec 1926, p 891
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Nov 1912, 29 Oct, 26 Nov 1930, 5, 6 Jan 1940, 21 Nov 1973
  • Argus (Melbourne), 20, 25 Nov 1912, 2 Nov, 11 Dec 1922, 12 Nov 1923, 30 Jan 1924, 8 Sept 1925, 30 Nov, 1 Dec 1926
  • Table Talk, 18 Feb 1926
  • Australian, 28 Apr 1971.

Citation details

Virginia O'Farrell, 'Anderson, James Outram (1894–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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