Excerpts from


Stephen Potter


(41) Captain E. Mawdesley Hill, in the autumn of 1938, won three successive matches against –. Johns of Forest Grove, in three successive weeks, by asking him, with great delicacy, on each occasion, whether he (–. Johns) was in financial difficulties and would he accept help. It is interesting to note that a fourth game was also lost when –. Johns realized not only that no kind of help was forthcoming, but that on the contrary Mawdesley Hill owed him for two lunches. –. Johns was too angry to control his game.

(182) Distinguished Visitor Play. J. Strachey made beautiful use of this gambit in a recent lawn tennis doubles ‘friendly’ in which ‘Wayfarer’ was concerned. The game was played at a time when Anglo-****ish relations were cordial, but delicately balanced. ‘To my surprise,’ writes ‘Wayfarer,’ ‘Strachey, asking if he could bring his own partner, astonished us by turning up with the ****ish Ambassador. Before the game began Strachey took me aside to “explain the position”. He suggested that the game should be played, “for obvious reasons”, without gamesmanship. On the whole (he tipped me the wink) it would be no bad thing if the Ambassador (who was, of course, Strachey’s partner) ended up on the winning side. “Someone on the highest level” had hinted as much to him.

‘Pleased to comply, my partner and I obediently lost the first set. Before the next set began, however, Strachey let it slip out that he had been pulling our leg, that it was not the ****ish Ambassador at all, but – and here it seemed to me that I recognized the vaguely familiar face – one of the Oval Umpires who in his spare time played lawn tennis as a member of the East Kensington LTC. This silly trick angered me, and my play in the second set was not improved in consequence, particularly as we both drove hard at the Oval man’s body but, in our annoyance, usually missed it. Two sets to Strachey.

‘In the third set Strachey out-manoeuvred us once more. He told us, finally, that in fact his partner really was the ****ish Ambassador, who, indeed, he turned out to be. This, of course, completely upset us, the remembrance of our rude behaviour in Set II rendering us almost incapable of returning the simplest ball. This gave Strachey the third set and the match.

‘The whole game, which was played on an asphalt court, lasted exactly fifty-eight minutes.’


Stephen Potter, Gamesmanship, 1947.

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