Disorder on the Court
Soft Men, Hard Women, and Steamy Tennis
When Hans Moldenhauer, the third-ranked men’s player in Germany from 1925 to 1927, died tragically in an automobile accident on December 29, 1929, the nation’s tennis establishment paid tribute to his famously artistic form. Walter Bing praised Moldenhauer’s “inimitably graceful shots” in the pages of Tennis und Golf, the journal of Germany’s tennis federation, and he lauded Moldenhauer’s absolute refusal “in any situation, to violate …tennis elegance.”1 In fact, Bing presented him as a paragon of personal comportment, “the blonde player on whom one never noticed a hair out of place, or anything outwardly or inwardly unharmonious.” Bing readily conceded Moldenhauer’s lack of competitiveness, noting that he invariably opted for an aesthetic shot over a winning one and that he unhesitatingly sacrificed sure-fire victories in the interest of presenting “beautiful tennis.” Again and again, Bing returned to Moldenhauer’s stylish contributions to the game, saluting him as “a prototype of the elegant, nonchalant player” and “a gentleman in the best sense of the word.” Moldenhauer was the embodiment of an appealingly debonair manhood, the quintessential gentleman of tennis.
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Cilly Aussem, a rising star in 1929 who would go on to reign as the German national champion at the end of the Weimar Republic, drew praise for an entirely different quality: her no-holds-barred determination to defeat her opponents. As early as 1927, the tennis analyst Bill Fuchs described Aussem in the German Tennis Handbook as one to watch because she played “the new, aggressive, netattacking style of women’s tennis” that was revolutionizing the entire sport.2 He admired her competitive zeal and disciplined focus. At one point, Fuchs even suggested that Aussem soften her approach just a bit, if only to show female fans “how to embody competitive tennis charmingly” and how to play “manly, modern tennis attractively”—a “manly, modern tennis” that, ironically, he found distinctly lacking in the men’s game itself.