Sport: Book of the Week: Dwight Davis: The Man and the Cup by Nancy Kriplen

Dwight Davis: The Man and the Cup by Nancy Kriplen Edbury Press, pounds 16.99, hardback
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The Independent Online
BROWSERS ARE recommended to judge this book not by its cover, tasteful though it is, but by the small print detailing the research: 32 pages of notes, five pages of bibliography and two pages of acknowledgments. The American author Nancy Kriplen's painstaking homework has produced a fascinating and timely portrait of a compatriot who gave sport one of its most distinctive international trophies.

Tennis is in the process of marking the centenary of the Davis Cup, its premier men's team event (the United States and Britain, who contested the original match in Boston, Massachusetts, coincidentally were drawn to play a first- round tie in Birmingham this weekend) and Kriplen's book is, as the preface promises, "a joint biography - of a man and of a piece of metal."

Not an ounce of sterling silver is left unaccounted for in descriptive passages concerning the creation of Davis's punchbowl, which was designed by Rowland Rhodes, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, who died, aged 38, before his masterpiece gained international prominence. Davis, shortly before his death at the age of 66 in November 1945, remarked to Sir Norman Brookes, president of the Australian LTA: "If I had known of its coming significance, it would have been cast in gold."

Born into wealth in St Louis, both sides of his family having gained prominence as merchants providing for homesteaders travelling west on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails or on Missouri River steamboats, Davis was a student at Harvard when newspaper accounts of the America's Cup yacht race in 1899 between the United States's Columbia and England's Shamrock, owned by Sir Thomas Lipton, the tea tycoon from Ireland, inspired him to propose an international tennis competition. That year, Davis won the United States National doubles championships, partnering Holcombe Ward, and in 1900 he won a match in the inaugural Davis Cup tie.

There was much more to the man than his Cup. In the 1920s, he became President Coolidge's secretary of war, and President Hoover later appointed him governor- general of the Philippines.