World History 1926 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1926, the first Saud King of Arabia, the tennis match of the century.



* Ibn-Saud, 46, became the first king of a unified Arabia. Saud belonged to the Wahabis, a puritanical Muslim sect. As a Wahabite, he did not smoke, drink, or gamble. And he spurned fancy clothing and condemned the worship of idols. Saud made up for all this Spartan living by going through 120 wives, although, in keeping with Muslim tradition, he never was married to more than four at any one time. As a boy he had watched his family and other Wahabites driven from their homeland by rival Muslim sects. Taking refuge in neighboring Kuwait, the Sauds plotted a comeback. Around the turn of the century, Saud helped his father retake the city of Riyadh and reestablish his family's preeminence in the area. The father was so impressed with his son's conduct that he abdicated in his favor. By now in his mid-20s, Saud immediately set out to subdue warring tribes and consolidate his power. He convinced many of the Bedouins to give up their nomadic life for farming and recruited the first standing army in Arab history. In 1924 he captured the holy city of Mecca from his chief rival, Husein ibn-Ali, and declared himself king of all Arabia two years later. In 1932 he added his family name to the new nation: Saudi Arabia was born. An imposing Arab (6 ft. 4 in., 240 lb.), Saud ruled with unquestioned authority. He did not tolerate corruption and clamped down on thieves and unscrupulous merchants who had been preying on the pilgrims bound for Mecca. He also overhauled the civil service and introduced radio communications and automobiles to the country.

Feb. 16 In what was billed as the tennis match of the century, French women's singles champion Suzanne Lenglen, 27, defeated Helen Wills, 20, of the U. S. at Cannes, France. The competition on the court, while fierce, was matched by that in the stands. A complete sell-out, grandstand seating went for around $12, about six times the fare for a men's title match of the period. The number of nobility and tycoons at courtside forced humbler tennis fans up nearby trees and onto the roofs of local houses. Lenglen jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, but the powerful American evened the score soon enough. Regaining the lead, Lenglen finally arrived at match point. During a tense volley, the French star watched the ball cross into her forehand court and land out. Or so she thought. The linesmen pronounced the ball inbounds, and Lenglen, all set to jump the net to victory, was forced to resume her baseline. Unshaken, Lenglen again drove her opponent to match point, and this time she made it stick. The contest is said to have netted the promoters nearly $200,000.

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