As a 19-year-old player, Van Horn reached the finals of the 1939 U.S. Nationals only to lose to Bobby Riggs in just 56 minutes (6–4, 6–2, 6–4). One of the high points of his career was a crushing defeat (6–0, 6–2, 6–1) of the great Bill Tilden at a match between U.S. and British Empire service teams at Wimbledon in July, 1945, supposedly the worst drubbing of Tilden's career — Tilden, however, was 52 years old at the time while Van Horn was 25. Van Horn also won the United States Pro Championship in 1945.
His career as a coach spawned institutions such as the Welby Van Horn Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Florida, and Welby Van Horn Tennis programs in a number of locations.
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