A close look at Maureen Connolly’s 1953 Grand Slam

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  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    A close look at Maureen Connolly’s 1953 Grand Slam

    By Mark Ryan


    Part I of VIII

    The most difficult part of Maureen Connolly’s 1952-3 tour of Australia might have been the getting there. In those days, before travel by jet airliners became common, the journey by air took much longer than it does now because of the need for stopovers. Doris Hart, Maureen’s compatriot and contemporary, had taken a similar route during her Australian tour of 1948-9 and wrote of the journey as follows in the chapter of her 1955 autobiography “Tennis With Hart” entitled “The Land Down Under”: “I flew straight through from Los Angeles to Sydney with the usual stops en route for refuelling and engine checks and whatever it is planes stop for on long trips. I remember coming down at a small island in the Pacific for the customary half hour used for crew changeover and check-up.” (Today, a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney takes an average of fourteen-and-a-half hours.)

    Like Doris Hart, Maureen would have had time to practise and acclimatise herself to the new playing conditions before taking part in her first tournament. In her autobiography, Doris Hart wrote: “It was not easy to adjust to the different balls, rackets, courts, and the strangeness of the light. The latter proved to be most puzzling. I tried to figure out the reason and came to this conclusion: Australia is much closer to the Equator than we are in the States, and this makes the rays of the sun brighter and stronger. It was fully three weeks before I saw the ball well…”

    Doris Hart had originally planned to travel to Australia with Louise Brough, but Louise had had to cancel at the last minute, which meant Doris travelled alone. Maureen Connolly was luckier in that she had a travelling companion, and someone with whom she had a good rapport, her compatriot Julie Sampson. Both Maureen and Julie were just eighteen when the tour began.

    Their schedule included a number of exhibition matches, tournaments and social events. The first tournament in which they played was the prestigious New South Wales Open, held at the White City Tennis Club in Sydney towards the end of November. Several patterns set here were to be repeated throughout the coming two months or so that the tour lasted. One pattern was Maureen’s winning the singles event in straight sets; another was her beating Julie Sampson in the final; still another was Maureen and Julie’s winning the women’s doubles event together.

    It is clear that, despite the diminutive stature which had helped to earn her the nickname “Little Mo”, Maureen stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field in each of the singles events she played. Although Nancye Bolton had turned professional and Thelma Long was not competing in Australia that season, it is extremely unlikely that even those two talented Australian players would have been any match for Maureen.

    Her toughest singles match was, in fact, her first one, against Jane Edmondson, an Australian, whom she beat 9-7, 6-0 in the first round of the New South Wales Championships. This was the only time Maureen was taken to an advantage set in a singles match in the four tournaments in which she competed during her tour down under. She next played competitively at the Victorian Championships, held in Melbourne just over a week after the New South Wales Open. Here, Maureen won four singles matches for a total loss of fourteen games, four of which were taken by Julie Sampson in the final.
     
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  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part II of VIII

    After the Christmas break Maureen took part in what was to be the biggest tournament in which she would compete during her tour, the Australian National Championships. In those days the tournament was held at alternate events, thus giving each of Australia’s main tennis cities a chance to host it. In 1953, it was held from 8-17 January at Kooyong Stadium, in Melbourne. In “Tennis with Hart”, Doris Hart wrote of this venue: “The famous Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne is quite similar to our Forest Hills. It resembles a horseshoe with two courts inside the stadium. As in Sydney, there are forty or more courts, all grass, surrounding the clubhouse.”

    Across a time span of more than fifty years it is possible to argue that Maureen won the singles event at the Australian Championships with ridiculous ease. Certainly her scores indicate that this was the case. After all, she lost only eleven games in six matches, five of them to Julie Sampson, whom she beat 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Maureen’s win is still the most one-sided in the history of the tournament for a player playing through and winning five matches.

    Perhaps some of Maureen’s opponents thought they might have had a chance against her (all of them, except Julie Sampson, were Australian and would more than likely not have had a chance of seeing Maureen play before because in those days comparatively few players travelled outside of Australia to tournaments abroad; the same is true for foreign players in relation to Australian tournaments. Long-distance travel was still in its infancy at that time.)

    Carmen Borelli, who later married Brian Tobin, future president of the International Tennis Federation, was Maureen’s first-round opponent at the Australian Championships. She was beaten 6-0, 6-1 and, as was often the case in a match involving Maureen, the score speaks for itself. Looking back at the match fifty years later, Carmen was to say, “We knew Maureen was good. After all, she was the US champ and had won Wimbledon in ‘52. But we couldn’t imagine how good. It was soon apparent. Her shots were harder and deeper than anything we’d ever seen, and she seldom missed.”

    But, apparently, there was a way to beat Maureen. According to Lance Tingay, writing in “100 Years of Wimbledon”, “Theorists had reasoned that the best way to play her was down the middle of the court, giving no angles and no great pace. That she was vulnerable to such tactics was evident. It was another thing to put theory into practice and succeed.” And how did Maureen beat her opponents? Tingay again: “Her strength was her driving skill, tremendous on the forehand but overwhelmingly so, such was its pace and control, from the backhand. […] Her concentration on the court was entire. When she won a point she gave a little nod of the head as she turned to resume her position at the back.”

    The “New York Times” of 17 January 1953 reported that Maureen’s victory in the final of the Australian Championships took only 35 minutes and that “she amazed the crowd of 5,000 with the depth of her accurate drives and passing shots. The victor lapsed just once. In the sixth game of the second set Julie forced errors from her to take the champion’s service for the only time in the match. [Ken] Rosewall, like Miss Connolly in the women’s division, became the youngest ever to win the Australian men’s title”.

    At that point in the tournament’s history Maureen was only the fourth foreign player to take the women’s singles title at the Australian Championships, after Dorothy Round of Great Britain in 1935, and Maureen’s compatriots Dorothy Bundy (1938), Doris Hart (1949) and Louise Brough (1950). Like her, each of them had also won the singles event on their debut. Maureen competed in one more tournament, the South Australian Championships, held in Adelaide at the end of January 1953, and again easily won the singles title. She and Julie Sampson left Australia on 5 February 1953.
     
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  3. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part III of VIII

    How might Maureen have felt while flying back to the United States after her triumphs Down Under? Was she more confident than ever of being able to complete the Grand Slam of the major tournaments in one year, something only Donald Budge had done before her, fifteen years previously? Was she even thinking of a Grand Slam?

    Nowadays, talk of this achievement is not uncommon, especially when a top player takes the first leg in Australia at the start of the year. However, this was not always the case. The term “Grand Slam” had first been applied to tennis only twenty years earlier by the “New York Times” journalist John Kieran, in relation to Jack Crawford, who in 1933 won the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles and headed to the US Nationals at Forest Hills as the overwhelming favourite. “If Crawford wins, it would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable,” wrote Kieran who was also a bridge player. (Crawford lost to Fred Perry in the final at Forest Hills in 1933. Donald Budge of the United States won the first Grand Slam in 1938.)

    It is difficult to believe that the possibility of achieving this rare feat never crossed Maureen’s mind even though she might not have spoken openly about it. “If Mo had any intention of making a Slam, she never mentioned it, and we had a lot of time to talk about everything,” said Julie Sampson (now Mrs Haywood) looking back on that time fifty years later. Of course, the possibility was there whether or not Maureen deliberately set out to win the Grand Slam. It was there, too, for Ken Rosewall, winner of the men’s singles title at that year’s Australian Championships. It is always there for the winner of the men’s and women’s singles titles at what is now the Australian Open.

    The next major of the year, the French Championships, took place in Paris from 19 to 31 May 1953. It might be stating the obvious to say that Maureen was the top seed and favourite, yet, curiously, she might not have been feeling like the favourite at the beginning of the tournament (her first appearance at the French Championships) because only three weeks earlier she had lost a singles match for the first time in nearly ten months. This was at the Italian Championships in Rome, where Doris Hart beat her in a close match, 4-6, 9-7, 6-3.

    Although it is not an exaggeration to state that Maureen had no real rival in singles during the brief period in which she reigned supreme (from the US Nationals in September 1951 to just after Wimbledon in 1954), if there was anyone who even remotely deserved that title, surely it was Doris Hart. More often the bridesmaid than the bride in major singles finals, Doris was nevertheless a tenacious player who had overcome a serious infirmity as a child before becoming one of the world’s best tennis players.

    In a strange way her and Maureen’s fates were linked, for Doris was one of only two players ever to beat Maureen at a major singles tournament (6-2, 7-5 in the second round of the 1950 US Nationals, when Doris was 25 and Maureen nearly 16). It was also against Doris that Maureen won the match which was to prove to be a turning-point in the latter’s career, in the semi-finals of the 1951 US Nationals, when Doris was the defending champion and top seed, and Maureen a sixteen-year-old challenger with nothing to lose. In a match played over two days due to bad weather Maureen had won the first 6-4 (from 0-4) down and, on the following day, showed the stronger nerve to win the second set by the same score. In the final against Shirley Fry, Maureen again displayed nerves of steel and skill beyond her years to win the title and become the youngest ever winner of the US Nationals.
     
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  4. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part IV of VIII

    An aura of near-invincibility began to settle on Maureen after this win, though it must be said that she had to earn it by winning title after title. Only two players beat her in 1952, Louise Brough in the final of the Southern California Championships, held in May, by a score of 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 and, as previously mentioned, Doris Hart, who won by a score of 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Eastern Grass Court Championships, held in New Jersey in August.

    Doris Hart’s victory in the final of the 1953 Italian Championships was thus her second victory over Maureen since the latter had become the world’s best player. The “New York Times” of 12 May 1953 carried a report of how Doris achieved this rare feat: “Maureen, who hadn’t yielded a set in the tournament, started out as if she planned to make short work of Miss Hart. Booming her serve and hitting powerful placements from the baseline, the blond Californian captured the first set and raced through the first three games of the second. At this point Miss Hart changed her tactics. Instead of forcing the attack, she remained in the back court and played a steady driving game, letting her opponent make the errors. This way the tall Florida woman won five games in a row. The set was deuced three times. Miss Hart had two opportunities to win it at 7-6 and three more at 8-7 before she finally scored on a sharp cross-court shot that caught Maureen flat-footed. Doris opened the third set with gusto, winning the first two games. Maureen came back to take the next three, but appeared to tire and lose control. Doris then finished the match quickly.”

    It is clear that the Doris’s change of tactics and her own steady game from the back of the court contributed significantly to her victory, which must have given her a boost of confidence heading into the French Championships, where she was the defending champion. The same two players were to play in the final in Paris, but this time Maureen would be the winner, by a score of 6-2, 6-4. This result does not flatter Doris, but accounts of the match indicate that it could have been worse because Maureen raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set and it was only Doris’s famous tenacity which enabled her to take two games before Maureen closed it out. Just as she had done in Rome, Maureen started as if she was in a hurry, but this time she did not falter with victory in sight.

    According to the “Desert News” of 30 May 1953, “Little Mo played near perfect tennis to overwhelm her opponent... Her stylish ground shots, sweeping the court from left to right, pinned Miss Hart at the baseline, thus preventing the defending champion from making use of her usually sharp volleying game. Some 7,000 fans were on hand early to applaud Miss Connolly’s 50-minute victory.”

    The “New York Times” of 31 May 1953 provided more details of the match: “Making a minimum of errors, Miss Connolly was clearing the net by only a few inches with her sizzling cross-court shots in the first set in which she stormed to a 5-0 lead. Miss Hart opened with a double fault and didn’t have a chance until she finally broke through Miss Connolly’s service and then held her own to trail 5-2. Then Little Mo won her service at love to run out the set. Miss Hart improved in the second set with each player holding serve until the score reached 2-2. Then Miss Hart held her serve to reach 3-2. Each held service until 4-4 when Miss Connolly came back from 15-40 to win the game after a long back-court exchange. Leading by 5-4 she served to a 30-0 lead but Miss Hart drew level at 30-30 with well-placed forehands. Miss Connolly had match point when Miss Hart netted a forehand and then won on the next point when Miss Hart again netted a forehand.”

    Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to claim that Doris was rather lucky to win six games against a Maureen in such form. Only one of Maureen’s five opponents at the 1953 French Championships took more than six games off her, namely Susan Partridge Chatrier, British-born but married to Philippe Chatrier, future head of both the French and International Tennis Federations, and playing for France. Susan achieved the unique feat of winning the only set Maureen was to lose in the four majors on her road to the Grand Slam. In their quarter-final match Susan won the first set 6-3 before Maureen turned things around by taking the next two, 6-2, 6-2. Maureen does not appear to have been in any real danger of losing that match and it may well have sharpened her game in time for the final a few days later.
     
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  5. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part V of VIII

    Once again Maureen had won a major singles title on her debut, this time on a surface, red clay, which was not common outside of Continental Europe. At that time the other three major championships were still played on grass, unlike today when the grass of Wimbledon is the exception and the hard courts of the Australian and US Opens the norm. When Margaret Court won the Grand Slam in 1970, the surfaces at the major tournaments were unchanged. Eighteen years later, when Steffi Graf achieved the rarest of feats, the US Open had gone from grass to clay (1975-77) to hard courts, while the Australian Open, held at the new venue of Flinders Park, displayed its equally new hard courts for the first time (this venue even has a retractable roof for its main court and Steffi Graf won most of her 1988 Australian Open final against Chris Evert more or less indoors due to bad weather!).

    At just eighteen years, eight months and thirteen days old Maureen was now the holder of all four major singles titles. What is more, she had won three of them on her debut (Wimbledon in 1952 in addition to the 1953 Australian and French Championships). No woman and only one man (Donald Budge, from Wimbledon 1937 to the 1938 French Championships) had ever won more than three consecutive major singles titles before Maureen, and only one player (Helen Wills, who won the French, Wimbledon and US Championships in 1927 and 1928) had ever won more than two consecutive major singles titles before (Helen Wills never made the trip to Australia).

    Despite all of this, it is likely that there was still not much talk of a Grand Slam, certainly not of one having been achieved by Maureen at the French Championships in 1953. After all, the trick was to win the four majors not just consecutively, but in the same year. In order to do this, Maureen still had to successfully defend her Wimbledon and US National titles. After her victory in Paris she must have headed for the grass courts of England with renewed confidence. Another player heading confidently to Wimbledon in 1953 was Ken Rosewall who, like Maureen, had built on his success in the Australian Championships in January by also winning the French Championships in Paris. For the first time in history a simultaneous Grand Slam was on in the major singles events.

    Between the French Championships and Wimbledon Maureen played the singles event in the Kent Championships in Beckenham, England. She won the title easily, beating Julie Sampson 6-2, 6-3 in the final. At Wimbledon, as top seed, Maureen marched to the final. To say that she did not drop a set along the way would be a gross understatement because she hardly dropped a game in a series of victories which recalled the ease with which Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody, two great former champions, used to stride to their tournament wins.

    After receiving a bye in the first round, Maureen won her first three matches for the loss of just four games. In the quarter-final she beat Erika Vollmer of Germany, who was unseeded, 6-3, 6-0. (In the men’s competition at the same quarter-final stage Ken Rosewall’s bid for a Grand Slam came to an end when he lost to the unseeded Kurt Nielsen of Denmark. There would be no parallel singles Grand Slams in 1953. There never has been, in any year.)

    In the semi-final Maureen played Shirley Fry, who was seeded three and the first seed Maureen had faced so far in the tournament. In a devastating display of power-hitting Maureen won 6-1, 6-1 in just 32 minutes to reach her second consecutive Wimbledon singles final and her fifth final in a row in a major tournament. On her way to the final she had lost just nine games in five matches.

    “This was the best tennis I ever played,” said Maureen after thrashing Shirley Fry. That is an interesting statement because many observers considered the tennis she was to play in the final some of the best tennis ever played by two women. It is important to state “by two women” because Maureen’s opponent in the Wimbledon final that year, Doris Hart, the number two seed and a familiar face across the net, contributed her share of great tennis.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2010
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  6. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part VI of VIII

    If Maureen’s scores in singles matches tell a story, usually one-sided, of their own, her victory over Doris Hart, by a score of 8-6, 7-5, indicates that the familiar plot did not unfold in this final. In this one match Maureen lost more games than she had in her previous five matches combined! Doris Hart had lost no sets but twice as many games as Maureen on her way to the final, a factor which might have helped sharpen her game, enabling her to peak at just the right time.

    The women’s singles final had taken place on Saturday, 4 July. Susan Noel, writing in the “Sunday Times” the following day, stated that, “Both players were on top of their form. Miss Hart had obviously planned to play the youthful champion from the back of the court, a campaign she stuck to throughout and her ability to half-volley from the baseline stood her in good stead. Up to 3-all in the first set the players were driving to the line with amazing speed and exactitude. At this point Miss Connolly hit faster and faster and deeper and deeper.”

    Max Robertson, in his book “Wimbledon 1877-1977”, wrote: “In the first set Maureen led 5-3, but nervously double-faulted twice. However, at 7-6 she had Doris 0-40. Doris saved two set points but on the third put her forehand out. Connolly dropped the opening game of the second set, uncharacteristically making three mistakes, a reaction to that thrilling first set. However, she quickly took two services from Doris to lead 3-1 then dropped her own and games went with serve to 5-5. At 4-4 Doris had a heaven-sent chance to break when she had two advantages in a game of six deuces on Maureen’s service. But Little Mo, as always when danger reared, hit her way out of trouble. She went to 6-5 and then won Doris’s service to love.”

    According to the “Victorian Advocate” of 5 July 1953, “Both Americans were so exhausted physically and so keyed by nervous tension that when Doris Hart hit the last heartbreaking sideline drive they were both close to tears. Eighteen-year-old Maureen gulped as her chaperon, Nell Hopman, flung her arms about her. Afterwards, Maureen said, ‘That was close, too close. I felt the nervous strain out there more this year than last year and I was very tired at the end. When Doris is tough – and she was tough today – she is very hard to beat. Fortunately for me she missed a few shots today and that helped a lot.’”

    Looking back fifty years later, in 2003, Doris Hart said of Maureen, “She was so quick, accurate and competitive. I know I never played anybody as good. You might be ahead 40-0, but she made you feel like it was 0-40. I think I peaked - I actually felt like I’d won - in the ‘53 Wimbledon final. She beat me, 8-6, 7-5. The shame is that she isn’t around for this golden anniversary.”

    Poor Doris Hart! In her autobiography she omits virtually any mention of this year of 1953, despite the admirable manner in which she acquitted herself. It is clear that her losses to Maureen in the final of the French Championships and Wimbledon frustrated her, although she had already won the singles title at both of those events. The one major missing from Doris’s collection of singles by the summer of 1953 was the US Nationals and in “Tennis with Hart” she states that it was the one title she really wanted to win, mainly because it was her national championship. By 1953 she had already been runner-up at Forest Hills four times and was wearying of the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” tag.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
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  7. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part VII of VIII

    Unfortunately for Doris, she would have to wait yet another year to claim her national title. Although she reached the final at Forest Hills for the fifth time, it was Maureen who took her third consecutive title and with it the Grand Slam. In her usual impressive manner Maureen had strode to the final without losing a set. Althea Gibson, who had just turned 26 and was yet to win a major title, gave Maureen her toughest match on the way to the final, the score being 6-2, 6-3. In the semi-final Maureen played Shirley Fry and did exactly what she had done to her at the same stage at Wimbledon two months earlier, namely annihilate her 6-1, 6-1.

    The final between Maureen and Doris marked the first occasion on which two women had played each other for the three major titles in one year (this happened again thirty-one years later in 1984 when Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd played for the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles, with Martina, like Maureen in 1953, winning each time; it happened for a third time in 2002, when Serena Williams beat her sister, Venus, in the same three finals). The score in the US Nationals final in 1953 was 6-2, 6-4 and once again Doris’s fighting spirit had prevented the final result from looking embarrassing.

    In the “New York Times”, Allison Danzig wrote: “In forty-three minutes, Miss Connolly, with her devastating speed and length off the ground and showing vast improvement since last year, took the match before some 12,000 on the stadium of the West Side Tennis Club, 6-2, 6-4. Miss Hart, a finalist five times and a strong hitter in her own right, resorted to every device, including changes of spin, length and pace, in an effort to slow down her opponent. But Miss Connolly went implacably on to victory in one of her finest performances. She was irresistible except for a momentary wavering when she stood within a stroke of ending matters at 6-2 in the final set and yielded two more games to Miss Hart.”

    And that was that. There was no fanfare, few headlines and certainly no million dollar cheques or bonuses. Looking back on Maureen’s achievement with fifty years’ hindsight, Doris Hart said: “Nobody talked about records and titles much in our amateur day. I had a few myself, but people weren’t counting. The main idea was to travel and have fun, and we did. There was no money to speak of.”

    Nearly sixty years later only two women have duplicated Maureen’s feat of winning all four majors in one year, though Maureen, who was not quite 19 at the time, remains the youngest to do so. Margaret Court was ten years older when she won her singles Grand Slam in 1970 and Steffi Graf was nearly 19 years and 3 months old when she won hers in 1988.

    Maureen, Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova are the only three women ever to have won six consecutive major singles titles. Margaret won every major from the 1969 US Open through to the 1971 Australian Open, inclusive. Martina took every major from the 1983 Wimbledon to the 1984 US Open, inclusive. Unlike Maureen, Margaret’s and Martina’s run ended in defeat. Maureen did not defend her Australian Nationals title in 1954, but did win the French Championships and Wimbledon again that year before a riding accident later that summer put her out of the game for good a couple of months before her twentieth birthday.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2010
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  8. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part VIII of VIII

    Maureen Connolly’s route to the Grand Slam

    1953 Australian Championships, Melbourne, Australia

    R1 Carmen Borelli (AUS) 6-0, 6-1
    R2 Alison Baker (AUS) 6-1, 6-0
    QF Pam Southcombe (AUS) 6-0, 6-1
    SF Mary Bevis Hawton (AUS) 6-2, 6-1
    F Julie Sampson (USA) 6-3, 6-2
    --

    1953 French Championships, Paris, France

    R1 Christiane Mercelis (BEL) 6-1, 6-3
    R2 Raymonde Verber Jones (FRA) 6-3, 6-1
    QF Susan Chatrier (FRA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
    SF Dorothy Knode (USA) 6-3, 6-3
    F Doris Hart (USA) 6-2, 6-4
    --

    1953 Wimbledon, London, England

    R1 Dora Killian (RSA) 6-0, 6-0
    R2 Jean Petchell (GBR) 6-1, 6-1
    R3 Anne Shilcock (GBR) 6-0, 6-1
    QF Erika Vollmer (FRG) 6-3, 6-0
    SF Shirley Fry (USA) 6-1, 6-1
    F Doris Hart (USA) 8-6, 7-5
    --

    1953, US Championships, Forest Hills, New York, USA

    R1 Jean Fallot (USA) 6-1, 6-0
    R2 Patricia Stewart (USA) 6-3, 6-1
    R3 Jeanne Arth (USA) 6-1, 6-3
    QF Althea Gibson (USA) 6-2, 6-3
    SF Shirley Fry (USA) 6-1, 6-1
    F Doris Hart (USA) 6-2, 6-4
    -----
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
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  9. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Thanks for that enjoyable read, Mark.

    That '53 Wimbledon final seems to have been a great match. This was from the New York Times:

    I was actually just thinking of Connolly yesterday, after the Isner-Mahut match ended. It looks like that match had an average of just 5.36 points per game, one of the lowest averages I know about.

    There are three matches I've seen with lower averages: Federer-Roddick at 2007 AO; Graf-Zvereva at 1988 RG; and the lowest is Connolly/Hart in the 1952 US final (5.14).

    That score was 6-3, 7-5. According to a New York Times boxscore only one game went to deuce.
     
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  10. davey25

    davey25 Banned

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    Maureen was such a great player. It is amazing to think how many slams she might have won had her career been able to continue as normal. Who would have been the first to even really challenge her. Gibson in 1957 and 1958 perhaps? If not possibly Maria Bueno.
     
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  11. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    She was 1-6 at one point in Slam finals and actually lost her first four (numbers identical to Lendl's). She eventually finished 6-12, though she lost all four Slam finals she played with Little Mo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Hart

    But like she said in your article, "people weren't counting" back then.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2010
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  12. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Nice thread and informations. Doris Hart, a very popular champion, who was handicapped as a child (in German we call it Kinderlähmung) and had one shorter leg, always had mixed feelings about Mo's fighting spirit. She felt, that Teach Tennant, Mo's coach and mentor, had told her false stories, to implement some hate between them. I think, that Mo really had some good rivals in Hart, Louse Brough, Shilrley Fry. Althea Gibson hadn't arrive yet at the top, and it is a bit pity, that Pauline Betz had been ruled out of the amateur scene so early.
     
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  13. davey25

    davey25 Banned

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    Does anyone have an opinion how Gibson of 57 and 58 might have fared vs Connolly. Would she have been able to give her any kind of competition do you think?
     
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  14. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Very tough to say, from the configuration a bit like Wills-Marble, a rivalry, which never materialized at their primes, or later Martina- Chris. Gibson was very tall and athletic, and played an aggressive volley game. She was late bloomer, i think even a bit older than Little Mo. Mo had very solid, hard groundstrokes, which were difficult to penetrate. Mo mainly had to compete against the strong post war US generation, who came over the Altlantic in the late 40s, to dominate the Wightman-Cup.
     
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  15. davey25

    davey25 Banned

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    Thanks for your thoughts. It is a shame that the racism was so extreme back then or otherwise Gibson might have come to prominence earlier when Connolly, Hart, and Brough were all so strong, rather than after they were all gone or nearing the end. Then again she might have just been a late bloomer anyway, as many all court or attacking players even in recent years are. Interesting do you think Martina and Chris never truly had a significant period on top together in their mutual primes.
     
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  16. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Thanks for the positive comments.
    --

    Personally, I don’t think Maureen Connolly would have continued playing until as late as 1957 or 1958, even if she hadn’t been injured in the horse riding accident in the summer of 1954. I think Maureen would probably have retired or turned professional and married her fiancé, Norman Brinker, as she did anyway (in June 1955).
    --

    Maureen learned not to hate her opponents, but continued beating them nevertheless. The attitude of Eleanor “Teach” Tennant, Maureen’s coach, had been (quote), “You have to be mean to be a champion. How can you lick someone if you feel friendly toward them?” But Maureen quickly matured beyond that attitude.
    --

    I think Maureen did frighten – intimidate – her opponents, merely because of her focussed on-court attitude, and her ability to shut out all extraneous distractions. She had such great determination and concentration, and an unshakeable nerve. This all combined to unnerve other players, including older, more experienced players like Shirley Fry and Louise Brough. It says a lot for Doris Hart that she was able to put up a fight against Maureen on several occasions and even to beat her the odd time.

    Maureen and Doris actually won the US Clay Court Championships doubles title together in July of 1954 (in the singles final, Maureen beat Doris 6-3, 6-1). As this extract from “Tennis With Hart”, Doris Hart’s 1955 autobiography, shows, they planned to play more doubles together that fateful summer (Shirley Fry, Doris Hart’s regular doubles partner, had decided not to play any competitive tennis for the summer):

    “Maureen and I won the clay court title quite easily and were looking forward to a successful partnership. Maureen’s plans were to return home to San Diego for a two-weeks’ visit with her family and then return to Chicago and drive back East with me for the rest of the grass-court tournaments, finishing with Forest Hills.

    “Only two days after her departure I received word that an accident had occurred while she was riding her horse, Colonel Merryboy. I wired her immediately, expressing my feelings and hoped that she would be up and moving about in a short time. I’m afraid many people thought that I would be pleased by Maureen’s being put out of action for the summer, but then, few of them were aware of her plans. I was greatly upset when I received a letter from Maureen a few weeks later, giving details of the accident, which had resulted in a broken leg, and stating that it would be impossible for her to play tennis until the following winter. I had gone through quite a few mishaps in my life, and I knew how Maureen must have felt. I did what I could to cheer her up, but I knew that at this time very little could brighten up her outlook.

    “Of course, this altered my plans. Shirley changed her schedule and decided to play again during the summer. All the girls were greatly excited because they realized that the field was now wide open and anyone could win. How true! Maureen had been a formidable opponent who had made many a tennis heart quail.”
    -----
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
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  17. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    There are some interview clips of Doris Hart (i think from the 70s) on the Wimbledon History video, where she reflects on the influence of Teach Tennant on Maureen. Mo and Tennant, who had a close relationship, did split on the eve of Wimbledon in 1952 over the question, if Mo should play Queens and Wim with a shoulder injury. There were some ugly scenes involved in that altercation, which Tinling describes at lenght in his book Love and Faults. It seems that Mo broke with Tennant, to get a sort of freedom. She never spoke a word with Tennant afterwards, and Tennant had bitter complaints.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
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  18. muddlehead

    muddlehead Rookie

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    thanks for posting newmark401. great read. a neighbor of mine is in eighties. his wife passed this past year. recently, on one of his neighborhood walks, he asked me about my tennis etc when he saw me talking the gear out of the car in the driveway. he's a golfer and i didn't expect much knowledge about the tennis, you know. somewhere in there he says his late wife, maureen, was nicknamed mo, and sometimes little mo...so, here we are in a driveway across the street from a golf club, in 2010, talking about little mo in 1953 and her career and accident...
     
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  19. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    Gibson was a very athletic, tall serve/volleyer with a wicked serve. She might have given Connolly some trouble, as natural athleticism tends to reap rewards on grass.
     
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  20. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    " . . . in this ivied crater today."

    " . . . many a tennis heart quail.”

    This emerald isle.

    They don't write 'em like that anymore. Even in prose, it's all graphite power these days.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010
    #20
  21. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    That whole series of posts regarding Connolly was a fascinating read. And I agree with you hoodjem - they don't write them like that anymore.


    On a side note about Gibson, there is a whole tennis complex named after her in Newark, NJ - I've played on the courts many times. They also have clay courts as well.
     
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  22. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    This read does make me wonder what kind of focus, determination, and concentration one must have to win the GS?

    It's gotta be more than luck and skill, apparently.
     
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  23. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    I don’t know how Althea Gibson would have fared against Maureen Connolly (or vice versa) circa 1957-58. Althea took a long time to mature as a player, even though she played on a regular basis from 1950 or so onwards. Of course, she did play in an era which included not only Maureen Connolly, but also Louise Brough, Doris Hart and Shirley Fry.

    Maureen Connolly and Althea Gibson played at least four times in singles.

    FI = Final; 3R = Third round

    1951

    30 July-4 August, Eastern Grass Courts Tournament, Orange New Jersey, USA (Grass)

    QF: Maureen Connolly d. Althea Gibson 6-4, 6-4
    --

    25 August-5 September, US Championships*, Forest Hills, New York, USA (Grass)

    3R: Maureen Connolly d. Althea Gibson 6-2, 6-4

    * Maureen would go on to beat Shirley Fry in the final of this tournament for her first major title win.
    --

    1953

    13-19 July, US Clay Court Championships, Chicago, Illinois, USA (Clay)

    FI: Maureen Connolly d. Althea Gibson 6-4, 6-4
    --

    29 August-7 September, US Championships, Forest Hills, New York, USA (Grass)

    QF: Maureen Connolly d. Althea Gibson 6-3, 6-2
    -----
     
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  24. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    #24
  25. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    I like the authority with which Maureen Connolly smacks the ball from side to side, often deep into the corners. It's clear that she was relentless in her method of winning matches. She reminds me of Monica Seles.
     
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  26. laschutz

    laschutz New User

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    maureen would have easily taken gibson!

    maureen would have easily taken gibson apart if maureen had played until 57 and 58, remember a few things 1) maureen already had played gibson at least 4 times and won without any trouble 2) even if gibson from let's say the last time they played each other in 54 had improved 3 to 4 years in 57 and 58, remember maureen would have improved as well as she would have been around 23/24 years old, gibson around 30!
    3) maureen LOVED to play serve and volleyers and on grass mind you! brough, osborne dupont were serve and volleyers and d.hart was an all court player, but they knew it was ridiculous to try to serve and volley against maureen and try to win.

    4) althea perhaps might have been in her prime and at her best a bit more athletic serve and volleyer than others, but i don't think it would have been enough to trouble maureen in the slightest.

    for one thing althea wouldn't have even been able to get to the net in the first place as maureen would have pinned her to the baseline an either hit a winner or cause althea to error. even in her prime, althea had a good but not great forehand and a pretty average bordering on weak backhand, SHE HAD TO GET TO NET TO WIN! the only time althea would be able to serve and volley would be on her own serve, and maureen loved pace so she would have been able to eat gibson's serve as well. if maureen stayed at the same level of her 53/54 self and althea improved and played as her 57/58 self, i can see maureen winning everytime still, with perhaps althea taking the very very rare 1 set off of her. for instance if they played 10 times, maureen would be 10-0 and althea might have gotten a set in perhaps 2 or 3 of those matches at best, and that's it, but like i said that's saying maureen never got any better, even as she got older and more experienced and matured as a woman! highly highly doubtful she wouldn't have herself improved!

    i think if anything maureen would have had more problems with the mercurial all court game and variety of bueno than gibson.
     
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  27. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    That's a very interesting post.
     
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