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.