A selection of Suzanne Lenglen’s singles results (1919-1926)
By Mark Ryan
Part I of II
In her adult career, which spanned the years 1919-26, Suzanne Lenglen played around 300 singles matches in open tournaments (excluding exhibition matches), and won all 300 or so matches. The one exception was at the United States Championships in 1921, when Suzanne, unwell, withdrew from her second round match against Molla Mallory with the score 6-2, 30-0 in the Norwegian-born American’s favour. This retirement was considered a defeat.
Other than that match against Molla Mallory, Suzanne did not lose a singles match to anyone, anywhere, at any time during the aforementioned period. Indeed, she lost only two other sets in singles – one to Dorothea Lambert Chambers in the Challenge Round at Wimbledon in 1919 (Suzanne won this titanic struggle 10-8, 4-6, 9-7, saving two match points at 5-6, 15-40 in the third set) and one to Elizabeth Ryan, Suzanne’s regular doubles partner, in the Wimbledon quarter-final in 1924 (the final score was 6-2, 6-8, 6-4).
Only on one other occasion did Suzanne even face a set point, namely in the semi-finals of the World Hard Court Championships in Brussels in 1922, when Kathleen McKane led Suzanne 5-4, 40-15 in the first set before eventually losing 10-8, 6-2. The Englishwoman Kathleen McKane was one of Suzanne’s main rivals, but such was Suzanne’s dominance, so overwhelming was her superiority, that the term “rival” should be used cautiously. After all, if the aforementioned, uncompleted match against Molla Mallory at the 1921 US Championships is excluded, the adult Suzanne never lost in singles to anyone, and if a player never loses to anyone, how can she be said to have any rivals?
The following selected results reflect Suzanne’s overwhelming superiority in singles play. She won a number of tournaments, probably nine or ten, without dropping a single game. All of the tournaments featured below were played on clay (or a similar surface), with the exception of Wimbledon, the only grass-court tournament ever played in (apart from the 1921 US Championships). Most of these results are taken from the biography “Suzanne Lenglen – Tennis Idol of the ‘Twenties”, by Alan Little.
FR = First round; SR = Second round; TR = Third round; 4R = Fourth round; ACF = All-Comers’ Final; CR = Challenge Round
17-25 March, South of France Championships, Nice, France
FR: d. D. Wilson 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Mme Gerbault 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Mrs F. Jackson, walkover
SF: d. Mme Vassal 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Doris Wolfson 6-0, 6-0
8-13 September, Le Touquet, France
FR: d. Mme Mallet-Stevens 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Miss Burke 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. J. Marion 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Madeline O’Neill 6-0, 6-1
26-30 April, Beau Site Hotel, Cannes, France
FR: d. Dorothy Shepherd, walkover
QF: d. E. Sanders 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Sylvia Jung 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Sigrid Fick 6-1, 6-1
3-9 August, Ostend, Belgium
FR: d. Fernande Arendt 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Mlle Camont 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Anne de Borman 6-2, 6-1
FI: d. Helen Leisk 6-0, 6-0
15-23 August, Olympic Games*, Beerschot Tennis Club, Antwerp, Belgium
FR: d. Marie Storms 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Winifred McNair 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Lily Stromberg 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Sigrid Fick 6-0, 6-1
FI: d. Dorothy Holman 6-3, 6-0
* Suzanne won the Olympic singles title for the loss of only four games in five matches (three of the games she lost were to the Englishwoman Dorothy Holman, in the final).
3-10 January, New Year Meeting, Beau Site Hotel, Cannes, France
FR: d. N. Brown 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Ruth Watson 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. J. Sanders 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Blanche Colston 6-0, 6-0
28 February-6 March, La Festa, Monte Carlo, Monaco
FR: a bye
SR: d. Sigrid Fick 6-2, 6-0
TR: d. M. Septier 6-0, 6-1
QF: d. M. Towler 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Geraldine Beamish 6-1, 6-0
FI: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-2, 6-0
28 May-5 June, World Hard Court Championships, Saint Cloud, Paris, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. Anne de Borman 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Suzanne Deve 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Irene Peacock 6-1, 6-0
FI: d. Molla Mallory 6-2, 6-3
13-21 May, World Hard Court Championships, Royal Leopold Club, Brussels, Belgium
FR: a bye
SR: d. H. van der Kindere 6-0, 6-0
TR: d. Marthe Dupont 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Pauline Alison 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Kathleen Mc Kane 10-8, 6-2
FI: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-3, 6-2
26 June-8 July, The Championships, Wimbledon, London, England (Grass)
FR: d. M. Ellis 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Kathleen McKane 6-1, 7-5
TR: d. Evelyn Colyer 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-1, 8-6
SF: d. Irene Peacock 6-4, 6-1
FI: d. Molla Mallory 6-2, 6-0
29 July-6 August, Sporting Club, Deauville, France
FR: d. Mme Brochet 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Doris Wolfson 6-0, 6-1
SF: d. Marie Danet 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Marguerite Billout* 6-1, 6-1
* The married name of Marguerite Broquedis, the last player ever to take two sets off Suzanne Lenglen in a singles match, at the French Closed Championships in May 1914, when Suzanne was still aged 14. The score was 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
12-18 March, South of France Championships, Parc Imperial, Nice, France
FR: d. M. Tobin, walkover
SR: d. Ermyntrude Harvey 6-0, 6-3
QF: d. Diddie Vlasto 6-1, 6-1
SF: d. Molla Mallory 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-1, 6-0
19-27 May, World Hard Court Championships, Stade Français, Paris, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. Erna Redlich, walkover
TR: d. Giulia Perelli 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Marie Conquet 6-1, 6-1
SF: d. Geraldine Beamish 6-1, 6-2
FI: d. Kathleen McKane 6-3, 6-3
25 June-7 July, The Championships, Wimbledon*, London, England (Grass)
FR: a bye
SR: d. Peggy Ingram 6-0, 6-0
TR: d. Phyllis Covell 6-0, 6-3
4R: d. Diddie Vlasto 6-0, 6-1
QF: d. Marie Hazel 6-2, 6-1
SF: d. Geraldine Beamish 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Kathleen McKane 6-2, 6-2
* After receiving a “bye” in the first round, Suzanne won six matches for the loss of just eleven games (four of them in the final to Kathleen McKane).
3-10 September, International Championships of Spain, Recreation Club, San Sebastian, Spain
FR: a bye
SR: d. E. Raoul-Duval 6-1, 6-0
QF: d. M. Satrustegui 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. J. de Gomar 6-1 6-0
ACF: d. Nanette Le Besnerais 6-0, 6-1
CR: d. Germaine Le Conte (holder) 6-1, 6-0
24 September-1 October, Portuguese International Championships, Club de Cascaes, Lisbon, Portugal
QF: d. Mrs Ryder 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Angelica Plantier 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. M. Graham 6-0, 6-0
6-14 October, International Championships, Club de Turo, Barcelona, Spain
QF: d. Sgra Tarruella 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Rosa Torras 6-1, 6-0
FI: d. Maria-Luisa Marnet 6-0, 6-0
Part II of II
3-9 March, Riviera Championships, Menton, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. [????], walkover
TR: d. F. Dalton 6-1, 6-0
QF: d. Dorothy Shepherd-Barron 6-4, 6-0
SF: d. Phyllis Covell 6-2, 6-1
FI: d. Elizabeth Ryan 7-5, 6-1
19-27 April, International Championships*, Club de Turo, Barcelona, Spain
QF: d. J. de Vizacaya 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Eleanor Goss 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Maria-Luisa Marnet 6-1, 6-1
* Between this tournament and Wimbledon, Suzanne did not play any tennis because she was suffering from a severe case of jaundice. As a result, Suzanne was unable to play in several tournaments, including the Olympic Games, held in Paris in 1924. Helen Wills took the Olympic gold in Suzanne’s absence.
23 June-5 July, The Championships, Wimbledon*, London, England (Grass)
FR: d. Sylvia Lumley-Ellis 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Edith Clarke 6-0, 6-0
TR: d. Hazel Wightman 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-2, 6-8, 6-4
SF: lost to Kathleen McKane, retired
* After winning three consecutive matches without the loss of game, a first at Wimbledon, Suzanne lost her first set since August 1921, the third and last set she lost in competitive singles play after her fifteenth birthday.
After consulting a doctor, Suzanne withdrew from Wimbledon with a recurrence of the jaundice from which she had suffered earlier in the season. Kathleen McKane, who benefited from a walkover as a result of Suzanne’s withdrawal, went on to take the women’s singles title, beating Wimbledon debutante Helen Wills 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final, after coming back from 4-6, 1-4, 15-40 down.
Suzanne did not return to competitive play until the Beau Site Hotel tournament in Cannes, in late December 1924, where she played only doubles, winning the title with Elizabeth Ryan.
9-15 March, South of France Championships, Parc Imperial, Nice, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. Irene Maltby 6-1, 6-0
TR: d. Cristobel Hardie 6-1, 6-2
QF: d. Honor Woolrych 1-0, retired
SF: d. Diddie Vlasto 6-2, 6-0
FI: d. Ermyntrude Harvey, walkover
27 May-7 June, French Championships*, Saint Cloud, Paris, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. Simone des Landes de Cabot 6-0, 6-0
TR: d. Elisabeth Macready 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Evelyn Colyer 6-0, 6-2
SF: d. Helene Constostavlos 6-2, 6-0
FI: d. Kathleen McKane 6-1, 6-2
* This was the inaugural French Championships tournament (now the French Open). It would move to the Roland Garros stadium in 1928. After receiving a “bye” in the first round, Suzanne dropped only seven games in five matches.
22 June-4 July, The Championships, Wimbledon*, London, England (Grass)
FR: d. Aurea Edgington, walkover
SR: d. Elizabeth Ryan 6-2, 6-0
TR: d. Elsie Goldsack 6-1, 6-0
QF: d. Geraldine Beamish 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Kathleen McKane 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Joan Fry 6-2, 6-0
* After benefiting from a walkover in the first round, Suzanne dropped the first two games in her second match against Elizabeth Ryan before taking the next twelve; indeed, Suzanne won at least forty-eight of the next forty-nine games she played because Elsie Goldsack, Geraldine Beamish and Kathleen McKane were able to win only one game between themselves.
It is worth noting that Kathleen McKane was the defending champion and ranked number three in the world in 1925 by most experts, behind Suzanne and Helen Wills, the number two. In her meetings with Suzanne at the French Championships and Wimbledon in 1925, Kathleen McKane managed to win a total of three games, all of them in the final of the French Championships.
Suzanne’s feat of dropping only five games in five singles matches (six matches if the walkover she received in the first round is counted) is still a Wimbledon record.
31 August-6 September, Chateau d’Ardennes, Belgium
FR: d. P. Burnay 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Genevičve de Borman* 6-1, 6-0
SF: d. Marthe Dupont 6-1, 6-1
FI: d. Simone Washer** 6-0, 6-0
* Genevičve de Borman was the daughter of Paul de Borman and Anne de Borman (née de Selliers de Moranville), the best male and female tennis players in the early days of Belgian tennis (circa 1900-1914).
** Simone Washer (née??) was the wife of Jean Washer, one of the top Belgian tennis players of this period. Their son, Philippe Washer, was a top Belgian tennis player of the 1940s and 1950s.
1-7 February, Parc Imperial*, Nice, France
FR: d. S. Haefferty 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Mlle Marjollet 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Leslie Aeschlimann 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Elsa Haylock 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. M. Wright 6-0, 6-0
* Suzanne won the singles event at this tournament without losing a single game. In the final of the mixed doubles event at this tournament, Suzanne and the Italian player Count Hubert de Morpurgo beat the Swiss player Charles Aeschlimann and Helen Wills, 6-1, 6-2. Just after Christmas 1925, Helen Wills, accompanied by her mother, Catherine, had made the trip from California to the French Riviera so that Helen could play in a number of the tournaments there.
8-16 February, Carlton Club, Cannes, France
FR: a bye
SR: d. M. Bower 6-0, 6-0
TR: d. Mary Cambridge 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Lady Gladys Roundway 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Helene Contostavlos 6-0, 6-2
FI: d. Helen Wills 6-3, 8-6*
* Dubbed the “match of the century”, this was to be the only singles encounter between Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills, arguably the two best players of all time. It brought an unprecedented amount of interest to the sport of tennis – specifically, to women’s tennis. Suzanne was twenty-six years old at the time, Helen Wills was twenty.
In the doubles final at the same tournament, Suzanne, partnering her countrywoman Diddie Vlasto, beat Helen Wills and Helene Contostavlos, 6-4, 8-6. This was the third and last time Suzanne and Helen would meet across the net.
26 April-1 May, Rome Championships*, Rome, Italy
FR: d. Sig.na. Miclavez 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Patricia du Cros 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Agnese Macchi di Cellere 6-0, 6-0
FI: d. Maud Rosenbaum 6-0, 6-0
* This was another tournament which Suzanne won without losing a single game. It is unclear when this tournament was first held, but it appears to have been the precursor to the Italian Championships, later the Italian Open, first held in 1930.
2-14 June, French Championships*, Racing Club de France, Paris, France
FR: d. Ilona Peteri 6-0, 6-0
SR: d. Dorothy Shepherd-Barron 6-0, 6-0
QF: d. Simone Mathieu 6-0, 6-0
SF: d. Joan Fry 6-2, 6-1
FI: d. Mary K. Browne 6-1, 6-0
* At this tournament Suzanne won five singles matches for the loss of only four games, still a record for a major tournament. After her meeting with Helen Wills in the singles final at the Carlton Club in early February, Suzanne had not played in the singles events at any of the other Riviera tournaments. Helen Wills, on the other hand, had played in the tournaments in Beaulieu, Monte Carlo, Menton, Nice and at the Cannes Club, winning the singles event each time.
Helen Wills also entered the French Championships, but after winning her first match, against the French player Germaine Golding (6-3, 7-5), she became ill with what was diagnosed as acute appendicitis, and had to withdraw from her second round match against Kornelia “Kea” Bouman, of the Netherlands. Helen Wills, who had also planned to play in the Wightman Cup in England, and at Wimbledon, was unable to take part in any other tournaments in Europe in 1926.
After winning her second French Championships title, Suzanne did travel to Wimbledon, but a misunderstanding with the tournament referee there led her to withdraw from the tournament about half-way through (Kathleen McKane won the singles title for the second time). Soon afterwards, Suzanne turned professional.
She was just so far above everyone else of the time - and all those 6-0 and 6-1 sets show that. She had absolutely NO rivals at all.
Lenglen's a perfect example of how total majors do not tell the whole story about how great a player was. Lenglen was so far beyond her competitors that there was talk about her sweeping Wimbledon without losing a game! It's really pretty incredible.
A lot of people put Helen Wills ahead of Lenglen because Wills won 19 majors and Lenglen only won 8 officially I believe. However I have no doubt Lenglen could have easily matched Wills in total majors given the same conditions.
Also the the 8 majors does not include the World Hard Court Championships she won which was essentially a major.
Lenglen was probably the most dominant tennis player ever. Of course the level of his opposition is subject to debate but it is an amazing record.
How much pressure much have been on her to be perfect? She must have felt at times that she didn't do well if she only won by a close score.
Looking at her competition, yes I think it was rather weak, apart from maybe a handful of women (most of whom she still crushed), but other players have been argued as having weak competition (Serena and Martina come to mind)...but they don't/didn't steamroll through it and win tournaments without dropping a single game like Lenglen did. I mean, to win tournaments without dropping a single game, 8 straight bagels never getting broken? I don't even know if anyone else has done that, even Wills, off the top of my head.
As for the pressure, I am sure she felt it. She was an international superstar, or the equivalent of it in those days, and possibly she was the very first one to be so...I can't think of another player before her who was so internationally known, I mean ladies like Chambers and Dodd were amazing..but outside of England I don't know it either were very well known...maybe Dodd was, but I don't think to Lenglens's level. Maybe that was part of the reason why she got ill and died so young, the mental strain. Mental strain and stress can lower the immune system if felt heavily for long periods of time, so its a possibility. I am sure she felt it, she was supposedly drinknig brandy during her one match against wills to calm her nerves, but she handled it well, I doubt many others could the way she did.
Another interesting thing is the 1924 Wimbledon Championships, Her becoming ill and retiring denied a match between her and Wills....that, at Wimbledon, would have been amazing.
More interesting, in my view, would have been a meeting between these two great players in the final of the 1926 French Championships, especially since Helen had pushed Suzanne to a 6-3, 8-6 score a few months earlier in Cannes. But Helen was struck with appendicitis during the French Championships, so the gods obviously didn’t want her and Suzanne to meet more than once in singles play.
Of course, Helen Wills played in the singles event at more than half a dozen of the French Riviera tournaments in the late winter/early spring of 1926, and could have met Suzanne more than once in singles if Suzanne had chosen to take part in any of the singles events in which Helen was also participating. Because Suzanne didn’t do this, there were accusations in the press that she was avoiding a possible encounter with Helen in singles…
I had forgotten about the French Championships in 1926, that would have been a better match I believe, as Wills was definitely more mature, and seeing as Wills was not accustomed to losing even then, she would have been out to avenge her previous loss, which she had been close to taking to a 3rd set.
As for whether she was afraid of wills, or was avoiding her, to a degree she might have been. I have read that her father absolutely forbid her to face off against her in the one match where she did (I believe he thought she would lose, and was worried she would be humiliated). I think if she really wanted to she wouldn't have shown up at that tournament either. Given Lenglens dominance, and the fact that she even attempted to place a match while ill until she eventually had to leave (although whether she was actually ill is a matter of debate), I don't think Lenglen was the type to avoid a challenge, she almost lost to Chambers at Wimbledon and came back the next year and beat her soundly...so I find it hard to believe she would avoid wills when she didn't back down from dominant players like Chambers (at Wimbledon), and Mallory(who was dominant in the US at least). But who knows..maybe she knew Wills was much better and was afraid, I don't think so though.
In their only other meeting (besides the famous Challenge Round match at Wimbledon in 1919), way back in March 1914, when Suzanne was 14 years old and Dorothea 34, Dorothea had beaten Suzanne 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the South of France Championships in Nice. This was the second-last time that Suzanne lost two sets in the same singles match.
As for Molla Mallory, although she dominated from her debut in the United States until the rise of Helen Wills, Molla never to my knowledge won any singles event of significance in Europe, not even on clay. This is strange because she grew up in Norway and played in several clay and grass court events on the European Continent before the First World War.
It’s worth noting that by the time she arrived in the United States circa 1914, Molla was already 32 years of age, so she enjoyed her greatest success between the ages of 30 and 38. When Molla and Suzanne met in the 1922 Wimbledon singles final, Molla was already 38. Suzanne won that match 6-2, 6-0 in circa 25 minutes.
Lenglen was known for sipping iced cognac between games/sets. She was super famous in Europe (called La Divine by the French press) and although not pretty, she was flamboyant and glamorous, wearing fur coats and a much more revealing dress than previous ladies champions onto the court.
Her father trained her and his training methods included an exercise where he would lay down a handkerchief at various places on the court and Lenglen then had to place the ball exactly on the handkerchief which developed and honed her superior ball control and placement.
This from Wikipedia regarding what happened after the default against Molla Mallory at the 1921 US Championships:
Once healthy, she set about preparing herself for redemption. In the singles final at Wimbledon the following year, she defeated Mallory in only 26 minutes, winning 6–2, 6–0, reputedly the fastest Ladies major tournament match on record. The two met again later that year at a tournament in Nice where, showing her complete mastery of the sport, Mallory failed to win even one game.
If Lenglen, who had a lot of health problems all her life, had been healthy when she faced Mallory at the US Championships she would have crushed her much like she crushed everyone else of the time. Mallory was a good player but not of the same caliber - but then who was? No one was until Wills came along. A pity they only faced each other once.
It seems Wills while almost equally as dominant as Lenglen did have a bit more competition as womens tennis was just starting to improve. I do question the withdrawal of Wills Moody to Helen Jacobs a bit more as there were increasing signs of Jacobs starting to be more competitive with Wills, and it might be she did not want to take an honest loss to Jacobs whom she did not like (she nearly did in the Wimbledon final 2 years later as well but survived after Jacobs hit a smash into the net on her Championship point). What is your opinion on that particular match?
Great idea for a post!!! *thumbs up*
Ah, the two Helens. Wills & Jacobs - couldn't stand one another and Jacobs just kept plugging away, improving her game more and more until she had a legitimate shot at beating Wills, who was really a bit past her prime at this point though. The default by Wills was the source of a lot of speculation at the time because Helen was a player who REALLY didn't like to lose and especially not to Jacobs. From Wikipedia, but I've read this same thing from other sources as well so I would believe it: It was reported by many witnesses after the match that Moody still planned to play her doubles match later that afternoon but was advised against it because she was "injured" after all.
Regarding that match where Jacobs had a match point:
On Jacobs' match point she of course came to the net and Wills lobbed - Jacobs decided to let the ball bounce instead of smashing it out of the air but she got a bad bounce and she wound up trying to hit a smash from her knees which went into the net. After that, from what I read, although she tried to still fight the match slipped through her fingers yet again. Wills saw her opening and took it.
Finally a couple of peers of Lenglen and Wills regarding who was the better of the two:
When asked in 1941 about whether Wills or Lenglen was the better player, Elizabeth Ryan, who played against both of them in singles and partnered both in doubles, said, "Suzanne, of course. She owned every kind of shot, plus a genius for knowing how and when to use them."
Kitty McKane Godfree, who played both Wills and Lenglen several times and was a two time Wimbledon champion during Lenglen's absence, also stated that Lenglen was "by far" the better player.
Here is a report, from the “New York Times” of 17 August 1921, on Suzanne’s controversial default to Molla Mallory in the second round of the US Championships, when Molla was leading 6-2, 30-0:
“Mlle Lenglen, ill, weeps and resigns in opening match
“Racked by cough, defaults to Mrs Mallory after losing first set and two points
“Now out of tournament
“French tennis champion kept in bed after breakdown, will rest for week
“Winner in splendid form
“American titleholder played back-court game, with fast and accurate returns
“Mlle Lenglen, the French representative in the women’s national tennis championships at Forest Hills, Long Island, defaulted yesterday to Mrs Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, the American champion, in the second round. It was Mlle Lenglen’s first match of the tournament, Miss Eleanor Goss having defaulted to the French star earlier in the day.
“Mlle Lenglen’s default means that she not only is no longer a contender in the singles, but also that she will be unable to take part in the doubles paired with Mrs Mallory. After consulting with her physician yesterday evening she wired the American titleholder that her illness would prevent her competing in the doubles. Acting under the physician’s orders, she will take a complete rest for a week, and then if she feels that she is able to do so she will begin her contemplated tour of the United States. She is particularly anxious to make the trip because it will be in the interest of devastated France. She felt certain last night that she would be able to carry it out as planned after she had rested for a time.
“The temperamental Mlle Lenglen resigned from the contest with Mrs Mallory after one set and two points had been played. Mrs Mallory, playing in superb and apparently unbeatable form, had taken the first set by a score of 6 to 2 and had won the two points of the second on Mlle Lenglen’s serve.
“Faster pace brought cough
“Early in the first set Mlle Lenglen began to cough, and as the play speeded up it was noticed that these attacks became more frequent. No one in the gallery of more than 8,000 people, however, believed that these short spasms would prevent her from continuing what promised to be one of the most sensational women’s tennis matches on an American court. It came as a complete surprise, then, when, after a brilliant and spirited rally and a double fault, the French girl walked toward the net, coughing and crying. In mid-court she halted for just a moment as if at a loss for what to do next, and then walked rapidly to the referee’s stand and brokenly announced her default. Until her defeat in the first set by Mrs Mallory, Mlle Lenglen had not lost a set in tournament competition in the last two years.
“After the default Mrs Mallory was first off the courts and the gallery gave her an ovation which continued until she had disappeared in the clubhouse. Mlle Lenglen followed her victorious rival, assisted by referee Conlin. Halfway across the no. 1 court she was met by A.F. de Joannis [vice-president of the French Tennis Federation], who accompanied her on her trip to America. She began at once to tell him over and over in French that she could not breathe. At the clubhouse steps she was met by her mother and they went at once to their rooms at the inn.
“Despite the disastrous result of the match and general disappointment of the gallery that it was not played through to its conclusion, no matter what the conclusion might have been, there was some marvellous tennis played in the first set. Mrs Mallory had never appeared to better advantage in her long career as a tournament player. She played a deep court game from the first point, but her returns were fast and accurate and she made few errors. Mlle Lenglen, on the other hand, was erratic.
“Drove out fifteen times
“Those who had seen her practise on the preceding day remarked almost immediately that her game lacked the dash which had characterized it at that time. She played timidly and uncertainly, and overlooked many opportunities to come up to the net. At times she seemed to be about to get going and during these intervals the gallery was treated to bits of volleying and court covering that kept it swaying back and forth with the course of the ball. In these clashes Mlle Lenglen held her own, but in the next play, or the one after that, she would err and then the American player would begin to pile up the points again. Mlle Lenglen drove the ball out of court fifteen times to Mrs Mallory’s ten and made five nets to the American girl’s seven.
“In her room at the Forest Hills Inn after she had recovered somewhat from her physical breakdown, Mlle Lenglen made the following statement for the ‘New York Times;’
“‘I extend my heartiest congratulations to Mrs Mallory. She is a gallant opponent and I trust she will go on to a splendid triumph in this tournament. I have just received a message of sympathy from her. It is indeed kind of her to be so interested.
“‘My only regret is that I was unable to play the kind of tennis I knew everyone expected to see. I cannot say how distressed I am that it became necessary for me to leave the court. I had been told that many of the spectators had come to Forest Hills especially to see this match, and I did my utmost to continue. It was impossible. I am sure that the people who have been so generous to me will bear with me in this hour of trial.’
“Mlle Lenglen was so exhausted in her effort to go on with the match and so overcome with emotion at the circumstances surrounding the dramatic ending to her first appearance in competition on an American tennis court that she could not leave her bed last night. Her mother and Mme de Joannis, wife of A.R. de Joannis, remained in attendance.
“Before going on the courts Mlle Lenglen had told the party in the clubhouse that she did not feel equal to the occasion. She had passed a sleepless night and was bothered by the same hacking cough that had troubled her constantly since she had been in America. She was determined, however, to see it through because she feared the comment that would be aroused by a last-minute withdrawal and because she did not wish to disappoint the large crowd that had gathered to see the wonderful French girl in action against the leading player in America.
“Mlle Lenglen, her mother and M and Mme de Joannis were greatly alarmed as the time for the match drew near. Mme Lenglen kept asking whether she was certain that she would not collapse under the tension of so trying an ordeal, but Suzanne was obdurate.
“‘It is impossible for me to disappoint the crowd,’ she said. ‘I should feel that I had lured them under false pretences.’
“‘Are you sure, Suzanne,’ asked her mother, ‘that you will be able to play the entire match if you start? It would be a calamity if you would have to stop after it had started.’
“‘I am going to play,’ was Mlle Lenglen’s only reply.
“No sooner had the match started than those who knew her best detected that something was wrong. Mme Lenglen confidently told her friends that she was certain her daughter would be unable to see the match through. Though greatly distressed at the outcome, Mme Lenglen was not surprised when she saw Suzanne approach the referee and tell him that she would have to default.
“Mrs Mallory has never placed her shots more beautifully than she did yesterday. She was hitting the back court corners with the accuracy of a sharpshooter, and the length and velocity to her shots forced Mlle Lenglen to the defensive constantly.
“As the second set began, Mlle Lenglen drove the first ball out, double-faulted and then defaulted, but not even the abrupt ending could rob Mrs Mallory of what experts considered the great achievement of her career. Grave doubt was expressed whether the French girl, under the most auspicious circumstances, could have beaten the American champion yesterday. Mrs Mallory placed all around her, and had such speed as even the star from across the ocean, reputed the fastest woman player on the courts, could not match.
“Mrs Mallory was in such wonderful form that only super tennis could have held her even. This is a kind of tennis, according to those who have seen Mlle Lenglen play abroad, of which the French girl is capable, and she would have needed it all to win yesterday. So that a tennis struggle extraordinary would have been the result had Mlle Lenglen been playing at top speed. She was not, however, and she was being beaten fairly and squarely when the match ended.
“This triumph of the American player leaves these stars of two continents on an even footing.”
Thanks for all the info people are posting. It is amazing Wills was really thinking of playing doubles after her retirement in the singles final to Jacobs if that is really true. Did she not realize how obvious that would make what actually happened to anyone. It reminds me of how a very young Serena was getting spanked by Ruano Pascual at Wimbledon and quit before the match finished then played doubles right after (and sorry to say this about Chris but shame on her in the booth for going along with that particular sham and still putting Serena's loss to Pascual down to injury when she played Venus next round). Of course that occasion had nowhere near the importance of a U.S Open final between Wills-Jacobs though.
Poor Jacobs had that questionable retirement by Wills, then that Wimbledon final where almost a twist of fate denied her winning a big final over Wills by winning the final point. Then when she played a now even more past her prime Wills at one of her final events at Wimbledon 1938 after beating Marble in a huge win she injured herself and could barely perform. Her pursuit of Wills proved to be an ultimately frusterating experience, but atleast it surely made her a much better player by takine up the immense challenge of pursuing the great Wills, and she proved she was a better player than any of the top players from the Lenglen era who could not remotedly ever compete with Suzanne.
It is interesting to wonder if those quotes from Ryan and McKane Godfree are an accurate comparision of who really is greater between Lenglen and Wills Moody, or if they did not play a mature Wills often enough to really tell, or if in fact it is part being partial to a player of their own generation.
And here is a report, from the “New York Times” of 9 July 1922, on the “return” match between Suzanne Lenglen and Molla Mallory, which had taken place in the Wimbledon final one day earlier, with Suzanne winnning 6-2, 6-0 in 25 minutes (35 minutes according to the "NYT" report):
“Mlle Lenglen wins over Mrs Mallory; Score is 6-2, 6-0
“French expert easily retains her world tennis title at Wimbledon
“She wins in 35 minutes
“Makes quick work of match, beating the American at her own back-court tactics
“Crowd of 14,000 attends
“King and Queen are present, but withdraw when rain comes; Patterson defeats Anderson
“London, July 8. Mlle Suzanne Lenglen is still world’s woman champion tennis player. She met Mrs Molla Bjurstedt Mallory today at Wimbledon and defeated her by two sets to none. The games were 6-2, 6-0. Mrs Mallory failed to score at all in the first game of the first set and from that moment on there was little doubt of the result. It was, in fact, a dull match. There were no marked differences in style between the two players to give it interest and the American champion failed to show the fire which gave her victory over Mrs [Geraldine] Beamish yesterday. Mlle Lenglen dominated the court in nearly every game and secured her title in 35 minutes of play.
“There was an enormous crowd to see the match. Every reserved seat had been sold days ago and people began to gather at the gates at 7 o’clock in the morning in the hope of getting at least standing room. Thousands were turned away, disappointed. The King and Queen occupied the royal box and among other distinguished visitors were the Earl of Balfour, Lord Desborough and Mrs and Miss Lloyd George.
“Unfortunately, rain came in the middle of the afternoon and kept on for an hour and three-quarters. It forced Gerald L. Patterson and James O. Anderson to suspend their thrilling contest in the semi-final of the men’s singles and lasted so long that the royalties and many other prominent guests gave up and went home in despair. So it was not until 5 minutes before 7 o’clock that Mlle Lenglen and Mrs Mallory appeared in the arena. The sun was just beginning to decline and threw shadows over the north-western corner of the court. This made the light a little tricky, but, as the players changed ends every two games, it had small effect on the play.
“Cheers from 14,000 spectators
“Loud cheers from the stadium in which about 14,000 persons were assembled greeted the players as they began to hit the ball about to limber up. Mlle Lenglen won the toss and began service. After the fierceness of stroking to which the Patterson-Anderson match had accustomed the spectators, the style of play by the women seemed curiously mild.
“The first game ended with Mlle Lenglen putting the ball where Mrs Mallory had to run to hit it and so drove it out. Mrs Mallory also hit out of court as she took her “service for the first time. Then Mlle Lenglen beat Mrs Mallory by a hard-hit ball just out of the latter’s reach on her left hand. Forty-love was the score. By once more hitting Mrs Mallory’s service hard, Mlle Lenglen took the next point and with it a love game.
“The next game, however, was Mrs Mallory’s. She beat Mlle Lenglen by putting two swift drives to her left side and then placing one to the other side of the court, and again by a fine stroke to Mlle Lenglen’s left. One of the best rallies of the match followed and for the first time Mrs Mallory began to in quick succession move up toward the net. From mid-court she put the ball in quick succession to the left and right of Mlle Lenglen, and then the French champion, as she tried to retaliate, drove out of bounds. Mlle Lenglen managed to bring the score to 40-30, but a splendid shot by Mrs Mallory straight past her opponent’s right hand completely beat her and gave her opponent the game.
“French star in back court
“Mlle Lenglen captured the third game easily. She had adopted a baseline game and from the extreme ends of her court kept sending over hard shots which were generally inside the lines by inches. For a short time when the score stood 15-love, Mrs Mallory had the French champion running from side to side of the court, but this did not affect the sureness of Mlle Lenglen’s aim. She kept placing the ball in most difficult positions for Mrs Mallory and won the game largely by bustling the American about.
“Mrs Mallory lost the first point of the fourth game by netting Mlle Lenglen’s return of service, but Mlle Lenglen hit out on the next. Mrs Mallory then gave away two points by netting and hitting out. It seemed as though she would retrieve her position in the succeeding rally. Mlle Lenglen tried placing the ball to the right and left of her opponent. Mrs Mallory replied brilliantly and a series of sharp exchanges ensued with no marked advantage to either. Then Mrs Mallory succumbed once more to the fatal attraction of the net. Mlle Lenglen thus gathered in her third game to Mrs Mallory’s one.
“However, the showing of the American began to revive the hopes of her supporters. As the next game opened she treated Mlle Lenglen to her own medicine and sent shots to either side of her. Mrs Mallory hit Mlle Lenglen’s next service out, but as a new rally began, she made her way to mid-court and sent some long drives to the extreme corners that made Mlle Lenglen distinctly unhappy. She tried to extricate herself by hitting straight down the line and went out. A series of rallies followed to Mrs Mallory’s advantage, but by hitting the net again she allowed the score to go to deuce.
“An opportunity missed
“As Mlle Lenglen then drove out of court, Mrs Mallory should have finished the game at once. She had the chance on Mlle Lenglen’s curiously sort return. Mrs Mallory smashed at it and hit the net. Mlle Lenglen, however, was good to her rival and, by netting the next ball and outing another, threw away the game.
“Each player hit out of court once as the sixth game started and the points soon went to 30-all. Then came some of the best hitting of the match, both driving diagonally across the full length of the court. Each took her returns squarely, but Mlle Lenglen’s superiority told in the end. She placed one too far over to the right for Mrs Mallory’s comfort. The latter reached it, but landed the ball in the net. Mrs Mallory tried to regain her lost ground in a keen rally. Mlle Lenglen moved gradually toward the net and sent over a lofty drop shot. Mrs Mallory reached it and put it into the net.
“The tale of the seventh game is soon told. Mlle Lenglen served and Mrs Mallory hit the first and fourth balls out and netted the other two. In the eighth game, the last of the first set, Mrs Mallory pressed Mlle Lenglen so hard that the Frenchwoman had to make one of her marvellous leaps to take a hot cross-court shot just over the net. Mrs Mallory was fighting hard at this stage and made a splendid volleying rally. She could make no real headway, however, and lost the game and the set at 6-2.
“Mlle Lenglen received evidence of Mrs Mallory’s determination as the second set opened. The American did some fine placing, first to one side and then to the other and forced her rival to hit out of court. In the next rally only the strength of Mlle Lenglen’s backhand strokes saved her and enabled her in the end to win the game, after deuce had been called twice.
“The next game was just as keenly contested. Mlle Lenglen showed less steadiness than at any other period of the match and by hitting out and netting two or three of Mrs Mallory’s services, nearly threw away her advantage. In one thrilling exchange, Mrs Mallory, at the net, put the ball just over. Mlle Lenglen just managed to run in and play it, and the rally ended in a series of volleys at short range, in which Mlle Lenglen was at last victor. The third game was remarkably even. The points were scored alternately till deuce was reached, and then Mrs Mallory went to the net and volleyed a swift ball which Mlle Lenglen barely managed to reach. The French girl drove her return to baseline, however, and won the point. It was a disappointment that this game also went to Mlle Lenglen as she had by no means the better of it and won it merely because Mrs Mallory netted a ball which Mrs Mallory had only just been able to reach and return.
“End comes quickly
“The end of the match now came swiftly. Mrs Mallory got two points in the fourth game, one of them through Mlle Lenglen’s trying a lofty drop shot and hitting out. But the fifth game went to Mlle Lenglen as a love game. Mrs Mallory won a point on service in the last game and then, after one fine rally, lost the set and match by netting the ball twice. She was fairly beaten. She had met an opponent who like herself relied on long drives down the court and counted little on service. She had won few of the rallies and shown that she was neither as accurate nor as resourceful as the French champion. Again and again, after a series of exchanges the full length of the court, Mlle Lenglen managed to put the ball just out of Mrs Mallory’s reach, and it was because she could not retaliate in kind that Mrs Mallory had to confess herself vanquished.”
There's a book all about Lenglen and Wills and their one match at Cannes called "The Goddess and the American Girl". A good read actually. The book is very hard to find now though. I actually found it many years ago in my local public library and read it then.
If you describe their styles, you realize that Lenglen was arguably the fastest player ever with the best footwork. She had a good serve and a superb volley. I believe she was actually able to play with a man and defeat some good men's doubles teams in her day. She was a ball machine who rarely made errors and she could hit the ball anywhere.
Wills was, from what I understand, power personified. She had an excellent serve, probably more powerful than Lenglen's and her forehand may very well have been the most powerful forehand ever for a woman up to that time. She had an excellent backhand which she hit crosscourt almost all the time in baseline rallies plus a very strong backhand lob. However Wills wasn't the most comfortable at the net. Lenglen apparently was far stronger. She also did not have nearly the mobility of Lenglen but considering that she usually controlled the rallies, she didn't need the mobility.
Lenglen, according to unofficial records won far more tournaments than Wills in their career. I believe it was in the 80's to somewhere in the 50's for Wills. Wills did have that streak where she didn't lose for about seven years and may not have lost a set in that streak.
Lenglen was a major star around the world. Notice I didn't write tennis star. She was a huge celebrity.
Here's a fascinating video with high speed film of Lenglen's strokes starting at about 2:00. And, some match play near the end.
That was absolutely fascinating! - I'd never seen this footage before.
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