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THE ART OF LAWN TENNIS (chapter17)

2006-08-28 21:44

    CHAPTER XVII. FAMOUS WOMEN PLAYERS

    Women's Tennis

    The great boom that featured the whole tennis season of  in America found one of its most remarkable manifestations in the increased amount of play, higher standard of competition and remarkable growth of public interest in women's tennis.

    England has led, and still leads, the world in women's tennis. The general standard of play is on a higher scale and there is more tournament play in England than elsewhere. France, with Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen, Mme. Billout (Mlle. Brocadies) and Mme. Golding, forces England closely for European supremacy, but until recent years America, except for individuals, has been unable to reach the standard of women's tennis found abroad.

    Miss May Sutton, now Mrs. Thomas H. Bundy, placed American colours in the field by her wonderful performances in winning the World's Championship at Wimbledon more than a decade ago, but after her retirement America was forced to content itself with local honors.

    Neither Miss Mary Browne nor Miss Hazel Hotchkiss, now Mrs. George Wightman, followed Mrs. May Sutton Bundy in her European invasion, so the relative ability of our champions and Mrs. Lambert-Chambers of England or Mlle. Brocadies of France could not be judged. Mrs. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory followed Miss Browne as the outstanding figure in American tennis when the wonderful Norsewoman took the championship in . Miss Browne, then holder of the title, did not compete, so their relative ability could not be decided. Throughout the period from  to  the woman's championship event had been held annually in June. The result was that the blue ribbon event was over so early in the season that the incentive for play during July and August died a natural death.

    Finally in , at the request of the Women's Committee, particularly on the advice of Mrs. George Wightman, the national champion, and Miss Florence Ballin of New York, under whose able guidance the entire schedule was drawn up, the United States Lawn Tennis Association moved the Women's Championship to September. Miss Ballin, following the successful system used in the men's events, organized a schedule that paralleled the big fixtures on the men's schedule and placed in operation "a circuit," as it is called, that provided for tournaments weekly from May to September. Miss Ballin, together with Mrs. Wightman, organised junior tournaments for girls under , along the lines used for the boys' events. The response was immediate. Entry lists, which in the old days were in "the teens," jumped to the thirties or forties, in the regular events. Young girls who, up to now, had not played tournaments, fearing they lacked the necessary class, rushed to play in the Junior girls' events. From this latter class came such a promising young star of today as Miss Martha Bayard, who bids fair to be national champion at some not distant date.

    It was a tremendous task of organization that Miss Ballin and her assistants undertook, but they did it in a most efficient manner. Mrs. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory lent her invaluable assistance by playing in as many tournaments as possible. She was a magnet that drew the other players in her wake with an irresistible force.

    saw Mrs. Mallory's first invasion of Europe since her American triumphs. Misfortune was her portion. She was ill before sailing and, never at her best on shipboard, a bad voyage completed the wreck of her condition. She had little time for practice in England and it was a player far below her best who went down to crushing de feat at the hands of Mrs. Lambert-Chambers in the semi- final round of the World's Championship at Wimbledon.

    Defeated but not discouraged, Mrs. Mallory returned to America and, again reaching her true form, won the championship with ease. She made up her mind the day of her defeat in England that  would again find her on European courts.

    The season of  in America opened in a blaze of tournaments throughout the entire country. Mrs. Mallory showed early in the year she was at her best by winning the Indoor Championship of the United States from one of the most representative fields ever gathered together for this event. Early May found Mrs. Mallory on the seas bound for France and England. The story of her magnificent, if losing, struggle in both countries is told elsewhere in this book, but she sailed for home recognised abroad as one of the great players of the world, a thing which many of the foreign critics had not acknowledged the previous year.

    The trip of the American team to France, and particularly the presence of Mrs. Mallory, coupled with the efforts of the Committee for Devastated France, finally induced Mile. Suzanne Lenglen, the famous French World's Champion, to consent to come to America. The announcement of her decision started a boom in the game that has been unequalled. Out in California, Mrs. May Sutton Bundy and Miss Mary Kendall Browne, our former champions, heard the challenge and, laying aside the duties of everyday life, buckled on the armour of the courts and journeyed East to do battle with the French wonder girl. Mrs. Mallory, filled with a desire to avenge her defeat in France, sailed for home in time to play in the American championship.

    What a marvelous tournament this proved to be! In very truth it was a World's Championship. Mrs. May Sutton Bundy, former world's champion, back again after fifteen years with all her old charm of manner, much of her speed of shot and foot, and even more cunning and experience; Miss Mary K. Browne, brilliant, fascinating, clever Mary, with all her old-time personality and game that three times had carried her to the highest honors in American tennis; Mrs. Mallory, keen, determined and resourceful, defending the title she had held so long and well; the young players, rising in the game, struggling to attain the heights, and finally looming over all the figure of the famous French champion of champions, Suzanne Lenglen, considered by many competent critics the greatest woman tennis player of all time.

    The stage was set for the sensational, and for once it occurred. The God of Luck took a hand in the blind draw and this resulted in all the stars, with the exception of Miss Mary Browne, falling in one half. Mile. Suzanne Lenglen was drawn against Miss Eleanor Goss, while Mrs. Mallory met Mrs. Marion Zinderstein Jessop, her famous rival, in the first round, with the winners of these matches to play each other in the second. Unfortunately illness prevented Mile. Lenglen from sailing at her appointed time. She arrived in America but one day before the tournament was to start. The officials of the United States Lawn Tennis Association wisely granted Mile. Lenglen another day's grace by holding her match with Miss Goss until Tuesday. Mrs. Mallory, playing brilliantly, crushed Mrs. Jessop on Monday.

    Then came the deluge! Miss Goss, taken suddenly ill, was forced to default to Mlle. Lenglen on Tuesday and Mrs. Mallory was called upon to meet the great French player in Mlle. Lenglen's first American appearance.

    There is no question but what it was a terribly hard position for Mlle. Lenglen. Mrs. Mallory was physically and mentally on the crest. She had lived for this chance ever since Mlle. Lenglen had defeated her at St. Cloud in June. Now it was hers and she determined to make the most of it.

    The two women stepped on the court together. Mlle. Lenglen was obviously and naturally nervous. Mrs. Mallory was quietly, grimly confident. Her whole attitude said "I won't be beaten." Every one of the ,, spectators felt it and joined with her in her determination. It was an electric current between the gallery and the player. I felt it and am sure that Mlle. Lenglen must have done so too. It could not fail to impress her. The match opened with Mrs. Mallory serving. From the first ball, the American champion was supreme. Such tennis I have never seen and I verily believe it will never be seen again. The French girl was playing well. She was as good as when she defeated Mrs. Mallory in France or Miss Ryan in England, but this time she was playing a super-woman who would not miss. One cannot wonder her nerves, naturally overwrought, broke under the strain.

    Mrs. Mallory, in an exhibition of faultless, flawless tennis, ran through the first set -. It was at this point Mlle. Lenglen made her mistake.

    She had trouble getting her breath and was obviously feeling the strain of her tremendous exertions. She defaulted the match! Mrs. Mallory walked from the court conqueror, clearly the superior of the much vaunted world's champion.

    It is regrettable Mlle. Lenglen defaulted, for if she had played out the match, everyone would have made full allowance for her defeat, due, it would be said, to natural reaction from her recent sea journey. No one would have been quicker to make allowance for Mlle. Lenglen than Mrs. Mallory herself. The whole tennis public deeply regretted an incident that might well have been avoided.

    Mrs. Mallory was the woman of the hour. She marched on to victory and successfully defended her title by virtue of victories over Mrs. May Sutton Bundy in the semi-final and Miss Mary Browne in the final.

    Marvellous Molla! World's Champion in  beyond shadow of dispute!

    It is deplorable that the quite natural reaction and nervous upset, coupled with a return of her bronchial illness, forced Mlle. Lenglen to return to France before she was able to play her exhibition tour for the Committee for Devastated France. Possibly  will find conditions more favorable and the Gods of Fate will smile on the return of Mlle. Lenglen to America.

    MRS. FRANKLIN I. MALLORY (Molla Bjurstedt)

    One of the most remarkable personalities in the tennis world is Mrs. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, the American Champion and actually Champion of the World, .

    Mrs. Mallory is a Norsewoman by birth. She came to America in . In  she married Franklin I. Mallory, and thus became an American citizen.

    It is a remarkable game which Mrs. Mallory has developed. She has no service of real value. Her overhead is nil, her volleying is mediocre; but her marvellous forehand and backhand drives, coupled with the wonderful court-covering ability and fighting spirit that have made her world-famous, allow her to rise above the inherent weaknesses of those portions of her game and defeat in one season all the greatest players in the world, including Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen.

    Mrs. Mallory, with delightful smile, never failing sportsmanship and generosity in victory or defeat, is one of the most popular figures in tennis. MRS. THOMAS C. BUNDY (May Sutton) It is said "they never come back," but Mrs. May Sutton Bundy has proved that at least one great athlete is an exception to the saying. Fifteen years ago, May Sutton ruled supreme among the women tennis stars of the world.

    In  Mrs. May Sutton Bundy, mother of four children, after a retirement of over a I decade, returned to the game when Mlle. Lenglen announced her intention of invading America. If Mlle. Lenglen's visit to our shores did nothing more than bring Mrs. Bundy and Miss Browne back to us, it was well worth while.

    Mrs. Bundy in  was still a great player. She has a peculiar reverse twist service, a wonderful forehand drive, but with excessive top spin, a queer backhand poke, a fine volley and a reliable overhead. Much of her old aggressiveness and speed of foot are still hers. She retains all of her famous fighting spirit and determination, while she is even more charming and delightful than of old. She is a remarkable woman, who stands for all that is best in the game.

    MARY KENDALL BROWNE

    The return of another former National Champion in  in the person of Mary K. Browne, who held the title in , ' and ', brought us again a popular idol. The tennis public has missed Miss Browne since  and her return was in the nature of a personal triumph.

    Mary Browne has the best produced tennis game of any American woman. It is almost if not quite the equal in stroke technique of Suzanne Lenglen. She has a fast flat service. Her ground strokes are clean, flat drives forehand and backhand. She volleys exactly like Billy Johnston. No praise can be higher. Her overhead is decisive but erratic. She couples this beautiful game with a remarkable tennis head and a wonderful fighting spirit.

    Miss Browne is a trig and trim little figure on the court as she glides over its surface. It is no wonder that her public love her. MRS. GEORGE WIGHTMAN (Hazel Hotchkiss)

    The woman to whom American tennis owes its greatest debt in development is Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, National Champion , ', ' and . Mrs. Wightman has practically retired from singles play. Her decision cost the game a wonderful player. She has a well placed slice service, a ground game that is essentially a chop fore- and backhand, although at times she drives off her forehand. She volleys remarkably. She is the equal of Mary Browne in this department, while her overhead is the best of any woman in the game.

    Hazel Wightman is as clever a court general and tactician, man or woman, as I have ever known. She has forgotten more tennis than most of us ever learn. She is the Norman Brookes of woman's tennis.

    It is not only in her game that Mrs. Wightman has stood for the best in tennis, but she has given freely of her time and ability to aid young players in the game. She made Marion Zinderstein Jessop the fine player she is. Mrs. Wrightman is always willing to offer sound advice to any player who desires it.

    Mrs. Wightman and Miss Florence Ballin are the prime factors in the new organization of woman's tennis that has resulted in the great growth of the game in the past two years.

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