Molla Bjurstedt Mallory won her eighth and final singles title at the U.S. Championships in 1926, defeating Elizabeth Ryan in the final 4-6, 6-4, 9-7. Bjurstedt Mallory won on her fourth match point after having survived a match point in favor of Ryan.
Mary K. Browne, a frequent competitor of both players, wrote in the Providence News
on 24 August 1926 (http://tinyurl.com/3f9q6pr)
It was an afternoon of dramatic intensity at Forest Hills, and of unusual happenings. Second only to Mrs. Mallory's remarkable victory in the singles was the amazing reception she got from the gallery, not only after the final point had been won and lost, but all through the gruelling struggle. It was a hitherto unknown experience for the recrowned national champion. In all the years she was ruling American courts, ... Mrs. Mallory has never been the favorite in the final round match. The thumbs of those in the stands have always been turned down against her.
Very few critics and practically none of the public credit Mrs. Molla Mallory with the fine tennis she can produce, because she is not versatile, but her opponents know how hard she is to defeat. Why? Mainly because back of her only two strokes, she has an indomitable will to win. The most determined and ever present of any player I have played in my many years experience.
Molla has only two strokes, a forearm and back hand drive, but what few stop to consider is that Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen win nine-tenths their points from the back court, with placements from the forearm and back hand strokes. To be sure, they mix their shots by the occasional use of a chop or change of pace, while Mrs. Mallory drives with continuous pace and wins on fine regular placements. She is herself absolutely tireless and patient, so that she can and does stay with a rally from back court longer than her opponent can or will.
I have rarely seen Mrs. Mallory nervous. She plays with extreme confidence, stroking with abandon and ease, with never a moment's indecision as to what stroke to play, she has only two and only one pace. I sometimes think it is a handicap to have variety of things to do, for "he who hesitates is too often lost." She goes out for her shots and if that day they are going, she is apt to win from anyone.
Her victory at Forest Hills in 1921 over Suzanne Lenglen was accomplished through sheer determination alone. She hit hard and her two strokes were going, but what was more important, she had made up her mind that if she could annex the first few games that Lenglen would "quit" and Mrs. Mallory put her whole strength and concentration into accomplishing that one feat and she did. ... It was in this instance that she acquired the epithet of "Marvelous Molla."
The Brooklyn New York Daily Eagle
on 24 August 1926 described the match as follows (http://tinyurl.com/3cfkk72
For sheer courage, the last stand of the gallant Norsewoman has never been equaled in the annals of the 39 years of history that this championship tournament has behind it. Each of these hard-hitting tennis stars had taken a set, fighting for points with nerve-racking intensity. The welcome 10-minute rest period had sped its fleeting course. Coming back with refreshed vitality, Miss Ryan ran through four straight games with keen and amazing speed. Even Molla's most stout-hearted supporters were ready to throw up the sponge. The title seemed lost.
But this Norse champion never quits. She looked disaster in the face and knew it for an imposter. Gathering her forces for her final drive, she unleashed such a furious succession of drives and passing shots as the West Side courts have never seen leap from a woman's racket. Suddenly her control was unerring and her tactics uncanny in their sly anticipation.
Watching Mrs. Mallory turn the tide, the method by which she did it seemed so simple that one wondered why she did not pursue it sooner. It was not until she faced the glassy stare of defeat that Molla rose to the occasion and demonstrated that genius is the ability to make hard things look easy.
Her big problem was to render that vicious Ryan chop stroke impotent. The first step in achieving this end was a marked increase in the pace of all of her strokes, Driving with force that was really terrific, angling her shots so that Miss Ryan was constantly on the run, she succeeded in keeping the Californian from getting set to deliver her most telling stroke.
By this means, she took the attack away from her rival. Once this big aim had been realized, she played consistently to Miss Ryan's backhand, pounding away at its stonewall defense. Only unfailing control enabled Molla to exert this pressure, but during that final set her command of the ball never left her.
Realizing that she was being put through the run-around by her Norse foe, Miss Ryan tried to regain command of the net. in the first set, this had been an unfailing resource, but now a charge at the barrier was a liability. For Molla, with her suddenly acquired knack of finding the sidelines, shot the ball past her as she was rushing forward. The effect was disconcerting in the extreme. All that the Californian could do then was try to outspeed the new champion. When she succeeded, she won the point. When she failed, Mrs. Mallory scored.
Even the tantalizing drop shots that had scored so often for Miss Ryan in that grueling second set were no longer effective. Where they had caught Molla on the baseline previously, now she met them as she came to the net, and turned them to her advantage as she angled them sharply into the opposite court.
After the score was tied at 4-all in the deciding set, the games began to alternate with service once more. Mrs. Mallory had been favored by many net cord shots that fell safely for placements, but this luck was more than equalized by the number of faulty decisions that went against her. With the crowd so thoroughly partisan as it was, one marvels at its self-restraing in refraining from voicing its disapproval. Once only, in the 12th game, with Miss Ryan leading at 6-5 did a flagrant error arouse its vocal wrath. The outburst was prolonged, until finally Mrs. Mallory turned and quieted the crowd with a preemptory gesture. She did not care to have any points donated to her, for that did not coincide with her sportsmanlike idea of how to win. It was a splendid thing for her to do, especially in the face of the discouragingly inefficient officiating that was on tap all afternoon.
The last three games were thrilling in their intensity. The stands were painfully silent. In the 14th game, Miss Ryan actually reached match point. But after a fierce rally, Molla forced her to net the ball. Passing that crisis caused the Norse girl to dance with joy and enabled her to carry on with renewed courage. Two fluky placements won the 15th game for her. One of them bounced safely over the net off the wood of her racked as she was returning service, while the second hopped from the top of the net right over Miss Ryan's bat as she was poised to volley.
But her childish delight at these happenings was as nothing to the wild war whoop that she let forth when she finally won the deciding game. Three times she had had match point. Only a solitary telegrapher broke the afternoon quiet. But each time her Irish foe, fighting with the courage that has characterized her race since time immemorial, fought her off. Once the game had been deuced, it seemed that the match would become interminable, but again Mrs. Mallory rallied and forced two errors by her speed to win the match.
By comparison with the exhilarating climax, the first two sets appeared tame. In the opener, Miss Ryan had her deadly chops functioning perfectly. Try as she would, Mrs. Mallory could not dig them up. Those that did not go for clean placements flew wildly from her bat as she tried to send them back.
It was not until the second set that her efforts attained much success. Then her speed of stroke began to tell. She sent the ball into Miss Ryan's court faster than that grim foe could run to return it. But in spite of the fact that she took the set and squared the match, few people believed that she would win. They were still mindful of the magnificent way in which Miss Ryan had come back after the intermission of her quarter final match with Eleanor Goss.
An odd feature of the final result was that Miss Ryan won one more point than did the winner. The fact that only a single point separated them in the total score shows just how close the battling was at all times.
First set point scores by game:
Ryan 4-1-6-6-4-2-1-4-3-4 = 36
Bjurstedt Mally 1-4-4-4-1-4-4-0-5-1 = 28
Second set point scores by game:
Ryan 4-0-4-2-4-4-3-4-2-2 = 29
Bjurstedt Mallory 2-4-2-4-1-6-5-1-4-4 = 33
Third set point scores by game:
Ryan 4-4-4-4-2-2-0-2-4-1-4-2-4-5-3-3 = 48
Bjurstedt Mallory 1-2-2-1-4-4-4-4-1-4-1-4-1-7-5-5 = 50
Bjurstedt Mallory 0
Bjurstedt Mallory 6
Placements / earned points:
Bjurstedt Mallory 70
Bjurstedt Mallory 79