The Sutton Sisters
Some of you have probably already read this but maybe there are a few of you who are rather new to reading about the really early days of tennis. Since many of you got a chance to see Dorothy Bundy get inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame I thought I would share with you this selection from Allison Danzig's book "The Fireside Book of Tennis" It's actually a book made up not only of Danzig's work but many other writers too. There's even selections by Tilden and Lenglen. Anyway, this one is called "The Sutton Sisters" they played in the late 1890's and the early part of the 20th century. May Sutton was Dorothy's mom. This selection tells more about Dodo's family and their love of the game. It also gives you a view of the early days of tennis and what the women players went through.
The Sutton Sisters by Jeane Hoffman
There used to be a saying, "It takes a Sutton to beat a Sutton."
And because it did, the historic Southern California tennis championships were nearly renamed the "Sutton California championships."
Between them, the four Sutton sisters of Santa Monica-Ethel, Florence, Violet, and May-won the tournament eighteen times. May Sutton Bundy, who accounted for nine wins, won it first in 1900. Twenty-eight years and four children later, she won it again!
All of which gives an idea of the durability of the Sutton females and explains why no one in Santa Monica is the least surprised that the four Sutton "girls" are still going strong , still playing tennis, still the greatest tennis family in America.
Ethel, at seventy-two, plays doubles four times a week, teaches three classes of private pupils, and quips, "Only a tennis ball in flight can make me run!" Florence teaches twenty-five pupils on a private court on Margurita Avenue six days a week and grins, " Tennis? It's medicine. I feel great." Violet, twenty-five years an instructor at Marlborough, never misses her "daily doubles." "Little May," the baby who weighed fifteen pounds at birth, teaches at the Los Angeles Country Club and still sends shivers down opponents' forehands when she faces them across the court.
What made them great?
"An all-consuming devotion to the game that caused my brother Henry and me to go up into Eaton's Canyon in 1899 with two shovels, horse and buggy, and haul clay down to our father's ten-acre ranch in Pasadena to build our own court," declared Ethel, oldest of the famed quartet. "The court sloped over an embankment, so we had to run uphill for forehands. But it was one of ten private courts in Pasadena, and we were proud of it. We played with tennis balls minus covers, rackets with strings missing, and taught ourselves tennis."
"We first learned the game in England, where we were all born," explained Florence, the smallest. "Father was a captain in the navy. He had seven children:Adele, the oldest girl, two boys, the-after a lapse of four years-us four girls."
"Adele played tennis in a club near Ealing. She'd give her warped rackets to us youngsters, and my sisters and I played every game with them-rounders, croquet, cricket. When we came to America, we built the court, but we had no equipment. A nearby family, the Radcliffes, had nets and rackets but no court. We pooled our resources. We learned so well that Violet won the first tournament she entered (the first in the family too), the Ojai championship in 1899."
"Girls were faster in our days,' remembered Violet, whose children-May, Billy, Doris, and Johnny Doeg-became tennis stars. (Johnny was national champion.) "We ran more. But it's a wonder we could move at all. Do you know what we wore? A long undershirt, pair of drawers, two petticoats, white linen corset cover, duck shirt, shirtwaist, long white silk stockings and a floppy hat. We were soaking wet when we finished a match."
"Girls today have a greater variety of strokes, but I believe we had more fight and speed, even though nobody ever dreamed of taking lessons from a professional coach," said May, whose daughter, Dorothy Bundy Cheney, became a famous player. "Girls played the net even then. It wasn't all baseline. Our weakest stroke was the serve. We just hit the ball up without much windup."
"But ho May could hit that forehand!" enthused Florence. "She'd play all day without missing a forehand drive. She had power. When she won the nationals in 1904 and Wimbledon in 1905 and 1907, she weighed 160 pounds. Girls didn't worry about diets then May even beat a men. Our 'little sister' was the greatest of 'em all."
Last edited by Rollo; May 1st, 2016 at 04:08 AM.