An article on the first Aussie great-Nancye Bolton. Many think she would have been a Margaret Court if only Aussie officials hadn't been so cheap and sexist towards the women. In this era Aussie men got money to travel overseas to Wimbledon and Europe, while the women were usually left behind in Australia.
Pioneer empowered women's game
By SELMA MILOVANOVIC
Wednesday 14 November 2001
Nancye Bolton was a tennis player ahead of her time.
When straight-laced, genteel lobs over the net were the norm in the 1940s, she peppered the court with blitzing forehands.
She looked different, too - towering over other players at 180 centimetres, she broke the prim, "lady-in-white" tennis tradition with a knotted handkerchief around her neck on hot days.
Bolton died last Friday, aged 84, but her innovative playing style and off-court popularity have etched her memory deep into Australia's tennis history.
Bolton was 19 when she first competed in the Australian final in 1936. She lost to Joan Hartigan, but came back the following year to claim the crown. By 1952, she was the winner of six Australian titles, 10 doubles and four mixed titles.
"What made her special was the sort of boyish freedom and her attacking stroke," tennis historian Paul Metzler said from Sydney. "There was never a dull moment when she played. If it was getting a bit quiet, she would crash three winners and bring the crowd to its feet."
But her natural ability to win and fierce determination to stay on top was borne out of hard times.
In 1942, her husband, Air Force Sergeant Peter Bolton, was killed in the Second World War, leaving her with a four-month-old daughter, Pam.
As Nancye Wynne, she had already claimed two Australian titles - in 1937 and 1940 - as well as being the first Australian woman to reach the United States singles final in 1938. And nothing was going to stop her winning streak.
"Nancye Wynne was a very appropriate name because she won every damned thing and then she became Nancye Bolton and she bolted," Metzler said.
As soon as the war ended, Bolton resumed her reign in Australian tennis.
Wylma Smith, a Melbourne and country championships player for many years, remembers a chance encounter with her idol when Bolton was in the twilight of her tennis career. Smith was playing with Glen Iris, where Bolton had come to fill in for a doubles match with East Malvern. Even now, the memory draws a gasp from a fan who followed Bolton's every tennis move. "I don't think I could hit the ball in the court," Smith said.
Always a crowd-pleaser, Bolton had no time for on-court tantrums. Exciting tennis was all she cared for, but she spared a thought for the underdog.
"If she was playing in the doubles with someone who was more of a battler, her attitude was, 'Don't you throw that ball at her on the net or you might cop it yourself'," Smith said.
Bolton left tennis in 1952, but the glory did not stop there. By 1976, she had won 17 club championships at Kew Golf Club. At 52, she was even a runner-up for the Victorian title.
Then it was lawn bowls, at Auburn Heights.
She was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.
"There was a carefree thing about Nancye Bolton's play that nobody else has ever approached," Metzler said.