Re: The 1930s
Obituary of Peggie Scriven: Tennis player who in 1933 became the first British woman to win the singles at the French championships
The Daily Telegraph
Monday, February 12, 2001
PEGGIE SCRIVEN, who has died aged 88, was the first of only six British women tennis players to have won the singles title at the French Championships.
A left-hander, Peggie Scriven was renowned for her power off the ground and her trenchant resolution under pressure, qualities which served her particularly well on the hard courts of France.
In the spring of 1933, she made a good showing at tournaments on the French Riviera, notably at Monte Carlo where she beat the formidable Cilly Aussem 6-0, 6-2 before falling to the French No 1 Simone Mathieu in the semi-final.
Two months later, she entered the French Open, held on the red clay of Roland Garros. During her career thus far she had been regarded as something of an outsider by the tennis authorities, and had received little encouragement from the Lawn Tennis Association. She was not included in the official team of English players in the event, had to pay her own way to Paris, and was unseeded in the draw. She was further handicapped by tonsillitis.
She did, however, have a loyal supporter in A Wallis Myers, the lawn tennis correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, and his faith was repaid when she won through to the final. There she faced Mathieu again, and though the Frenchwoman sipped brandy to revive her flagging strength, Peggie Scriven's devastating forehand and plucky, quick-footed defence brought her victory in three sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Suzanne Lenglen was among the first to congratulate the English player, and her achievement was marked by a leading article in the Telegraph. Other newspapers, too, paid tribute to her force of character. "One always had the feeling that she was bound to do something in tennis," a journalist commented, "if just through sheer determination.
"If you meet her in the dressing room, or off the court you are conscious of an important figure in the game. She holds her head high with great assurance, she walks with a determined stride and she is seldom impressed by anyone or anything."
A year later, Peggie Scriven became the only British woman player to retain a Grand Slam title other than at Wimbledon, when she beat the American Helen Jacobs in Paris. The match was surrounded by controversy. At that time the men's and women's singles finals were played on the same day. The men's final lasted five sets, and so it was not until 6.30 pm that the two ladies went on court.
During the second set Helen Jacobs twice appealed against the fast-fading light, but the referee insisted that the match should finish. Peggie Scriven, in typically determined fashion, proved the mentally stronger, winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.
She was born Margaret Croft Scriven at Chapel Allerton, Leeds, on August 18 1912, and educated at home.
Her parents played club tennis and young Peggie soon had a racket in her hand. After winning a number of local tournaments, she came to national prominence by winning the British junior championship in 1929, without having ever received a formal lesson, although she was later coached by Dan Maskell.
On her second appearance at Wimbledon, in 1931, aged 18, she reached the quarter-finals before being beaten by Simone Mathieu on Centre Court, the first time that Peggie Scriven had played there.
Her game advanced rapidly and she went on to become one of the foremost British players of the 1930s. Her powerful play came into its own on the lightning-fast wooden courts at The Queen's Club, where she won the British covered court championships five times between 1932 and 1938. She was doubles champion at the same event in 1933 and mixed doubles champion in 1934 and 1935.
In 1933 she was ranked the No 2 British player, and in 1934, following her triumphs in Paris, the fifth best player in the world.
At Roland Garros, she also won the mixed doubles with the Australian Jack Crawford in 1933, beating the renowned all-British pairing of Fred Perry and Betty Nuthall. Two years later she and Kay Stammers won the doubles there.
Unlike most of her contemporaries, Peggie Scriven made far more of an impact on hard courts than on grass. At Wimbledon she was seeded three times, but never progressed beyond the quarter-finals. There she lost to Hilda Krahwinkel (later Hilda Sperling) in 1933, and then to the unseeded Australian, J Hartigan.
Her lack of success at Wimbledon meant that she was not chosen to represent Britain in the now defunct Wightman Cup match until 1933, when she lost a lengthy, fiercely competitive match against Helen Jacobs. She was selected again in 1934 and also in 1938, when she was beaten at Wimbledon by Helen Wills Moody, who had not lost a match on Centre Court for 10 years. Despite this result, however, later that year Peggie Scriven was ranked the best woman player in Britain in the last official list issued before the war.
She married, in 1940, Harvey Vivian, a house master at Clifton and a wartime RAF officer. But a week after their wedding, he was shot down over Germany and captured. He and his wife were not reunited until 1945.
Margaret Vivian, as she became in tennis retirement, later spent many years coaching the sport in schools near her home in West Sussex. Her husband died in 1983. She is survived by their son and daughter.