Dorothy Round Little - One of Britain's greatest champions
This is essentially the entry for Dorothy Round Little in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004):
Dorothy Edith Round was born on 13 July 1909 at 25 Grange Road, Dudley, Worcestershire, the daughter of John Benjamin Round, builder and contractor, and his wife, Maude Helena, née Williams. She was educated at Dudley Girls’ High School. Round played tennis from the age of twelve and practised both at school and at home, where her three brothers accustomed her from an early age to hard hitting. She first came to wider notice as a fifteen-year-old when she entered a small local tournament at Pwllheli in North Wales. Her parents were staying at the nearby hotel and Round appeared before the tournament organizer, a respected Wimbledon referee, in her school blazer with “a very ancient-looking racket under her arm”. There was only one place left in the draw and this pitted Round against Joan Strawson, a well-known Wimbledon player. Strawson’s “famous forehand drive”, though, “held no terrors for little Miss Round at all”, and she fought bravely in defeat. Strawson sagely predicted a bright future for the beaten youngster.
Round enjoyed a distinguished junior career and won her county colours in 1927. Next year, aged eighteen, she made her Wimbledon debut, but lost a close contest in the first round. In 1929 she reached the second round, but was summarily dismissed by Betty Nuthall, 6-1, 6-1. She was then a “steady rather than a mercurial player”, but always learned from her defeats and practised assiduously. She was helped by the Japanese star Ryuki Miki, who impressed upon her the importance of correct technique. In 1931 she reached the quarter-final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Hilde Krahwinkel. In an earlier round, though, she had secured a “brilliant victory” over Lili d’Alvarez, which demonstrated “the richness of her potential when all shots were flowing”.
In 1932 Round reached the final of the British hard court championships, and at Wimbledon the quarter-final, where she faced the seemingly invincible Helen Wills Moody. British hopes of an upset were soon dashed, the American “ruthlessly hitting her off the court”. Next year Round won both the singles and the doubles at the British Hard Court Championships, and again met Wills Moody at Wimbledon, this time in the final. The turning point in a memorable match came after Round won the second set on a controversial line call. She sportingly argued that this should be overturned in her opponent’s favour and appeared more troubled by the incident than Wills Moody. The latter approached the final set the more determined of the two and won it decisively to take the match 6-4, 6-8, 6-3. In 1933 Round also reached the semi-final of the ladies’ singles in the American championships, where she lost to Helen Jacobs.
With Moody absent from Wimbledon in 1934 the ladies’ singles title was thrown open. Round had proved her mettle earlier in the year at the British hard court championships, where she saved five match points to retain her title. At Wimbledon she faced a final against Helen Jacobs, who had won their last four encounters. From the outset Round took the game to her opponent, and never allowed Jacobs time to settle on the fast courts. She won the first set with flowing backhands and volleys, but overhit with new balls at the end of the second, and then allowed the American to square the match. At 4-3 up in the final set Round “staked everything on a volleying attack”; she won the next two games, and the contest 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. To a Wimbledon crowd accustomed to seeing Americans victorious it was a momentous occasion. With Fred Perry’s victory in the men’s singles it represented the first British “double” at the championships since 1909.
The next year Round became the first overseas player to win the Australian ladies’ singles title. At Wimbledon, though, she appeared nervous as the defending champion and was defeated in the quarter-final. She exited at the same stage in 1936. In 1937, seeded seventh, she played some of the best tennis of her career, and won her second Wimbledon singles title. After defeating Helen Jacobs 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-final, she faced the Pole Jadwiga Jedrzejowska in the final. She countered her opponent’s formidable forehand with some dazzling cross-court backhands, but found herself 2-4 down in the final set. In the sweltering heat she went all-out: she broke her opponent’s serve with a love game and went on to take the match 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. A combination of “mental determination and perfect physical condition” had carried her through. Her success in the Wimbledon singles overshadowed her achievements in the mixed doubles, which she won three times in succession, once with Ryuki Miki, in 1934, and twice with Fred Perry, in 1935 and 1936. She also appeared in the British Wightman Cup team, 1931-6.
With her marriage to Douglas Leigh Little, a medical practitioner, on 2 September 1937, Round’s serious playing career ended; they had one son and one daughter, and lived at Cedar Gardens, Kinvert, Stourbridge in the West Midlands. She made her last Wimbledon appearance in 1939, when she was unseeded and went out in the fourth round. Her involvement in tennis continued as a coach, journalist, and later administrator. As president of the Worcestershire lawn tennis association for much of the 1960s and 1970s she made a valuable contribution to the British game.
Dorothy Round was one of only two British winners of the Wimbledon ladies’ singles title between the wars; the other, Kathleen (Kitty) Godfree, also won the title twice. Round’s triumphs were the more remarkable in that they were achieved in the era dominated by the “two Helens”, Wills Moody and Jacobs. She was, though, an outstanding player in her own right, whose athleticism, grace and competitiveness invited comparison with the great Suzanne Lenglen.
A committed Christian, and for many years a Methodist Sunday school teacher, Round made headlines several times by refusing to play on a Sunday. Following her Wimbledon singles triumphs she published two books, “Modern Lawn Tennis” (1935) and “Tennis For Girls” (1938), cheerful and sensible guides to the game that she loved. She died of cancer at Kidderminster General Hospital on 12 November 1982. She was 83. Her husband predeceased her.
Last edited by Rollo; May 23rd, 2010 at 11:01 PM.