ALVAREZ, “LILI” de (Elia Maria González-Álvarez y López-Chicheri)
Born 9 May 1905 at the Hotel Flora in Rome, Italy
Died 8 July 1998 in Madrid, Spain.
Married Comte Jean de Gaillard de la Valdène, on 14 November 1935 in Madrid (separated from 1939 on death of only child)
Nickname: "The Senorita"
[Active 1919 to 1937]
3 time Wimbledon finalist (1926-1928) and 1930 Italian Champion.
Author of Modern Lawn Tennis (1927) and Plenitud (Fullness) in 1946.
At an early age Lili was a skating star, taking up tennis as a second sport. She won the Swiss Indoors in 1919 at the age of 13, marking her as a prodigy in the mold of Suzanne Lenglen.
Lili never reached those heights; as her Lenglen-like flair was never wed to consistency. Nonetheless Lili was proved to be Spain’s greatest player until Arantxa Sanchez and a star of the first magnitude.
Her grand slam career spanned from 1925 (when she lost in the 1R of the French) to 1937.
Aussie: never played
French: 4 SF (1930-31, 1936-37) and 1 QF in 1927.
Wimbledon: 3 finals (1926-28)
US Nationals: never played
Won French doubles in 1929 with Kea Bouman.
World ranked #2 in 1927 and 1928.
Alverez sparkled in reaching 3 consecutive Wimbledon finals. She came closest in the first vs Kitty McKane in 1926, leading 4-1 in the thrd only to fade. Helen Wills bested her in 1927 and 1928; though the 1927 final was vastly entertaining due to the Senorita's dash and moxie in trying impossible shots.
She was famous for her daring half-volleys, often hit from the baseline. The daring quality of her attack compelled spectators to watch. It was said that for five games she could best anyone. Unfortunately she lacked the stamina and consistency to take major titles. In the words of Martin Hedges, she displayed "a tendency to commit serious errors at vital moments."
Lili was a trendsetter in fashion. She created buzz in 1931 by wearing the first divided skirt in tennis designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Center Court was agog when she came out in trousers, a wrap around skirt and one red sock!
From 1934 to 1937 she played as the Countess Valdene. When their only child died in 1939 the couple separated. Lili moved back to Spain in 1941 and became a writer. Her writings demonstrated her commitment to feminism and Catholicism.
The talented and cosmopolitan Alvarez spoke 5 languages.
World Top Ten Rankings
Alvarez oozed flair and panache
Her culottes or "robe pants" costume in 1931
Hedges, Martin. The Concise Dictionary of Tennis
. 1978. p. 12
Lili de Alvarez - Spain's first great tennis star - TennisForum.com
[Thanks to Rollo for this biography]