View Full Version : A beautiful picture every tennis fan should see!

Dec 16th, 2005, 04:25 AM
Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody

Arguably the two most dominant and influential women tennis players of the first half of the 20th century. Their dominance in the sport is still unparalleled.

Suzanne Lenglen
France (1899-1938)

In the days of ground-length tennis dresses, Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen played at Wimbledon with her dress cut just about the calf. She wept openly during matches, pouted, sipped brandy between sets. Some called her shocking and indecent, but she was merely ahead of her time, and she brought France the greatest global sports renown it had ever known.

Right-handed Lenglen was No. 1 in 1925-26, the first years of world rankings. She won Wimbledon every year but one from 1919 through 1925, the exception being 1924, when illness led her to withdrawal after the fourth round. Her 1919 title match, at the age of 20, with 40-year-old Dorothea Douglass Chambers is one of the hallmarks of tennis history.

Chambers, the seven-time champion, was swathed in stays, petticoats, high-necked shirtwaist, and a long shirt that swept the court. The young Lenglen was in her revealing dress that shocked the British at the sight of ankles and forearms. After the second set, Lenglen took some comfort from her brandy and won, 10-8, 4-6, 9-7, in a dramatic confrontation, rescuing two match points.

After her victory, Lenglen became easily the greatest drawing card tennis had known, and she was one of those who made it a major box-office attraction. Along with a magnetic personality, grace and style, she was the best woman player the world had seen.

Lenglen, born May 24, 1899, in Paris, played an all-court game such as few had excelled at. She moved with rare grace, unencumbered by the tight layers of garments others wore. She had extraordinary accuracy with her classical, rhythmic ground strokes. For hours daily her father, Charles Lenglen, had her direct the ball at a handkerchief he moved from spot to spot. Her control was so unfailing that she thought it shameful to hit the ball into the hight or beyond the line. In addition, she had so keen a sense of anticipation that she invariably was in the right position to meet her opponent's shot.

Her 1926 match against Helen Wills in a tournament at Cannes, France (pictured above), caused a sensation. Tickets brought unheard-of wealth to scalpers, and the roofs and windows of apartments and hotels overlooking the court were crowded with fans. Lenglen, on the verge of collapse during the tense match, but saved by smelling salts and brandy, defeated the 20-year-old Wills, 6-3, 8-6.

Lenglen's career was not free of setbacks, however. In the 1921 U.S. Championships, having lost the first set badly to Molla Mallory, Lenglen walked weeping and coughing to the umpire and said she could not continuem defaulting the match. She made up for it the next year at Wimbledon by defeating Mallory, 6-2, 6-0, in the final and did not lose another match for the remainder of her amateur career.

In the 1926 Wimbledon, Lenglen had a terrifying ordeal. She kept Queen Mary waiting in the Royal Box for her appearance when, owing to a misunderstanding or a failure of communications, Lenglen did not have the correct information about the time she was to be on court. The ghastly error was too much. She fainted and Wimbledon saw her no more as a competitor. She withdrew from the tournament, and that year went on a tour for money in the United States under the management of C.C. Pyle, winning all 38 matches against Mary K. Browne. It marked the start of professional tennis as a playing career.

At the age of 39, Lenglen died of pernicious anemia, July 4, 1938, in Paris. She was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978. There was a speculation that her health had been undermined by her long hours of practice as a young girl. But she had brought the glamour of the stage and the ballet to the court, and queues formed at tennis clubs where before there had been indifference. She had emancipated the female player from layers of starched clothing and set the short-hair style as well. During her career she won 81 singles titles (seven without the loss of a game!), 73 doubles titles, and 8 mixed doubles titles. On five different ocassions, Suzanne won the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles at the French Open and Wimbledon. She had brought the game of tennis into a new era.

Major titles (21)- French singles, 1925, '26; Wimbledon singles, 1919, '20, '21, '22, '23, '25; French doubles, 1925, '26; Wimbledon doubles, 1919, '20, '21, '22, '23, '25, French mixed, 1925, '26; Wimbledon mixed, 1920, '22, '25

French Open Record: 10-0 %1.00
Wimbledon Record: 32-0 %1.00
US Open record: 0-1 %.000

Helen Wills Moody
United States of America (1905-?)

It scarcely seems possible that two players of the transcendent ability of Helen Newington Wills Moody Roark and Suzanne Lenglen could have been contemporaries. They were ranked for close to half a century as the two best female tennis players of all time. Their records are unmatched and hardly have been approached.

While indeed contemporaries, they were rivals in only one match, played in 1926 and won by Lenglen, 6-3, 8-6, at Cannes, France. Lenglen, not yet 27, was at the crest of her game, with six Wimbledon championships in her possession. Wills' game at 20 had not quite attained full maturity, though she had been in the Wimbledon final of 1924, and would win eight times. Their rivalry was limited to the single meeting, for later that same year Wills was stricken with appendicitis, and Lenglen turned pro.

It would be difficult to imagine two players of more different personalities and types of game. Between 1919 and 1938 (29 years), Wills won 52 of 92 tournaments on a 398-35 match record, a .919 average, and had a 158-match winning streak (27 tournaments).

Quiet, reserved, and never changing expression, Wills, known as Little Miss Poker Face, played with unruffled poise and never exhibited the style, the flair, or the emotional outbursts that Lenglen did. From her first appearance in the East in 1921, when she was national junior champion, Wills' typical garb on the court was a white sailor suit, white eyeshade and white shoes and stockings.

The game she played right-handed was one of sheer power, which she had developed in practice against men on the West Coast. From both forehand and backhand she hammered the ball almost the full length of the court regularly, and the speed, pace and depth of her drives, in conjunction with her tactical moves, sufficed to subdue her oppenents. She could hit winners as spectacularly from the baseline on the backhand as on the forehand.

She went to the net occasionally, not nearly as often as Lenglen, and Wills was sound in her volleying and decisive overhead with her smash. Her slice service, breaking wide and pulling the receiver beyond the alley, was as good as any female player has commanded.

Her footwork was not so good. She did not move with the grace and quickness as Lenglen, and opponents fared best against her who could use the drop shot or changes of length to draw her foreward and sent her running back. Anchored to the baseline, she could run any opponent into the ground. Because of her exceptional sense of anticipation, she seemd to be in the right spot, and it was not often that she appeared to be hurried in her stroking.

She was born October 6, 1905, in Centreville, Calfornia, and the facts of her invincibility are stark. She won Wimbledon a record eight times (until Navratilova won 9) in nine tries, her only lose coming in her first appearance, in 1924. She won the U.S. Championship seven times. From 1927 to 1932 she did not lose a set, anywhere. She was seven U.S., five Wimbledon, and four French championships without loss of a set until Dorothy Round of Britain extended her to 6-4, 6-8, 6-3 in the 1933 Wimbledon final.

In Wightman Cup play from 1923 to 1938, she won 18 singles matches and lost two, both in 1924. She won the Olympic Singles and doubles in Paris in 1924. When she scored her first Wimbledon victory, in 1927, she was the first American there to be crowned since 1905.

Two of her three most remarkable matches were her meeting with Lenglen in 1926 and her default because of back pain to rival Helen Jacobs while trailing 0-3 in the final set of the 1933 U.S. Championships The third remarkable match was in the 1935 Wimbledon fianl in which Jacobs was in the lead 5-2, in the third set and stood at match point, only to see the then Mrs. Moody rally and add one more victory to her astounding record.

In 1928 she became the first player to win three majors in the same year. She was also the first American to win Roland Garros. Her total of 19 singles majors was the record for 32 years, until Margaret Court surpassed her with 24. But her success was the most phenominal ever, considering that she was 19 of 22 entered, winning 126 of 129 matches (.977), never worse than a finalist.

Major titles (31)- French singles, 1928, '29, '30, '32; Wimbledon singles, 1927, '28, '29, '30, '32, '33, '35, '38; U.S. singles, 1923, '24, '25, '27, '28, '29, '31; French doubles, 1930, '32; Wimbledon doubles, 1924, '27, '30; U.S. doubles 1922, '24, '25, '28; Wimbledon mixed 1929, U.S. mixed 1924, '28.

French Open record: 20-0 %1.00
Wimbledon record: 55-1 %.982
US Open record: 51-2 %. 962
Total: 126-129 %.977

Dec 16th, 2005, 04:40 AM
Suzanne :hearts: :bowdown:

Helen :worship:

Dec 16th, 2005, 04:40 AM
Interesting. Thanks for the post :wavey:

Dec 16th, 2005, 04:42 AM
it's a shame nobody seems to be reading this because it would pay for a lot of posters to know a bit more about the history of the game instead of thinking Anna and Maria were the first phemons etc.

Dec 16th, 2005, 04:55 AM
great summaries. Why doesn't people know when Helen died or what she died off?

Dec 16th, 2005, 05:18 AM
I wish I could see Suzanne play. I would be in love with her antics. She seems like a real diva and I would love to watch her play! :D

Dec 16th, 2005, 05:39 AM
I have nothing but respect for those two :)

Dec 16th, 2005, 05:45 AM
I've seen footage of Suzanne hitting shots in her dramatic ballet like fashion and it's nice to watch. I can def see why she was a big crowd pleaser.

Dec 16th, 2005, 06:38 AM

Dec 16th, 2005, 07:17 AM
great summaries. Why doesn't people know when Helen died or what she died off?

Yeah..i would like to know the same thing. If she were to be alive today Helen would be 100!! :eek: :worship:

Alicia Rocks
Dec 16th, 2005, 07:39 AM
Thanks :kiss:

tennis aus
Dec 16th, 2005, 08:34 AM
thanks daffodil.

Dec 16th, 2005, 08:37 AM
Suzie was so gracefull :)

tennis aus
Dec 16th, 2005, 08:46 AM
great summaries. Why doesn't people know when Helen died or what she died off?

She passed away on New Year's Eve January 1, 1998 at the age of 92.

Dec 16th, 2005, 08:49 AM
Didn't Monica Seles once say she wanted to be like Lenglen? Both flamboyant, both brought a new style to the game and both had a huge fanbas, so Monica did achieve some of that ambition! But I also read that Lenglen 'hit the bottle' as they say - of curse it may not be true.

Does anyone know what happened to Helen?

Dec 16th, 2005, 09:02 AM

Dec 16th, 2005, 09:08 AM
What a great career, Suzanne :D :yeah:

Homer & Co
Dec 16th, 2005, 09:09 AM
Were women not allowed to show their (bare) lower legs in the 1920s?

Dec 16th, 2005, 11:34 AM
two amazing women :worship: :worship: :worship:

auntie janie
Dec 16th, 2005, 12:24 PM
Great post! Thanks, daffodil. :worship:

Dec 16th, 2005, 12:28 PM
Great post :yeah:

What is a sport without a history?

Dec 16th, 2005, 12:29 PM
really a great picture - thanks for posting

Dec 17th, 2005, 12:18 AM
great summaries. Why doesn't people know when Helen died or what she died off?

I just found out that Helen died in 1998.

Dec 17th, 2005, 12:19 AM
Were women not allowed to show their (bare) lower legs in the 1920s?

They were allowed, but it was very risque in those days. Proper women, especially playing in a wealthy, predominately white sport were to be very wealthy, proper looking.

Dec 17th, 2005, 12:20 AM
Didn't Monica Seles once say she wanted to be like Lenglen? Both flamboyant, both brought a new style to the game and both had a huge fanbas, so Monica did achieve some of that ambition! But I also read that Lenglen 'hit the bottle' as they say - of curse it may not be true.

Does anyone know what happened to Helen?

Monica Seles, when she turned No. 1 when she was 17, said that she was a mix of Suzanne Lenglen and Madonna.

What does "hit the bottle" mean?

Sam L
Dec 17th, 2005, 12:25 AM
great summaries. Why doesn't people know when Helen died or what she died off?
Helen died on 1st January 1998 through natural causes. She was over 92 years old.

Dec 17th, 2005, 12:32 AM

Dec 17th, 2005, 07:08 AM
It is very hard to rate women greats from this era.
Remember very few women participated in competitive sports.
It was considered not to be respectable for women to participate in competitive sports.
Most people find it very difficult to against societies norms. They were much more rigid at that time. It is much easier now since the sixties.
So perhaps the best never gave it a try at that time.

Dec 17th, 2005, 07:24 AM
very interesting thanx

Dec 17th, 2005, 03:15 PM
Thanks. These two were great champions of the sport.

Dec 17th, 2005, 03:47 PM
Thanks for all those that told me when Helen died.

Dec 17th, 2005, 03:53 PM

Dec 18th, 2005, 02:55 PM
She ... sipped brandy between sets. DIVA! :eek::tape::lol::eek::haha:

Dec 18th, 2005, 02:56 PM

:scared: :scared: :scared:

She looks like she'd cut a b*tch :o