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disposablehero Nov 9th, 2002 01:53 AM

Who is the oldest living female tennis great?
Pauline Betz? Margaret Osborne Du Pont? Are one or both of them still alive? How about Doris Hart, then?

To me it is a shame that these ladies aren't brought out for Slams (US Open, I suppose) to show fans some of the sports rich history. I know, they talk to Althea once in a while, but you would swear she was the only living player older than BJK.

Rollo Nov 9th, 2002 05:57 AM

I can confirm that Pauline Betz is alive and well. She runs a tennis club in the Washington DC area. If you consider 1938 Auusie winner "Dodo" Cheney a great, she's not still alive,, but kicking as well. She's in her 80s and still playing, just like her mother May Sutton Bundy did.

Is Kitty Godfree still alive? She won Wimbledon in 1924 and was the oldest female champ alive a few years back.

ColinB Nov 9th, 2002 06:44 AM

No - I;m afraid Kitty died a couple of years ago - she actually got ill at Wimbledon during the Championships and dies shortly after... I think it was maybe 3 years ago now... around then...

Rollo Nov 9th, 2002 08:01 AM

I just found out Kitty died in 1992! My memory is just plain gone-LOL.
I want to get a hold of a book about Godgree. Right now I'm reading Helen Wills autobiography. She rates Kitty as her toughest foe after Lenglen.

Lots of stars from the 40 are still with us. For the most part they have been a hardy lot!

Looking at the Tennis Hall of Fame site, we have the following among the living:

Margaret duPont--b. 1918
Pauline Betz--- b. 1919
Louise Brough- b. 1923
Doris Hart--- b. 1925
Althea Gibson--- b. 1927

I don't know about 1930s stars

Simone Mathieu (born 1908) and Hilde Sperling (1908) are probably gone-but I don't know their dates of death.

Dodo Cheney was born in 1916 and won the US 85 and over event as recently as 2001.

Rollo Nov 9th, 2002 08:04 AM

A short piece on Cheney written in 1998-LOL at the "only player to have faced Helen Wills and Venus Williams."

Dodo Cheney
Winner of 301 tennis titles -- and counting

Robert Beck
Here comes this 82-year-old grandmother of eight onto the court. She's wearing a pleated pink dress, white pearls and lacy wristbands. This is your opponent in the finals of the Mother-Son division of the La Jolla (Calif.) Tennis Championships. You're Derek Miller, an 18-year-old who attends Purdue University on a tennis scholarship. Your mom and doubles partner, at 48, is three years younger than your opponent's son. You're thinking this will not be a close match.

But this is no ordinary octogenarian. This is Dodo Cheney, winner of more national tennis titles (301) than anyone else in history. Maybe it's the genes: Dodo's mother, May Sutton, in 1905, was the first American to win a singles title at Wimbledon. Or maybe it's perseverance: Dodo started playing at age eight and never stopped. How many people can say they've faced both Helen Wills Moody and Venus Williams? How many 82-year-olds could beat you in straight sets? (For the record, the Cheneys beat the Millers, 6-3, 7-5.) "Eighty-two years old!" says Derek Miller. "She can do anything with the ball." Seventy-nine-year-old Marion Read, victim number 300 for Dodo (in April, also in Cheney's hometown of La Jolla), said she felt like the pitcher who gave up number 70 to Mark McGwire. "We seniors have a new name," Cheney says. "We're not veterans, we're not grand dames, and we're not super seniors. We're recycled teenagers."

-- Richard Deitsch

Rollo Nov 9th, 2002 08:09 AM

She won a US title as recently as March--

March 9, 2002, 6:28PM

Cheney just keeps on going
2002 Houston Chronicle
This tale would be best told in a book, but an abridged version will have to do.

Dorothy B. "Dodo" Cheney won her 321st national tennis title on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Billie Burr in the 85s singles final of the USTA National Senior Women's Clay Court Championships at the Houston Racquet Club. If I were speaking, there would be a long pause after "321st national tennis title" to emphasize just what an accomplishment this is.

Cheney, 85, added her 322nd title on Friday when she won the 85s doubles. That's 187 more national titles than Billie Jean King (34), Jimmy Connors (27), Tracy Austin (27), John McEnroe (21), Chris Evert (19) and Pete Sampras (7) have combined to win.

When a player wins a USTA title, he or she receives the coveted "gold ball" trophy. Most people can make room for a few on a mantel, but where do you put 322?

"They were in the attic, in the basement, in drawers, in the garage, in storage bins ... all over the place," Cheney said. "Then when I won my 300th (in 1999), I ordered three cabinets that just happened to hold 100 gold balls each, so I put them in there and I donated it to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club (her home club)."

Doing simple math, Cheney has averaged just shy of four national titles for every year she's walked on this earth. The first American to win a singles title at the Australian Championships -- now the Australian Open -- in 1938, Cheney has won 169 doubles and 153 singles national titles. In 1983, '91 and '92, she won Grand Slams (clay, grass, indoors and hard-court) in singles in two age groups, and in 1991 she won Grand Slams in both singles and doubles in two divisions -- that's 16 titles in less than 12 months.

"I did that in two different age groups?" Cheney said when informed of her feats. "Oh, no, I couldn't have done that ... my gosh, you've got so much dope on me. You'll have to condense it quite a bit."

Cheney's bloodlines aren't bad, either. Her mother, May Sutton, won the singles and doubles titles at the U.S. National Championships (now the U.S. Open) in 1904 and won Wimbledon singles titles in 1905 -- becoming the first American to win there -- and 1907. Her father, Thomas Bundy, won three consecutive U.S. National Championships doubles titles (1912-14) and played on the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1911 and 1914.

Born on Sept. 1, 1916, Cheney picked up the nickname "Dodo" because her two older brothers couldn't pronounce "Dorothy."

"I'm glad it didn't come out `Doo-Doo,' " she joked.

Cheney didn't begin playing tennis until age 8, and despite having two world-class players as parents, she never felt pressure to follow in their footsteps.

"I always had too much fun," Cheney said. "I always just loved playing. Of course my parents, especially my mother, liked it when I won because she was very competitive, but I didn't really develop that terrific competitive spirit until I was in the senior tournaments."

Since Cheney's livelihood didn't revolve around tennis, she didn't approach it as a job, unlike the players of the last few generations.

"What a difference," Cheney said. "I never practiced or trained. I just had a darn good time. Today, they're practicing five or six hours a day when they're not in a tournament."

To this day, Cheney rarely steps on a court unless she's playing a match.

"I don't play too much between tournaments because I like going into a tournament just full of zest and raring to go," Cheney said. "If you play and practice all the time, you get stale -- at least I do. At this tournament I was especially gung-ho because I hadn't played in three weeks."

To watch Cheney play at 85 is a treat. Although she walks with a slight limp, she has great anticipation, which allows her to run down shots that others can't, and she still has the ability to mix pace with spin and the skill to place the ball on a dime from every spot on the court.

"As you grow older, of course, you lose your agility, your footwork isn't as good, you lose your eyesight, you lose your power ... you lose everything," Cheney said. "When you lose your power, then you resort to strategy and placement and control.

"As a kid playing in the Open tournaments, I didn't know what a drop shot was. I just wanted to swat that ball as hard as I could, but once I became a senior playing against other senior players, I developed a drop shot because it's invaluable."

Tactically, Cheney is sharp as can be. On her first serve of the finals match, Cheney watched Burr hit a drop shot service return for a winner. Moving to the ad court, Cheney switched to an underhand serve and followed it to the net, then hit a drop-shot winner of her own.

"The reason that I serve underhand is that I have a sore arm, so when I serve overhand, I can't get any power at all, except for the last serve of the match," Cheney said. "I found when I gave her my rinky-dink (overhand) serve, she'd put it away, so I had to change.

"If you're competitive at all, you're thinking of how to win the points, definitely."

When Cheney isn't on the court, she's with her friends playing a wide variety of card games, especially poker and bridge. Cheney's enthusiasm for life is apparent at tournaments, where she's treated with reverence. She's always waving or saying hello to someone on changeovers or even between points, and she can't walk 10 feet without someone addressing her.

"She's like a kid," said 75s standout Betty Eisenstein. "She loves every single minute of it, and she's as competitive at tennis or bridge or anything as she's ever been. I would play (tennis or cards) with her any time she asked."

Still competing in two different age divisions, Cheney has no intention of ever giving up her true passion.

"My philosophy of life is I'm looking forward to my next great-grandchild (her second) ... and the next tournament," Cheney said. "I'll play as long as I can because I still love it. You'd think I'd be sick and tired of it by now, wouldn't you?

"And the tougher the competition, the better. I still love a good, tight match."

Spoken like a true champion.

Rollo Nov 9th, 2002 08:23 AM

Pic of Dodo and her more famous mother-May Sutton Bundy

At the 2002 US Open

disposablehero Nov 10th, 2002 03:22 PM

Yes, Rollo, I actually pulled my list of names from the Hall Of Fame site, but Louise Brough slipped by me.

Rollo Nov 10th, 2002 04:22 PM

DH-I like your idea of bringing these women to the slams they won. A 40th,50th, or 60th year anniversary would be great. Fans could really have fun with it by having them autograph memorabilia and the like, show clips of the "oldies" and put up pictures.

Ryan Nov 10th, 2002 05:10 PM

:eek: Dodo sounds like an amazing person. They should have her at the Aussie Open next year, or whichever one she won before.

irma Nov 11th, 2002 08:03 AM


Sam L Nov 16th, 2002 11:14 PM


Originally posted by Rollo
Right now I'm reading Helen Wills autobiography.
Please do tell as much as you can if you have time :)

wow @ Dodo Cheney!

Zummi Jan 4th, 2003 05:53 AM

Margaret du Pont lives in El Paso on her ranch. She loves horses. She used to raise thoroughbred racehorses with her second doubles partner, Margaret Varner Bloss. Not sure if she still does that.

way Jan 4th, 2003 09:47 AM

The story about Cheney is amazing.
Didn't know that!!!

way Jan 4th, 2003 09:49 AM

And, since we' re talking oldest living female great, if we just add "active" and since i see Zummi is here I must say you gool'ol Tina's kicking some ass, isn't she?

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