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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 12:31 AM   #1
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The Helen Wills Thread

Surely "Miss Poker Face" deserves a thread of her own. Helen Wills Moody may have been the best of them all, and certainly is high up or atop any "greatest of all-time" list.

Here's a thread dedicated to her
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 12:37 AM   #2
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Helen at the 1924 Olympics. This was her first visit overseas and she was eager for a chance to play the legendary Suzanne Lenglen. Unfortunately Lenglen was ill that year and withdrew from both the Olympics and Wimbledon.

At her first Wimbledon Helen blasted her way to the finals to meet Kitty Mckane Godfree. Wills led 4-1 in the third before experience and the British crowd got the better of her.

Wills said her concentration was so intense she didn't even know the score. Kitty said she won "because I never forgot it."

Miss Poker Face wrote (I'll look for her quote) something like "it was the last time I ever cried over a tennis match."

It was the only time Wills ever lost at Wimbledon!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 01:02 AM   #3
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Claim to all-time greatest status:

1. She has the longest unbeaten streak in tennis history, standing at over 150 matches. From 1927 until Wimbledon of 1933 Helen didn't even lose a SET, let alone a match. Dorothy Round took a set off Helen in the 33 Wimbledon final, and weeks later Wills streak was broken when she retired in the final vs. Jacobs at Forest Hills.

2. Third on the list of all-time winners of grand slams at 19 (8 Wimbledons 7 US, and 4 French titles), plus the 1924 Olympics. This was accomplished without ever entering the Australian Chmps, a minor event in her day. If Aussie titles are discounted Wills heads the list of those who won "the big three", with 19 to Steffi Graf's 18.

3. A winning head to head record versus 99% of her competitors, the lone exception being Suzanne Lenglen, who beat her in their only meeting at Cannes in 1926.

Fashion Style

As a youngster she was derided by Europeans for lacking style-Helen was no risque flapper. Her attire in early years consisted of a middy blouse, a sort of schoolgirl uniform.

As she matured though Helen developed a definaite style.

1. Green eyeshade--she never went on court without it.
2. A visor-almost always worn.
3. A cardigan sweater. Sometimes she didn't take it off during the match.

Put it together and you got---Cover of Time magazine-1929

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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 01:04 AM   #4
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Wills also made the cover of Time in 1926, when she went up against Suzanne Lenglen in the "Battle of the Century".



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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 01:05 AM   #5
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On court playing Style

Fast and furious. She would fit in fine with today's big babes of tennis. Helen liked to pound the hell out of the ball on both sides. She used topspin oo hit flat on both the forehand and backhand, only learning to hit slice and the drop shot later on.

This was rare in the 20s and 30s. Not until Mo Connolly came along in the 50s was there someone with her style.

To top all that off she had a huge serve that kep opponents on their heels, a lot like Steffi Graf could. Elizabeth Ryan said that in an average game Helen would come up with two serves that were outright aces or unreturnable.

Wills was good at the net, winning more doubles majors than any other baseliner, but it was never her strength.

Helen's one big weakness was her movement. Descriptions of her play remind a reader of Lindsay Davenport-huge groundstrokes and a serve that kept the other woman on the run so she didn't have to.

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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 01:32 AM   #6
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Personality

Her personality remains an enigma to this day. She was famous for being emotionally reserved--showing no emotion at all on court no matter what the score was. It earned her the nickname "Miss Poker Face", or the less kind "Ice Queen".

As the years went by crowds got bored by her winning everything in sight. Critics pegged her a cold woman who never game of herself. They said her "poker face" was a mask with no brains behind it. Helen often decided to hang up her racquet for weeks or months and skip events to pursue "outside interests", mostly centering on art or partying with the rich and famous.

Just as Serena has had her star turns on television, Helen used her fame to have art exhibitions of her paintings. When she did a screen test for a possible Hollywood film she was deemed "too muscular".

Muscular or not, Helen was a beauty in her day. Mysterious and elusive, Ted Tingling called her "the Greta Garbo of tennis".
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 01:49 AM   #7
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I don't think she was the Greta Garbo of anything. As far as beauty goes, she certainly got admirers from Europe and America. A physical player who could wear you down on the baseline. She is not mysterious though.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 02:12 AM   #8
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I don't think she was the Greta Garbo of anything. As far as beauty goes, she certainly got admirers from Europe and America. A physical player who could wear you down on the baseline. She is not mysterious though.
So are you in the "dumb as doornail social climber bitch" group, or do you think there was more depth to her than meets the eye? She never gave details about why her two marriages didn't last, and for that matter neither did her husbands.

Then there were those who absolutely adored her (Don Budge and George Bernard Shaw for example) and those who hated her guts (Bill Tilden). I guess being loved or hated isn't amazing in itself-it's the intensity of the feeling.

Character-wise I feel she's hard to grasp.

On court the #1 mystery-controversy will always be the circumstances surrounding her default to Helen Jacobs at Forest Hills in 1933 at 0-3 in the third. Imagine the Henin-Mauresno controversy multiplied 10 times. Was she really THAT hurt? Would she have stayed on court and lost if it hadn't been Helen Jacobs, her most bitter foe? Was she really so stupid or blind that she offered to play the doubles final with Elizabeth Ryan after defaulting? Ryan said there would have been a riot had that happened, and tellingly wrote there were things about that match she couldn't divulge, things she would take to her grave.

IMO it's all part and parcel of what you wrote in the other thread about this era being like a masonic order. There's a bit of mystery to masons, n'est pas?

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Old Jun 22nd, 2006, 07:02 AM   #9
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So are you in the "dumb as doornail social climber bitch" group, or do you think there was more depth to her than meets the eye? She never gave details about why her two marriages didn't last, and for that matter neither did her husbands.
Then there were those who absolutely adored her (Don Budge and George Bernard Shaw for example) and those who hated her guts (Bill Tilden). I guess being loved or hated insn't amazing in itself-it's the intensity of the feeling.

Character-wise I feel she's hard to grasp.

On court the #1 mystery-controversy will always be the circumstances surrounding her default to Helen Jacobs at Forest Hills in 1933 at 0-3 in the third. Imagine the Henin-Mauresno controversy multiplied 10 times. Was she really THAT hurt? Would she have stayed on court and lost if it hadn't been Helen Jacobs, her most bitter foe? Was she really so stupid or blind that she offered to play the doubles final with Elizabeth Ryan after defaulting? Ryan said there would have been a riot had that happened, and tellingly wrote there were things about that match she couldn't divulge, things she would take to her grave.

IMO it's all part and parcel of what you wrote in the other thread about this era being like a masonic order. There's a bit of mystery to masons, n'est pas?
I was trying to be polite to Helen and her legacy. I lost all respect when she said after Martina won her 9th Wimbledon, "she pumps iron, I don't." I would think you would be a little bit gracious than that at age 87 (1990). Especially when Hollywood said that Helen was too muscular so she wasn't invited to do the movies. I didn't particular didn't like how she didn't like Helen Hull Jacobs to touch her after a match which she usually won. She was aware of Helen Hull Jacobs sexual orientation that I would like to know how.

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Old Jun 24th, 2006, 09:12 AM   #10
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I was trying to be polite to Helen and her legacy. I lost all respect when she said after Martina won her 9th Wimbledon, "she pumps iron, I don't." I would think you would be a little bit gracious than that at age 87 (1990). Especially when Hollywood said that Helen was too muscular so she wasn't invited to do the movies. I didn't particular didn't like how she didn't like Helen Hull Jacobs to touch her after a match which she usually won. She was aware of Helen Hull Jacobs sexual orientation that I would like to know how.
WHAT? Helen was a big fan of Martina Navratilova. She said it as a compliment. And that she was happy to see Martina get the record.

The two Helens had a different story and a lot of history between each other. It wasn't a homosexual thing, she didn't like her for a lot for other reasons. Apparently they knew each other as kids.
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Old Jun 24th, 2006, 06:13 PM   #11
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I will take into consideration concerning Martina. But with Helen Jacobs, she kept beating her. I don't know why she felt threatned by her. I mean she quit with what she says a sore back she says but was ready to play doubles with Elizabeth Ryan.
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Old Jun 26th, 2006, 02:49 PM   #12
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[quote=Sam L]WHAT? Helen was a big fan of Martina Navratilova. She said it as a compliment. And that she was happy to see Martina get the record..[quote]

I agree. She did a long distance telephone interview with Bud Collins and Joanne Russell just prior to the start of the 1987 Wimbledon final, telecast on NBC, and she had wonderful things to say about Martina, and specifically, the quality of tennis she and Chris just played in the previous day's semi-final.

I'm still trying to figure out what planet this new guy/gal is from. Admittedly, a few much-needed sparks of conversation have erupted, but the excitement (at least for me) is frequently tempered by absolute make believe.
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Old Jun 27th, 2006, 12:11 AM   #13
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I asked Bud Collins on his web if Helen was asexual. No answer. I heard mixed reviews about Helen and that she was homophobic at times. What is her view towards sexuality?
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Old Jun 27th, 2006, 12:58 AM   #14
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Trivfun- have you read The Goddess and the American Girl- by Larry Engelmann? -it can often be had cheaply on Ebay and was a great book.

Helen was married twice and connected with a number of men. She usually met personal press questions with a "no comment" type attitude. It doesn't sound like someone who was asexual to me. If she had been that cold she hardly would have posed as a model for Diego Rivera's mural (see the 30s thread).

Engelmann's book throws out the theory that Helen was what you call "homophobic"-a possible reason for her "feud" with "Little Helen". Surely though most people at that time were-witness Don Budge and his disgust when Bill Tilden took him to a Berlin Caberet with all it's "oogly-googly boys".

Another theory runs that Wills disliked Jacobs middle-class background. As Ted Tinling put it, Wills father was a doctor, while Jacobs father was "in trade".

IMO it all boils down to a natural antipathy towards the next in line. Wills scanned the horizon and saw only one other American who refused to accept second place-and that woman was Jacobs.

The "why" may always remain a mystery. Helen's husband Freddy admitted she couldn't stand Jacobs, but he couldn't say exactly why.

Again, in the end Helen somehow managed to be a very private public figure.
It's that Mona Lisa type quality that intrigues me.
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Old Jun 27th, 2006, 01:08 AM   #15
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Anyway I had to share this-I recently bought Helen's autograph on Ebay. It was very distinctive, as Helen often drew little pictures of herselfwith the famous visor.

At any rate when got the autograph on Friday I showed it to my tennis buddy. We noticed writing on the back and flipped the sheet over. It looked like "John ??? Ford' to me, but it turned out to be JOAN CRAWFORD. That's right-the original "Mommy Dearest" herself! The person who sold it to me must have missed that!

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