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Old Jul 31st, 2004, 05:32 PM   #1
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Maureen Connolly: Most dominant player ever

We speculate about a lot of "what if's" on this forum. Looking at Maureen Connolly's stats, it appears as though she may have been the most dominant player of all time. She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine. She was forced to retire at age 20. We could speculate about how many titles she would've finished with had she stayed healthy. If she'd played all four slams until age 28, she might've reached 30 and then the "Greatest of All Time" argument would be a closed case. Any thoughts on Little Mo's career and achievements?
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Old Jul 31st, 2004, 05:46 PM   #2
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"She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine".
No, we've discussed this elsewhere on here. She entered two US Championships before her title-winning years, losing early in both, but these have been airbrushed out of her biography for some reason.
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Old Jul 31st, 2004, 06:54 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Declan
"She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine".
No, we've discussed this elsewhere on here. She entered two US Championships before her title-winning years, losing early in both, but these have been airbrushed out of her biography for some reason.
Thanks for the correction. But still, she lost in to US Champs at 15 and 16 and never lost another GS match. Wow! Is there another player who ever was as dominant in her career?

I know Lenglen and Wills Moody hardly lost in their careers. I would question the quality of their opponents during their days. I know they had 2-3 strong players, but I think they had a lot of lollipops to go up against.
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Old Jul 31st, 2004, 10:25 PM   #4
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I didn't mean to sound school-teacherish on this, Preacherfan! Like you I'd always belived the '100% success rate at Slams' line until a year or so ago, and I was amazed to find out it wasn't true! I can't remember who Maureen lost to in those tournaments, though - can anyone remind us? Thanks in advance!
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Old Aug 1st, 2004, 07:47 AM   #5
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Declan-You can add my name to those who thought at first that Mo never lost in a slam-we all live and learn!

IMO it has become harder to totally dominate a tour in tennis. With all the women traveling the world (not possible before passenger air travel in the 1950s) the competition is keener. Mo Connolly's 9 straight slams can't be touched except by Helen Wills, who didn't lose in any slam from 1925 until her defeat in 1933. Helen won about 15 or 16 consecutive slams she entered.

Was Helen's competition 'easier" than Mo Connolly's? Probably. But then Will's never had the chance to win the Grand Slam-so maybe these things even out.

From 1952 to 1954 Mo only lost 4 matches that I know of:

1952-Brough got her on California cement
1953-Hart beat her at the Italian
1954-ambidextrous Beverly Baker outslugged her on a Californai hardcourt.

Shirley Fry beat her somewhere in there.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 01:58 AM   #6
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"I didn't mean to sound school-teacherish on this, Preacherfan! Like you I'd always belived the '100% success rate at Slams' line until a year or so ago, and I was amazed to find out it wasn't true! I can't remember who Maureen lost to in those tournaments, though - can anyone remind us? Thanks in advance!"

If I remember correctly, Mo lost to Doris Hart in one of her previous visits to Forest Hills (1950???)


"We speculate about a lot of "what if's" on this forum. Looking at Maureen Connolly's stats, it appears as though she may have been the most dominant player of all time. She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine. She was forced to retire at age 20. We could speculate about how many titles she would've finished with had she stayed healthy. If she'd played all four slams until age 28, she might've reached 30 and then the "Greatest of All Time" argument would be a closed case. Any thoughts on Little Mo's career and achievements?"

If Mo had decided to play on, she probably would have racked up a couple more GS and lots more GS titles, however, from her autobiography and also what I read in Jack Kramer's book (he was a witness for her in court), it seems as though Mo was going to turn pro at the end of '54 (or '55 at the latest). I also got the feeling upon reading her book that she was so wrapped up in the idea of being "Mrs Norman Brinker" that she would have been happy to quit the circuit anyway in order to be a wife/homemaker/mother.

Apropos her accident and the effect on her tennis career, (selfishly), I think it's a real shame what happened to Mo; She would not have been 30 until 1965, well into the Court/Bueno/King era and IF she had continued to play amateur tennis, I imagine her name would have been seen in most GS finals up to that time....

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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 02:57 AM   #7
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Maureen's two GS losses:

1949 US National

2nd round Barbara Scofield d Connolly 6-4, 6-3

I hope I got that name right. The other loss:

1950 US National

2nd round Doris Hart d Connolly 6-2, 7-5

I haven't read Hart's book but, I have read other's comments on her book and from what I understand Hart felt that if Maureen had wanted to continue playing after her accident she could have. In a way I wish she would have. Right now I'm reading The Match by Bruce Schoenfeld and I'm up to the part where he writes about Brough, du Pont, Hart and Fry. Schoenfeld writes that many of the women players at this time were like "sorority girls." Connolly was younger than these women and I think she would have broken up their little party a bit.

Connolly I think was the first to have a "killer instinct." Now I have read where other posters pretty much put all that hate thing on Eleanor "Teach" Tennant and make her out to be this mean old coach who just changed this sweet little child into a killer on the court who hated her opponents but that's not totally true. Connolly herself in her biography makes it clear Teach couldn't have done it unless the seeds of hate were already in her. She hated to lose more than she loved to win. Even Ted Tingling says Connolly must have had the killer instinct in her so start with. Teach just honed it.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 09:04 AM   #8
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FYI: the excellent documentary about Mo Connolly will be airing on the Tennis Channel in March.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 11:54 AM   #9
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As you guys all say, the tennis world could have been a radically different place had Mo not disappeared off the scene in 54 in so many ways. What influence would she have had on the prevailing style of tennis taught to youngsters throughout the 50s and 60s if she'd enjoyed a long reign at the top? Evert's (father and daughter) tennis values seem far closer to those of Maureen than to anyone else, it seems to me.

This is another instance of a player's premature departure possibly (note "possibly") resulting in the prolongation of some careers and the earlier ascent to the top of others. It didn't start with the assault on Monica or Tracy's forced retirement.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 01:31 PM   #10
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The fact is, Maureen was the best of her time. Plain in simple. And that is what matters.

Had she not had her career cut short so early, who knows what really would have happened.

It would have been interesting to have seen her against Althea Gibson more frequently and eventually had she kept going, Margaret Smith. Considering those two women were bigger and stronger, I would assume they possibly would have been huge challenges for her.

Either way, she got to be a tennis champion for a brief time in her career.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 02:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jakeev
The fact is, Maureen was the best of her time. Plain in simple. And that is what matters.

Had she not had her career cut short so early, who knows what really would have happened.

It would have been interesting to have seen her against Althea Gibson more frequently and eventually had she kept going, Margaret Smith. Considering those two women were bigger and stronger, I would assume they possibly would have been huge challenges for her.

Either way, she got to be a tennis champion for a brief time in her career.
The great Pauline Betz was more than happy when someone once told her that Maureen's baseline game reminded them of hers. She also pointed out an interesting stat- that neither Doris Hart nor Maureen Connolly ever lost to Althea Gibson, and it's interesting to think where tennis would have gone had Maureen returned to the tour. Pauline and Maureen are the only two notable baseliners to come out of California in the 40s and 50s. All the rest were brought up as serve-and-volleyers in the style made famous by Alice Marble, Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne, and even Sarah Palfrey from the East Coast. To speculate, for Maureen to have continued to win majors, if not dominate through the rest of the decade of the 50s would have had a profound effect on the direction the game was taught. It'd be interesting to read Nancy Richey's thoughts on Maureen Connolly. Hopefully she'll chime in on this thread and enlighten us a little!
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 02:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfajeffster
The great Pauline Betz was more than happy when someone once told her that Maureen's baseline game reminded them of hers. She also pointed out an interesting stat- that neither Doris Hart nor Maureen Connolly ever lost to Althea Gibson, and it's interesting to think where tennis would have gone had Maureen returned to the tour. Pauline and Maureen are the only two notable baseliners to come out of California in the 40s and 50s. All the rest were brought up as serve-and-volleyers in the style made famous by Alice Marble, Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne, and even Sarah Palfrey from the East Coast. To speculate, for Maureen to have continued to win majors, if not dominate through the rest of the decade of the 50s would have had a profound effect on the direction the game was taught. It'd be interesting to read Nancy Richey's thoughts on Maureen Connolly. Hopefully she'll chime in on this thread and enlighten us a little!

Another player who loved having people compare her to Maureen was Helen Wills.


The two people who might have been effected by Maureen staying in the game would be Althea Gibson and Darlene Hard. My the late 50s early 60s Maureen would have still been in her prime and may have stopped both women from winning a slam title.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 03:07 PM   #13
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Maria Bueno and even Rev Mags may have felt the effects too, RoanHJ. Maureen was only about 5 years older than Maria, if memory serves (Maria was born in '39).
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 05:26 PM   #14
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Maureen's greatest assett was her mental toughness. She quite simply just refused to lose. No matter when she had been born given the access to the fitness regimes and technology of that era she would have been a world #1.

IMO, the greatest post-war player of them all, ahead of Court and Graf.
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 12:49 AM   #15
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Surely a sign of greatness when players from Wills all the way to Evert are compared to you - Connolly certainly set the standard as one of the top two or three female baseliners of all time. Speaking for myself, I would've loved to have watched Maureen play Althea in her prime on a grass court*. From what I recall, the two competed well before Gibson reached her heights, though certainly Connolly would hold the edge - even on grass - regardless.

*Another variable to consider; might Gibson've significantly improved had she not been lured into the pro ranks after such a brief time at the top? Was her coaching/training on par with Connolly's? Also, it seems class issues affected Gibson's career more significantly than a player like Connolly, who (it seems reasonable to gather) like Wills would've quite likely just kept on playing, piling up perhaps 12-15 more GS titles.
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