Summary and Statistics
1966 was a topsy-turvy year that saw four different singles winners at all four slams.
The year started out on form. As usual Margaret Smith won the Australian Nationals. What was unusual was the final, which went unplayed because Nancy Richey twisted her knee. She won the semifinal playing in pain. The American was in tears when she choose to default after a doctor told her going on court risked injury. It remains the only defaulted slam final in women's tennis history.
An early sign that Smith was not going to have things all her way came in South Africa. The South African Championships, dubbed "Little Wimbledon", are the most prestigious event on hard courts. Recently married Billie Jean Moffitt is now Mrs King, and she triumphs quite easily in the final over Smith 6-3 6-2. In the final King was “immaculate in every department..and combined power and finesse to prevent Margaret from ever asserting herself.” King smiled and talked to herself as she had throughout the event, a trait which earned her many fans. Smith’s wrist was heavily taped; she also had problems with her serve. She immediately returns home to rest her wrist for a month and will not return until the French Championships.
The next event of signicance was the Italian Championships. Nancy Richey, who had been seeded #1, pulled out after the draw had been made. “It never looked as though anyone but Ann Jones and Annette van zyl would reach the women’s final. With no Smith, no Bueno, no Turner, no Richey and no King, a little of the glamour was rubbed off Mrs Jones victory, but it was gained in the most relentless fashion.
In the final Ann reverses her 4 defeats to van zyl in the South African circuit. ‘There were drop shots galore of course, as the two great Queens of the drop shot..” Jones looked to be in trouble early down 3-1 when a great crowd briefly converged on the ladies as fans moved from one men’s match to another in the stadium. Annette even had a set point. The South African let the commotion affect her concentration and never looked the same. When Annette double faulted at match point there were few in the stands. At 8-6 6-1 Jones is the champion of Rome.
Jones impresses the next week at the Federation Cup in Turin. Among her victims is Billie Jean King, who incredibly has never played before on European red clay. Despite being beaten by Jones the United States advanced to the final, where King and Julie Heldman clinch a victory over Germany. Despite her success King skips the French for minor US events.
At the French Ann Jones continues her clay court mastery by winning Roland Garros. Jones' biggest scare was in the semis, where she was a set and 5-6 down to a hot and cold Maria Bueno. Bueno, back on tour after an 8 month break, was brilliant one minute and hitting balls miles out of court the next. Steadiness won out over brilliance in the end; with Maria wilting under a hot sun as she went down tamely 6-2 in the final set. The final score was 4-6 8-6 6-2. In the other semi Nancy destroys Margaret Smith 6-1 6-3.
In a lopsided final Nancy ran into "the wall", AKA Ann Jones. Richey "fought as if she were at the Alamo", but Ann got the better of her in long rallies. The one sided score of 6-3 6-1 was deceptive, as it was a tough fought contest of long rallies and games. The first game of the second set went to deuce 12 times and lasted 18 minutes. The game was a decisive one-Jones ran off a 5-0 lead before Nancy made one last stand. Richey wore a knee strap throughout the French, a vestige of her injury on Australia.
The Wightman Cup was a notable curtain rasier to Wimbledon. With Great Britian leading the series 3 matches to 2 the pressure was squarely on Ann Jones and Billie Jean King. Jones hadn't lost in months, but this was grass, where King thrives. At 2-1 in the third set King took salt tablets fro cramps and limped about the court. With King apparently at her mercy a distracted Jones froze. Billie Jean won the third set 6-3, with several in the packed crowd yelling "she's faking her cramps!". Billie Jean denied any gamesmanship. To this day Jones insists King was faking her injury. The United States took the Cup the next day in the deciding doubles.
Wimbledon. The top 4 contenders (Smith, Bueno, King, and Jones) came through to the semis, though King needed 3 sets to put down pesky Annette van Zyl and Ann Jones had a 3-6 6-1 6-1 tussle with Nancy Richey.
What followed were the 3 biggest matches of the season.
The Smith-King match was first on to court. Billie Jean's confidence was high from beating Margaret for the first time since 1962, at the South African Championships earlier in the year. This was where Margaret had injured her hand which kept her out of the circuit for 6 weeks and may perhaps explain why she had not been in top form since returning.
The match lasted only three-quarters of an hour and seldom reached a very high standard. It was Billie Jean, a better match player par excellence, but not without a touch of gamesmanship, who came through 6-3 6-3. She gave an efficient all court performance but relied mainly on her volley and overhead. For once Margaret was faced with someone who produced a more aggressive net attack and she found herself being forced backwards by astute lobbing. For someone who had twice before won the title Margaret seemed very unsure of herself and Billie Jean was in charge from the beginning.
In semi #2 Bueno and Jones served up not just the match of the Championships but that of the year. Bueno led 6-3 3-1, playing in the zone as if no force could stop her. Jones dug in as only she can-breaking back and serving to save the match 4 times. She even saved 2 match points at 8-9 15-40. When Jones won it at 11-9 the crowd erupted with joy.
The final set began with the excitement almost tangible among the ecstatic crowd. Was Ann about to produce a repeat of their recent RG semi where she had also lost the first set but raised her game to Maria's brilliant level in the second and come from behind to a resounding win?
Well, they hardly had time to draw their breath when Maria let them know she was having none of that as once again breathtaking tennis saw her storm to a 5-0 lead as Jones was powerless under the onslaught. Ann managed to salvage her next service game and the crowd sighed. Staging an unbelievable comeback, Jones fought all the way to 5 all when she briefly let down to at last allow Bueno a chance at a 4th Wimbledon title.
Fans queued all night for the final.
King was described as determined, forceful, strong, efficient and courageous, with her own special brand of talent. Maria, a Prima Donna to her fingertips looked elegant, proud and immaculately coutured but frail beside her opponent. There was no love lost between the two.
Although Billie Jean served several double faults these were followed with straight aces and astute lobbing had Maria in constant difficulty. Maria's slow spun second serve invited punishment - and received it. Breaking for 3-1 BJ held the advantage to take the set 6-3.
It was the best set in an uninspired final. Errors predominated in the last two sets, with Maria taking the middle chapter and King closing it out. On match point her racquet went skyward. The new Queen of Wimbledon was a King.
Post-Wimbledon King suffers several upsets amidst health isues, while at the German International Margaret Smith rights the ship by topping Maria Bueno 8-6 6-0. At this point "Mighty Maggie" shocks the tennis world by declaring she is hanging up her racquets and heading home to Australia.
With Smith out King and Bueno are the prohibitive favorites at Forest Hills for the US Nationals.
Billie Jean flames out to Kerry Melville in 2R after objecting to the match being called by the umpire Al Bumann of Dallas . The umpire had been involved in the 1964 US rankings controversy when Billie Jean was co-ranked #1 with Texan Nancy Richey, being the prime instigator behind getting Nancy added to the #1 spot.
One wonders if King felt deliberately slighted by the USTA. She complained about the selection at the start of the match to the tournament referee to no avail.
Kerry played the match of her life; smacking her sidespin forehand with gusto and passing Billie Jean repeatedly. Billie Jean tried her utmost to stem the tide as the Aussie took the opener with a backhand passing shot.
Melville was a point away from going down 0-3 in the second set, but pulled out the game. It at this point that all the fight went out of Billie Jean. According to the New York Times "There were times...when Mrs King stopped and seemed indifferent to the fate that was engulfing her. On other occassions she hit with a careless abandon indicative of a lack of interest."
Even a downcast King made it tough. The #1 seed was at 3-2 and 40-15 when Melville won a thrilling rally with an overhead. Billie Jean dug in and saved 1 match point at 3-5 down, twice serving aces. Kery's forehand fittingly had the last word, as she boomed 3 winner soff that wing to close out the biggest slam upset of 1966.
Maria Bueno went on to victory after an entertaining 6-2 10-12 6-3 semi win against Rosie Casals. The tiny Californian hits acrobatic volleys and overheads with wild abandon. This match makes her a star. In the other final Nancy Richey ends the dream run of Kerry Melville 6-3 6-2.
Richey was in her 3rd slam final of 1966. In this case the third time was not the charm. Bueno routinely dismissed her 6-3 6-1.
So who was #1 for the year? The edge went to Billie Jean King, who won the biggest event of the year and went 3-0 vs Bueno and Smith. The minority who cited Bueno as #1 pointed to her more consistent record.
One theme of the year was the rise of new talent in the top ten. The names Virginia Wade, Francoise Durr, and Rosie Casals would stay more or less permanent over the next decade in women's tennis.
Top Ten Rankings Poll of Polls
*taken from 5 rankings found at: https://www.tennisforum.com/3996676-post44.html
01. Billie Jean King (United States)---45 points-ranked #1 in 3 of 5 polls
02. Maria Bueno (Brazil)-------------45 points-ranked #1 in 2 of 5 polls
03. Margaret Smith (Australia)-------42 points-ranked #2 in 3 of 5 polls
04. Ann Jones (Great Britain)--------35 points
05. Nancy Richey (United States)----33 points
06. Annette van Zyl (South Africa)---25 points-ranked #6 in every poll
07. Rosie Casals (United States)-----13 points
08. Francoise Durr (France)----------12 points
09. Norma Baylon (Argentina)--------11 points
10. Kerry Melville (Australia)---------06 points
T11. Carole Graebner (Uited States)------03 points
T11. Virginia Wade (Great Britain)---------03 points
 Billie Jean King
Won 10 events of 18 singles events entered. (Also won 11 doubles and 1 mixed title)
Match record: 57 wins-6 defeats, and 3 defaults. (.904 winning %)
Singles titles at US Indoors, Phoenix, South African, Ojai, Southern California, US Hard, Tulsa, Manchester, Wimbledon, and Piping Rock. Won on all surfaces.
Won first 9 of 10 events through Wimbledon. Ziegenfuss her only loss outside the world top ten.
Had a winning or tied head to head vs all competition: (11-5 vs Top 10)
1-0 vs Bueno, 2-2 vs Casals, 1-0 vs Durr, 1-1 vs Jones, 1-1 vs Melville, 2-0 vs Smith, 1-0 vs Van Zyl, 2-1 vs Wade 2-1 vs Ziegenfuss
Thanks go out to Andrew Tas
and Chris Whiteside
for results, and Ignatius
for catching important errors. Hats off as well to Jimbo
for his additions and Elegos
for Hungarian results. The Computer (Graham)
has added many results and deserves special thanks for improving this thread.
has complete set of WT from 1966.
has produced a thread to help us complete results for 1966. I wish to thank him here and provide a link to his work at: 1966 Results Tournaments - TennisForum.com