1961 in review
Composite World Rankings
01. 30 points-Angela Mortimer (Great Britain)
02. 24 points-Darlene Hard (United States)
03. 24 points-Ann Haydon (Great Britain)
04. 23 points-Margaret Smith (Australia)
05. 16 points-Sandra Reynolds (South Africa)
06. 16 points-Christine Truman (Great Britiain)
07. 12 points-Yola Ramirez (Mexico)
08. 09 points-Karen Hantze (United States)
09. 05 points-Suzy Kormoczy (Hungary)
10. 03 points-Renee Schuurman (South Africa)
11. Edda Buding (Germany)
12. Lesley Turner (Australia)
Taken from 3 world rankings by the British Readers Poll, Lance Tingay of the Daily Mail, and Ned Potter of World Tennis. #1=10 points, #2=9 points, etc in a sliding scale.
For the individual world rankings see https://www.tennisforum.com/3996666-post39.html
The grand slams were split among the top 4 women in 1961, it being a year where no one dominated in majors or on the tour as a whole.
Margaret Smith repeated as Australia champion over a weak field without international stars. Finally allowed to tour the world with backing from the Aussie LTA, she proves she is world class abroad as she and Lesley Turner hit the international circuit under Nell Hopman. While not apparent in 1961, this was the start of Aussie women becoming a regular presence at all 4 slams and atop or in the world top ten rankings.
Smith's first big test comes on European red clay at the Italian Championships. In the semifinals she is bested by Maria Bueno. Bueno is riding high as world #1 in 1959 and 1960. She looks set to repeat in 1961 as she beats Lesley Turner in the final at Rome. It's on to Paris for the French, the biggest title Maria hasn't won.
Bueno comes into Paris as the clear favorite. Defending champion and top seed Darlene Hard is bounced out in the round of 16 by Edda Buding. More surprises come in the quarterfinals. #2 seed Bueno falls to clay court toughie Suzy Kormozcy in straight sets. Seeded third, Margaret Smith is run to death by Ann Haydon. The British girl is a human backboard who refuses to miss. Smith cramps on court in agony as Haydon keeps her movng ans wins 7-5 12-10. Mexican Yola Ramirez accounts for #4 seed Christine Truman, the 1959 French winner.
Crowds often filled the seats for the women's matches on outside courts, while center court (occupied by the men most of the event) was empty except except for the final. Eve the semis aren't on Court Centrale. Both go to 3 sets-Haydon over Kormoczy and Ramirez over Buding. The final was dull and uninteresting, as Haydon waited for Yola to make an error. A strong wind swept center court, which neither woman had played on until the final! Yola tried for winners and missed, often overshooting the baseline. The pretty Mexican with the white bandana thus bowed out of her second French final. To this day she remains the only female slam finalist from Mexico.
As the tour leaves for the grass of England it learns that Maria Bueno is suffering from jaundice. Her 1961 tennis season is over. The Brazilian girl is stuck in Paris for over a month in a cramped hotel room until she is taken home. Devoted friend and doubles partner Darlene Hard decides to nurse Maria. This means that the #1 and #2 women who captured the major grass court events for the past two years would be absent from Wimbledon.
1961's Wimbledon seemed fated from the start to be decided by a combination of absent stars, injury, and near escape. Without Bueno and Hard Wimbledon is a golden opportunity. This is the first Wimbledon for Margaret Smith and Billie Jean Moffitt. As Mrs Court and Mrs King they will will a lot of hardware at the Championships over the coming decade. Billie Jean loses early in singles as Yola Ramirez finds her weak forehand. Billie Jean's sereve and volley are first rate however, and she teams with Karen Hantze as the unseeded pair capture the ladies doubles.
In the round of 16 #3 seed and French winner Ann Haydon drops a tough 3 setter to Renee Schuurman 3-6 6-4 6-2. Ann's style of play just doesn't translate well on grass.
The match of the fortnight was Truman's escape vs. Margaret Smith in the quarterfinals. Twice the Aussie lass had match point as Centre Court writhed in agony. It was 6-5 in her favor as Smith came to the net to put away a passing shot that hit the net cord and bounced up above her. She got her racquet on the ball only to see it sail an inch long. At 7-6 Smith barely missed an approach shot wide. As Truman hit spectacular backhand volleys for the last two games Centre Court "became a madhouse".
Karen Hantze also had match point in her QF vs. Schuurman, who dismissed it with a crosscourt winner. The loser left in tears.
In the semis Brits Angela Mortimer and Christine Truman bested the "Tennis Twins" from South Africa. Pretty Sandra Reynolds and Renee Schuurman put up good fights but both lost in straight sets.
Thus the British has a dream final. This was the first all British final since 1914! It's a thriller. Angela Mortimer wins 4-6 6-4 7-5 in a match much talked about for years afterwards. Christine fell down on late in the 3rd set. Did it affect the outcome?
Christine's fall came when she was within a point of 5-3 in set two. Near the net she slipped and fell with a heavy thud, clutching at her left leg on getting up. Somehow she regained some mobility in the third set, fighting to 3-3. The Centre Court crowd was in an uproar when a call went against Truman at her ad in that crucial game. Again at 5-5 she had vantage point, only to see it slip away. Angela remarked later. "I was so sorry for Christine. But this was a long time in coming. She got the sympathy but I got the title." Angela had her own problems coming into Wimbledon, being sidelined for weeks with an inflamed elbow.
With a Wimbledon winner and finalist British girls are favored to win the Wightman Cup, played in Chicago in the summer. Instead the Brits are routed 6-1 by young American upstarts.
At Forest Hills Darlene Hard is back to defend her title. 3 Aussie make the quarterfinals (Lehane, Smith ,and Turner), but only Smith survives.
Angela Mortimer has a rough event-first she is challenged by a female attendent ("Are you a player?") when she wants to enter the ladies lockeroom, then she is bounced by countrywoman Ann Haydon in the semis.
Hard "rather resembled an angry tigress" in overcoming Margaret Smith in the other semi.
Darlene kept up her relatively error-free tennis in serve and volleying Ann Haydon off the court in the final. For a moment it looked like the Brit might make a match of it-saving 3 match point at 3-5 and having a point to tie it at 5 a piece, but Hard hung on and won it with a marvelous forehand half volley winner.
Thus the year ends with a different winner in all 4 majors, 5 if one counts the Italian as the 5th major. Ann Haydon was the only woman to make more than 1 slam final. Had she won Forest Hills she could have claimed to be #1. In pundits books however it is Wimbledon winner Angela Mortimer who is ranked #1.
Ugarte has done research for 1961. His results may be found at:
1961 Results Tournaments - TennisForum.com
Many results come from World Tennis