Brenda Kirk, One of South Africa's Great Tennis Legends
ON 18/12/2015 08:12am
Brenda Bryson (Dimitriou-Kirk)
11 January 1951 - 06 September 2015
written by Lorna Krog
Former top South African tennis player, Brenda Bryson (nee Kirk) passed away in her sleep on 6th September 2015 and is survived by her husband and three children.
Brenda Kirk married Jimmy Dimitriou in 1975 and they had 2 children, a son Alexis who is now 39 and a daughter Natasha 36. Both children played hockey for their province – Transvaal at the time. Alexis went on to play hockey and water polo for South African schools.
After Brenda and Jimmy’s divorce, she married Iain Bryson and her third child, Gabriella, was born when Brenda was 51. Her son Alexis was married a month after she passed away while Natasha married in 2007, has 2 children and is expecting a third. Gaby is now 12 years old.
Natasha says: “She was the kindest woman I knew, always putting others needs before her own! Gone too soon, taken from us suddenly in her sleep! Wonderful friend, mother and grandmother”.
And Alexis : “To an amazing woman and mother, selfless, supportive, caring and compassionate. You would have given the shirt off your back and used the last cent in your purse to ensure we never went wanting even when things were tough. You have left an amazing legacy and I celebrate your life. I’ll never forget you, you are written in my scars. In the words of Robert Laurence Binyon: There is music in the midst of desolation and a glory that shines upon our tears”.
1968, ’69 and ’70 – won Eastern Transvaal Open with Wendy Tomlinson.
1969 – won Southern Transvaal with Wendy Tomlinson.
1971 – won the Eastern Province Open with Pat Pretorius.
1971 – won Border Open with Pat Pretorius.
International Grand Slams - Singles
In 1971 Brenda reached the 3rd round of Wimbledon beating Anne Coleman in the 1st round and Betty Stove in the 2nd round before bowing out to Kerry Reid.
1972 and again she made the 3rd round of the French Open where she was beaten by Helga Masthoff.
Women’s Doubles on the circuit
Apr-71 Laura Rossouw Margaret Smith/Yvonne Goolagong Finalist Johannesburg – SA
Jul-71 Laura Rossouw Francois Durr/Lea Pericoli Winner Gstaad – Switzerland
May-72 Betty Stove Yvonne Goolagong/Helen Gourlay Finalist Bournemouth – UK
Jun-72 Pat Walkden Rosie Casals/Billie-Jean King Finalist Queens – London
Jul-72 Pat Walkden Yvonne Goolagong/Karen Krantzke Winner Dublin – Ireland
Jul-72 Pat Walkden Yvonne Goolagong/Helen Gourlay Finalist Hoylake – UK
Aug-72 Pat Walkden Margaret Court/Yvonne Goolagong Finalist Cincinatti – US
Aug-72 Pat Walkden Margaret Court/Yvonne Goolagong Finalist Toronto – Canada
Aug-72 Pat Walkden Virginia Wade/Sharon Walsh Finalist Merion – US
Nov-72 Sharon Walsh Margaret Court/Virginia Wade Finalist Torquay – UK
FEDERATION CUP – 1972 – ELLIS PARK, JOHANNESBURG
Extracts from article by Sam Merwis....
Silence. A deathly, unbearable hush. Then, suddenly, a great roar which rocked Johannesburg as Ellis Park erupted. Bedlam. Pandemonium. And tears. Yes, tears from the eyes not only of women, but of men when Brenda Kirk and Pat Pretorius won the last point in the doubles to give South Africa the Federation Cup for the first time – and write perhaps the most glorious chapter in the country’s tennis history.
It was the proudest day in South African sport. “I stand here a very proud South African” said John Vorster the then President of South Africa.
South Africa, seeded 6th, beat Belgium, Brazil, France, the mighty United States and then Britain in the final.
“Yes, it was fantastic” said Brenda “Whenever I think of it I still get goose pimples. The whole thing is like a dream now”.
Pat Pretorius also spoke with nostalgia. “It was wonderful to play in front of our own crowd who cheered us all the way. In the beginning we weren’t given much of a chance especially against France, America and Britain. At times we played above ourselves in the doubles – and the last three doubles proved crucial. It was something that we would never forget, especially the support given by our home crowds”.
Dr Jacke du Toit (Manager/Coach)
The recent passing of Brenda Bryson (Kirk) came as a shock to many tennis enthusiasts, but also brought happy memories of the major role she played, together with Pat Pretorius and Greta Delport, to win the coveted Federation Cup at Ellis Park, Johannesburg in 1972. Thirty-two countries took part. On this memorable occasion we beat Belgium 3-0, Brazil 3-0, France 2-1 (quarter-finals), US. 2-1 (semi-finals) and Britain 2-1 (Final) with Brenda winning all matches as number two singles player and doubles partnered with Pat Pretorius. This was the first and only time thus far, that SA has won this trophy.
This brilliant feat was almost repeated in 1973 in Bad-Homberg (Germany) when SA (Pat Pretorius, Brenda and Linky Boshoff) lost 3-0 to Australia in the final. In her third year (1974) as a Springbok she and Pat were beaten 2-1 by Britain in the quarter-finals (Naples, Italy). She also won the closed SA tournament on one occasion. What a wonderful player and what a wonderful contribution she has made to South African tennis, certainly one the SATU can be proud of!
As manager/coach of the SA Federation Cup team from 1972-1974, I was always impressed by the determined, positive, motivated, focused, calm, relaxed, confident and anxiety-free manner which she approached her matches. She was a disciplined player, who developed self-will and self-control which led to self-confidence and self-realization.
During practices, 5-6 hours a day - which started 10 days prior to the actual tournament – mainly at the Wanderers Club and Ellis Park, she was always on time and gave it her “all”. Her tactics were always sound, she knew her strengths and weaknesses and concentrated on her strengths in match play. During the opening games, we attempted to discover the opponents strengths and weaknesses, discuss them at change-over breaks and apply useful tactics to exploit the weaknesses. Brenda became an expert in applying those very same tactics.
Brenda, may you rest in peace. Your role played in top-class tennis in South Africa and the world, especially in the 1972 Federations Cup where you made a mark in the history, will always be remembered.
Pat Pretorius (nee Walkden)
To crib a little from Forbsies book:
“Right now I go back down the years,
And I can recall,
So many warm temperate times.
They are squeezed into,
A headful of memories
And more than a handful of summers,
We shared so much,
We laughed, we cried ,
We partied , we played,
We won some and lost some,
Sadly now you are gone,
Gone but never forgotten”.
Love you Spider, rest in peace my old mate.
Brenda was a great team member and due to her temperament South Africa was able to win the Fed Cup. So very sad to hear of her parting. Loved by all and she will be sadly missed. Rest in peace, my friend.
So sad. I would say that we have lost one of South Africa’s greatest champions. She was an inspiration to me, Brenda always took time out to mentor me and share her knowledge. Her performance in South Africa’s 1972 Fed Cup victory was spectacular, she inspired many young kids to play tennis and think big. She will be missed but her spirit will always shine bright.
Laura le Sueur (nee Rossouw)
I was deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Brenda who was not only my doubles partner but also a good friend. She was a fun loving, happy person who worked hard at her tennis.
I have fond memories of travelling and playing doubles with Brenda in Europe. Having won the doubles titles in Munich and Gstaad , we were both selected to play Federation Cup in Australia.. This was during the turbulent 70`s and we, without a manager, had to fight battles both on and off the court. This strengthened our friendship and we remained very good friends after we retired from playing on the tennis circuit with Brenda being my bridesmaid and godmother to my daughter.
Thank you to Lorna Krog for putting this tribute together.