Re: Maureen Connolly.. just how dominant was she really?
Well, looking back at some of the results threads on this site, it's clear that Maureen Connolly was virtually invincible in singles play after she turned 16, certainly from 1951 to her accident in the summer of 1954.
In 1951, she lost just two singles matches, both to Patricia Todd. The first of these was in the semi-final of the Maidstone Invitational in East Hampton, New Jersey, where Pat Todd won 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, after Maureen had had three match points at 5-4 ,40-0.
Maureen's second loss to Pat Todd came in the final of the Eastern Grass Courts Tournament in Orange, New Jersey, at the start of August 1951, when Todd won 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. A few weeks later Maureen won the US Championships at Forest Hills for the first time, beating Doris Hart in the semi-finals and Shirley Fry in the final. She hadn't really played anyone of their calibre in 1951 because they had been playing abroad, so to a number of observers Maureen's victory was a surprise. But looking at her form throughout 1951 – she had already won the old Ojai, Southern California and Hotel Coronado tournaments, for example – it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.
After 1951, Maureen was more invincible than ever. In 1952, she lost just twice in singles. Her first defeat was to Louise Brough in the final of the Southern California Championships in Los Angeles, the score being 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.
Later on in the 1952 season, after Maureen had made her first trip to Europe and won Wimbledon on her debut, she lost to Doris Hart in the semi-finals of the Eastern Grass Court Championships in Orange, New Jersey. The score was 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
In 1953, Maureen won the Grand Slam, taking the Australian and French Championships on her debut. In between, at the Italian Championships in Rome, Maureen lost to Doris Hart again, this time in the final. Although Maureen had several match points in the second set, Doris eventually won, 4-6, 9-7, 6-3.
Towards the end of the 1953 season Maureen lost again, this time to Shirley Fry at the semi-final stage of the Pacific Southwest Championships in Los Angeles in early September. The score was 6-2, 7-5.
In 1954, a fateful year, Maureen lost just one singles match, early in the season, in mid-March at the La Jolla tournament in California where Beverly Fleitz beat her in the semi-finals, 6-0, 6-4. This was a very surprising, one-natured defeat, probably the most surprising defeat suffered by Maureen after her initial win at the US Championships in 1951.
But she never lost a singles match again and, later in the 1954 season, in addition to retaining her French Championships and Wimbledon singles titles, won tournaments in Wiesbaden, Rome (Italian Championships), Manchester, England (Northern Championships) and Dublin (Irish Championships), in additon to the United States Clay Court Championships, her last ever singles title, which she won in mid-July.
Given the quality of the opposition – past major winners such as Margaret Dupont, Louise Brough, Doris Hart and Shirley Fry – and future ones such as Althea Gibson and Angela Mortimer – there is no doubt that Maureen Connolly was a great player because she rarely, if ever, lost to any of them. Of course, after Maureen's retirement, Brough, Hart and Fry all won majors again, but during Maureen's reign they had only been able to gather the crumbs she left on the table, particularly at the majors.
During her reign, only Doris Hart, the next best player in the world, had been able to beat Maureen twice. Maureen was that good. And it's worth remembering that she achieved all that she did before her twentieth birthday!
Last edited by newmark401; Nov 27th, 2011 at 01:41 PM.