Dodo's New York Times obituary:
Dodo Cheney, a Tennis Champion for Decades, Dies at 98
By FRANK LITSKYNOV. 25, 2014
Dodo Cheney, a daughter of tennis royalty who wore lace and pearls as she rolled through generations of competitors on the way to winning 391 tennis championships in the United States, most of them after she turned 55, died on Sunday in Escondido, Calif. She was 98.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced her death on Tuesday.
At her induction ceremony at the Hall, in Newport, R.I., in 2004, Cheney, who played competitively well into her 80s, chose John McEnroe to be her presenter, then hit balls back and forth with him afterward.
Cheney — who was born Dorothy Bundy and acquired the nickname Dodo in childhood — was the first American to win the Australian championships, now known as the Australian Open, a feat accomplished in 1938. She was runner-up three times in women’s doubles at Grand Slam tournaments and four times in mixed doubles.
In singles, she reached four semifinals of the United States championships and one semifinal each at Wimbledon and the French championships. She was ranked third in the United States in 1937, 1938 and 1941. Her highest world ranking was No. 6 in 1946.
But it was on the senior circuit where she shined the brightest. After turning 55, she competed in two or three age groups in the same year and won titles into her late 80s. Gardnar Mulloy, a male doubles specialist who turned 100 last December, is second with at least 135 national titles.
For Cheney, tennis stardom was practically a birthright. Her mother, the former May Sutton, won the United States championships in 1904 and went on to become the first American to win the women’s singles title at Wimbledon, in 1905. She won it again two years later. In 1912, she married Thomas Bundy, who won United States Nationals doubles titles from 1912 to 1914.
Dorothy Bundy was born on Sept. 1, 1916, in Santa Monica, Calif., and by 8 years old she was swinging a tennis racket with some authority. The next year, she won a Southern California junior title. Meanwhile, two younger brothers who couldn’t pronounce Dorothy gave her the nickname that would one day appear in headlines.
She was not hypercompetitive at first. She was disqualified from a junior tournament for not showing up; she had met some teenage boys and gone fishing. In another junior tournament, she was leading, 5-2, in the second set and serving for the match when she began to feel sorry for her opponent and eased up. She lost the match.
“I gave her an inch, and she took a mile,” Cheney said in an interview with The New York Times in 1999.
She seldom made that mistake again. “I wasn’t that competitive as a youngster,” she said years later. “Now, though, I’m quite a bit more fierce. As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown much more competitive. I really love to win.”
At 5 feet 1 inch, Cheney never had a lot of power, but she would stay in the no-man’s land between the net and the baseline and slice and chop every ball that came her way. “Dodo land,” her opponents called it.
“She’s very cagey,” Patricia Yeomans, a frequent senior opponent, told The Times. “She doesn’t move more than she has to, but she makes you move all over the place. She is just a relentless competitor.”
A refined appearance was important to Cheney. She made her own tennis outfits: a lace dress with lace sleeves, lace socks, lace wristband. If she wore a knee bandage, it was lined with lace. When she played, she always wore a pearl necklace.
But she had a reputation for toughness. At 1 a.m. on a Sunday in 1999 at a hotel in Mahwah, N.J., her sleep was interrupted by a fire alarm (which turned out to be a false alarm).
“I walked down 15 flights,” she said. “I was afraid my knees wouldn’t make it.”
Twelve hours later, she won the national women’s-80 singles title, her 303rd national title.
“For the last 10 years or so, she’s had arthritis in the knees,” her daughter Christine Putnam told The Times in 2004, “and that’s slowed her down a bit. She does whatever she has to in order to control the point: drop shot, slice, you name it. If her shoulder hurts and she can’t serve overhand, she’ll serve underhand.”
Cheney’s husband, Arthur Cheney, was a former pilot for Western Airlines who arranged a lifetime pass for his wife to accommodate her tennis travels.
She is survived by her daughters Christie Putnam and May Cheney; a son, Brian; eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Cheney always kept her success in perspective. She loved telling the story of the time when she was 73 and played a 10-year-old prodigy in Los Angeles.
“She blitzed me,” Cheney said. “She just wiped me off the court.”
The 10-year-old was Venus Williams.