Re: The Two German Helgas
Helga Niessen-Masthoff – A Lady
By Dieter Koditek
“She loves tennis, the sun, dogs, good company, her husband (of course) – and Dusseldorf. That has always been the case. ‘I always wanted to live in Dusseldorf,’ says Helga Masthoff, who was born in the Kray district of Essen on November 11, 1941, ‘so I could only have chosen a man from Dusseldorf as my husband.’ She eventually found him – the advertising executive Hans Masthoff, who runs his own agency in the capital of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. And with him she has been living happily for many years in the city of her choice. She is, of course, also a member of the Rochus Club there, but has also always remained faithful to the ETuF in Essen, a sports club in her native city.
“At this point one should perhaps explain, for the benefit of the younger generation, that Helga Masthoff, née Niessen, represented for German tennis during her time as a player what Steffi Graf later became. For a decade and a half, until she left the sport in 1980, she was the first lady of the sport here in Germany. And she really was a lady – always nice, always even-tempered, polite and fair. No airs and graces, no affairs, no extravagance.
“Anyone who has seen the subsequent generation of female tennis players flailing a tennis ball with grim facial expressions, anyone who has heard them groan, grunt and squeak, might ask himself if the modern game of tennis, in which so much money is in play, has become a completely different sport. Helga Masthoff moved around the court like a lady – full of grace and elegance. To honour the truth, let it here be stressed that Steffi Graf captivated spectators with the same sort of virtues.
“Helga Masthoff was very successful in this way. 121 titles at the German Championships, in singles, doubles and mixed, and with the most varied of teams in all age groups, speak for themselves. In this respect, one must add that during her era national honours still meant something. ‘What count most for me are the ten singles titles I won at the German National Championships,’ she says. But Helga Masthoff also has good memories of her 13 championships in women’s doubles and her 6 championships in mixed doubles, all of which she won with Hans-Jürgen Pohmann, who later worked as a sports reporter and tennis expert for the Freies Berlin broadcasting company.
“Helga Masthoff also set standards on the international tennis scene, although it should be remembered that during her era tennis players did not travel nearly as much as they do nowadays. When the elegant blonde from the Ruhr was still Helga Niessen, the great sport was still reserved for amateurs, who did not have the money needed to continually make long journeys to the most distant parts of the world. They focussed on a few highlights – the Grand Slam tournaments and some big international championships. Otherwise they stayed at home and fed themselves as best they could. Some of the big names who left their mark on this era are proof of this: Maria Esther Bueno (Brazil), Billie Jean King, Rosemary Casals and Julie Heldman (all USA), and Margaret Smith Court and EvonneGoolagongCawley (both Australia). At one time or another Helga Masthoff beat all of them, and in her best year she was even ranked number four in the world. She was ranked in the world’s top ten at the end of the year a total of four times.
“Her biggest success was reaching the final of the International French Championships (today’s French Open) in Paris in 1970, where she lost, 6-2, 6-4, to the great Margaret Court. Six years later she also lost the doubles final at the same tournament with her American partner, Kathy Harter, in three sets. She also lost to Margaret Court twice in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. At the US Open, Helga Masthoff once lost in the semi-finals after leading Evonne Goolagong 4-1 in the third set, ‘because I thought that I had already won the match.’ The most valuable international title she ever won was at the International German Championships, at the Hamburger Rothenbaum Club, where she triumphed three times against strong global competition.
“In the meantime money had begun to flow into the sport. The fact that Helga Masthoff brought home 4,000 dollars from a tournament in Buenos Aires was considered headline news back in those days. Today’s superstars would probably just laugh at the thought of such a small amount of money. ‘Still, I wouldn’t like to swap places with them,’ says the leggy blonde, ‘the intrigues, the stress, the constant moving from one continent to another and the impersonal atmosphere, would not be my cup of tea at all.’
“Her world is a more pleasant one. It involves Dusseldorf and paying regular visits to all of the big German tournaments and to the Grand Slam tournaments in Paris and Wimbledon. It also includes her wonderful hotel complex on the island of Gran Canaria. There, where, according to a UNO study, the climate is the best in the world, people can regularly meet her because she insists on looking after her guests in a very personal manner. Sometimes she also meets former fellow travellers and rivals in her tennis hotel, such as Heide Orth, Katja Ebbinghaus, Helga Hösl and Cora Creydt-Schediwy. On such occasions they naturally have long chats about the good old days.”
Last edited by newmark401; May 9th, 2014 at 11:56 AM.