Re: Cilly Aussem thread
Helen Jacobs wrote about Aussem in her classic book A Gallery of Champions.
She ranked Cilly (Jacobs writes this phonectically as "Cilli") at #9.
Below are excerpts of chapter 9-pages 132 to 140
9 Cilli Auusem
Every now and then, a player will rise in the tennis world, give promise of attaining great stature and then, after fulfilling a part of the promise, retire to tennis limbo. Such a player was Cilli Aussem of Germany, one of the most attractive and engaging women who ever played the game. ...
... [after showing early promise Aussem's game stagnates and becomes safe and defensive-sacrificing improvement to attain victory over lesser players]
She had not learned to make the most of her game. Defeat had become a major catastrophe, and victory, even though won in unimpressive fashion, had assumed undue importance.
If Cilli had, at that time., been in such a postion in tennis that no one questioned the game she played to win, this point of view might have been tenable. But she had yet to win her spurs, and every match she played in which caution, rather than aggressiveness, was the keynote told against her.
Among Cilli's faults was a weak serve. ....it was ineffectual, and would today be an invitation to disaster at the hands of any of the ranking American players.
Bill Tilden had to the highest degree the fearlessness she lacked. When they met on the French Riviera in the spring of 1930 and had become highly impressed with her game, he began a campaign to build her confidence, teach her to enjoy the game and to play, without hesitation, the tennis of which she was capable. To this end, he began by asking her to partner him in all the mixed doubles tournaments during the season. She could hardly believe he was serious, that anyone would want to play mixed doubles with her. But she accepted and the development of her winning spirit started then
Elizabeth Ryan, who had been on the Riviera for several weeks, defeated Cilli in her first tournament. The German girl felt that the defeat would disgrace her in Germany and told Bill so. It took him a very short time to remind her that no one cared whether she won or lost except her mother and herself, and that if her countrymen were aware of her defeat they would not pay no attention to it.
When she and Bill were first defeated and he was not in the least concerned, she began to see the game in a new light, gradually coming to look forward to hard matches rather than fearing them. With the consolidation of her confidence and courage came a tremendous improvement in her game. Constant practice with Bill did for her what it was later to do for me: expose and correct weaknesses in footwork, timing, stroke production. To her repertoire was added a creditable volley and smash, and her serve was strengthened and steadied.
.....Nothing bolstered Cilli's spirits more than her win with Bill Tilden of the French hardcourt championship mixed doubles. This was always a stiff event, and it proved to her that she could serve, smash and volley in the best of company. [p. 136] Her game had become so well-rounded that it was difficult to find a loophole in it, even with a bird's eye view from the stands.
Her former nemesis, Elizabeth Ryan, fell before her in the singles, and although she lost to Helen Wills Moody 6-2 6-1 in the semifinal, she went on to Wimbledon with her confidence unimpaired.
There we met for the first time in the quarterfinal round. ...Well aware of Cilli's new power, I tried to force the pace and vary the game, hoping to break the rhythm of her timing. ....She won the first set at 6-2 and began from the first game of the second to hit the sidelines with such depth and speed that it was almost impossible for me to get to the net.
Bill Tilden has succeeded in teaching her the sharply angled, short drive that leaves an opponent in such a vulnerable position and....she played it with maddening regularity. Cilli's speed of foot and position were vital factors in the soundness of her game against any attack or defense I could launch. When finally the length and angles of my shots began to improve, it was too late. The set and match were over at 6-1.
Cilli had not seemed tired as we left the court, but evidently the strain of our match, longer than the score indicated, and her first Wimbledon semifinal, told on her more than I realized, for exhaustion forced a pathetic ending to her match with Elizabeth Ryan the next day.
She had lost the first set 6-3, come back to take the second 6-0, and was 2-4 down when, by terrific and ominous effort, she pulled up to 4-4. At 0-40 in the ninth game, on her service, she tossed up the ball for delivery, but as she started to riase her racket she sank to the ground in a faint and was carried from the court on a stretcher.
In spite of the fact that she had not reached the final at either Paris or Wimbledon, she was ranked second in the world for 1930, an accomplishment which helped to hasten her recovery from the physical weakness which the long season had left her. Cilli was by nature anything but phlegmatic and I believe the the strenuousness of her efforts to prove the quality of her game and the strength of her fighting spirit added to her long-repressed emotional strain.
A winter's rest brought Cilli to the French championship in May in stronger health than she had ever been in before. Mowing down the field before her, in the absence of the titleholder, Helen Moody, she achieved her first major singles triumph, and went on to Wimbledon to face the supreme test of her career.
No one was surprised when she reached the semifinal round again, but it was doubtful in the minds of many if she had the stamina to defeat Simone Mathieu on grass. The French player had shown evidence of being inexhaustible even in the longest and hardest fought exchanges.
Howver, when Cilli whipped through the first set 6-0, it seemed as if the match wouldn't last long enough to make a dent in her energy. But Simone, often a slow starter, found her form. Back and forth, from corner to corner, she drove her German opponent with as blistering a barrage of low-pitched shots as ever broke the game of an adversary. Almost as quickly as Cilli won the first set, Simone took the second 6-2. The pace of the first two sets was somewhat abandoned in the third and the match became a battle of wits as Simone mixed drives with soft lofted shots and Cilli retaliated with deep, but rather unaggresssive drives, occasionally varied by her punishing short, crosscourt drive, hit with terrific force from her characteristic crouching position.
It was east to see in her determinationto win and her willingness to think, rather than to hit only for safety like an automaton, that Bill Tiden's crusade had born results equal to the ultimate test. [p 139] Simone fought with all of her well-known courage and tenacity, and she went down fighting, 6-3, in the final set.
For the first time in the history of Wimbledon, and the last to date, the championship match was fought out between two German players-Cilli Aussem and Hilde Krahwinkel. Unfortunately, it was a sorry final. In defeating me 10-8 0-6 6-4 Hilde had blistered her feet so badly she could scarcely move, and Cilli suffered the same painful result of her match with Mme Mathieu. Neither player attempted to do more than keep the ball in play, and interminable, uninteresting rallies ensued. The net became a barrier between their courts, never a position to seek. Finesse, power, subtlety of placement were forgotten in the wearying battle, finally won by Cilli at 6-2 7-5.
She had reached the peak, and as it transpired, the climax of her tennis career in attaining the goal that had seemed so long a hopeless quest.
In the autumn of 1931, she went to South America for the Argentine championships, met and defeated in the final round of the singles her countrywoman Irmgard Rost, and added to her titles the Women's and mixed doubles championships as well. But shortly after this tournament, she was stricken with appendicitis. When she returned to Germany she was operated upon and then made the mistake of attempting to play tennis too soon.
Cilli never regained her health sufficiently to survive the stern demands of major competition. [p 140] Against Betty Nuthall in the French championships of 1932, she was forced to retire after Betty, losing the first set and falling behind 1-4 in the second, had pulled out with five games in a row to win it 6-4.
When we met for the second and last time at Wimbledon in 1934, Cilli did not remotely resemble the player of 1931. ....Cilli seemed to have lapsed into her old, hopeless, match-play psychology, probably induced by the numerous set-backs she suffered after her operation. The aggressive power of her game was gone and with it will to win. But she is remembered by those who played her and watched her play for the almost unparalleled swiftness of her rise to tennis heights against the sort of odds that are seldom overcome; and perhaps even better remembered for her charm and graciousness, whatever the course of her tennis fortunes.
Last edited by Rollo; Apr 10th, 2016 at 02:02 AM.