BOOTHBY, "DORA" (Penelope Dora Harvey Boothby)
Born 02 August 1881 in Finchley, Middlesex
Died 22 February 1970 at Hampstead
Married Arthur C Geen, 09 April 1914 at St Georges, Hanover Square
Trademark: a belt tightly cinched about her waist.
1909 Wimbledon champion and titlist in the 1913 ladies doubles with Winifred McNair.
Daughter of Laurence John Boothby (1848-1887) and Gertrude Butler (1849-1941). she was close in age to her sister Gertrude May Boothby (1878-1969). Called "Penel" as a child according to ancestry, by her adult tennis playing days she was known as "Dora".
Boothby was listed amongst the top ranked players of Great Britain in 1904-coming in at the second tier in the 15 to 20 range.
Dora habitually gave up tenis in the winter months, keeping in shape by playing badminton. She confessed to suffering from "centre-courtitis", or nerves.
Chambers rated her as a primarily a baseliner-the most common style in the pre-war era. In 1908 Dora showed "considerable improvement" according to the Times, which noted how her shots barely cleared the net with plenty of speed. (Saturday, Jun 05, 1909; pg. 18). This style was effective when she was "on", but when off the low margin for errors produced a slew of errors.
Her Big Chance-1909 Wimbledon Champion
In 1909 Boothby realized she that year was a big chance at the Championships, as Dorothea Lambert Chambers was sidelined by childbirth and holder Charlotte Sterry was not defending her title.
Dora became Wimbledon Champion only after a nailbiting victory over Agnes Morton 6-4 4-6 8-6 in the final. A contemporary report noted the match was 'remarkable for its tension and protracted rallies. There have been more scientific, more stroke varied ladies finals, at Wimbledon but none in which the result hung so long in the balance or in which the combatants showed such hardihood and resolution.' (Hedges)
Here is Boothby's description of her victory from the Chambers book. She won despite serving 16 double faults in the match!
Without doubt my most exciting match was the final last year at Wimbledon. In every player's heart there must be a faint hope that one day she may win the All England Championship. At least it has always been in mine.
From Christmas and all through the spring my family and friends had dinned into my ears that now was my chance, and if I did not win this year I never would. Only when I was leading one set up and 2-love in the second did all these things flash across my mind. I suddenly got nervous. Oh, the misery of it! I served double fault after double fault (I learnt afterwards that I gave away sixteen points in this way), and my friends told me that it was a relief to them when my service went over the net at all, however slowly. My opponent, Miss Morton, caught up, won the set 6/4, and led me 4/2 in the final set. All this time I had been fighting hard to regain confidence. At last my nerve came back--I was determined to win, and, only after a very great effort, just succeeded in capturing the Championship with the narrow margin of 8/6 in the final set.
It was not until I had finished and had come off the court that I realized how very excited I had been, and how relieved I was when it was all over. Only those who have had experience can know how exhausting it is to concentrate one's whole thoughts and efforts, without cessation,for an hour or more. Fortunately you do not feel the strain until afterwards, when it does not matter, and then you can look back with very great pleasure and satisfaction on a hard-won fight.
Beaten the next by Dorothe Lambert Chambers 6-2 6-2, Boothby returned in 1911, fought through the All-Comers to reach the challenge Round, and was then utterly obliterated by Chambers 6-0 6-0. This record for the most lopsided ladies final was unmatched until Steffi Graf beat Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in the 1988 French final.
The final was over in 25 minutes. Chambers is devastating. "She never played better and ,as usual, her marvelous headwork, rather than the actual force of her stroke, gave her victory." Boothby never gave up, 4 times extending games to deuce. Both the score and the time remain Wimbledon records.
Dora and partner Winifred Mcnair became the first ladies doubles champions of Wimbledon in 1913. They were somewhat lucky, as Dorothea Lambert Chambers and Charlotte Sterry had to retire leading 6-4 4-2 when Sterry puleed up lame with a torn leg tendon.
Married in 1914, Dora and Arthur Geen had at least one child. His family name is often incorrectly listed as "Green." Slowing down after World War I-her last Wimbledon was in 1922.
In 1929 Mrs Geen designed the first official Wightman Cup team jackets and traveled with the team to the US. The design was white cloth with silver buttons, and has a Union Jack with crossed racquets underneath emblazoned on the breast pocket.
Mrs Bootby turned professional in 1932; allowing her to charge pupils for money in teaching tennis.
Hedges, Martin. A Concise Dictionary of Tennis
. 1978. page 34.
Dora Boothby. [A Blast thread on her]
Dora Boothby (1881-1970) - The 1909 Wimbledon singles champion
[A biographical sketch by Mark Ryan]
[An article from the Norwood Society on Boothby]
[Her lineage was traced through ancestry.com]
Chambers, Dorothea Lambert. Lawn Tennis for Ladies,
1910. Available via Project Gutenburg at: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10961