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We speculate about a lot of "what if's" on this forum. Looking at Maureen Connolly's stats, it appears as though she may have been the most dominant player of all time. She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine. She was forced to retire at age 20. We could speculate about how many titles she would've finished with had she stayed healthy. If she'd played all four slams until age 28, she might've reached 30 and then the "Greatest of All Time" argument would be a closed case. Any thoughts on Little Mo's career and achievements?
 

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"She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine".
No, we've discussed this elsewhere on here. She entered two US Championships before her title-winning years, losing early in both, but these have been airbrushed out of her biography for some reason.
 

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Declan said:
"She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine".
No, we've discussed this elsewhere on here. She entered two US Championships before her title-winning years, losing early in both, but these have been airbrushed out of her biography for some reason.
Thanks for the correction. But still, she lost in to US Champs at 15 and 16 and never lost another GS match. Wow! Is there another player who ever was as dominant in her career?

I know Lenglen and Wills Moody hardly lost in their careers. I would question the quality of their opponents during their days. I know they had 2-3 strong players, but I think they had a lot of lollipops to go up against.
 

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I didn't mean to sound school-teacherish on this, Preacherfan! Like you I'd always belived the '100% success rate at Slams' line until a year or so ago, and I was amazed to find out it wasn't true! I can't remember who Maureen lost to in those tournaments, though - can anyone remind us? Thanks in advance!
 

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Declan-You can add my name to those who thought at first that Mo never lost in a slam-we all live and learn!

IMO it has become harder to totally dominate a tour in tennis. With all the women traveling the world (not possible before passenger air travel in the 1950s) the competition is keener. Mo Connolly's 9 straight slams can't be touched except by Helen Wills, who didn't lose in any slam from 1925 until her defeat in 1933. Helen won about 15 or 16 consecutive slams she entered.

Was Helen's competition 'easier" than Mo Connolly's? Probably. But then Will's never had the chance to win the Grand Slam-so maybe these things even out.

From 1952 to 1954 Mo only lost 4 matches that I know of:

1952-Brough got her on California cement
1953-Hart beat her at the Italian
1954-ambidextrous Beverly Baker outslugged her on a California hardcourt.

Shirley Fry beat her somewhere in there.
 

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"I didn't mean to sound school-teacherish on this, Preacherfan! Like you I'd always belived the '100% success rate at Slams' line until a year or so ago, and I was amazed to find out it wasn't true! I can't remember who Maureen lost to in those tournaments, though - can anyone remind us? Thanks in advance!"

If I remember correctly, Mo lost to Doris Hart in one of her previous visits to Forest Hills (1950???)


"We speculate about a lot of "what if's" on this forum. Looking at Maureen Connolly's stats, it appears as though she may have been the most dominant player of all time. She entered 9 Grand Slam tournaments and won all nine. She was forced to retire at age 20. We could speculate about how many titles she would've finished with had she stayed healthy. If she'd played all four slams until age 28, she might've reached 30 and then the "Greatest of All Time" argument would be a closed case. Any thoughts on Little Mo's career and achievements?"

If Mo had decided to play on, she probably would have racked up a couple more GS and lots more GS titles, however, from her autobiography and also what I read in Jack Kramer's book (he was a witness for her in court), it seems as though Mo was going to turn pro at the end of '54 (or '55 at the latest). I also got the feeling upon reading her book that she was so wrapped up in the idea of being "Mrs Norman Brinker" that she would have been happy to quit the circuit anyway in order to be a wife/homemaker/mother.

Apropos her accident and the effect on her tennis career, (selfishly), I think it's a real shame what happened to Mo; She would not have been 30 until 1965, well into the Court/Bueno/King era and IF she had continued to play amateur tennis, I imagine her name would have been seen in most GS finals up to that time....

:)
 

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Maureen's two GS losses:

1949 US National

2nd round Barbara Scofield d Connolly 6-4, 6-3

I hope I got that name right. The other loss:

1950 US National

2nd round Doris Hart d Connolly 6-2, 7-5

I haven't read Hart's book but, I have read other's comments on her book and from what I understand Hart felt that if Maureen had wanted to continue playing after her accident she could have. In a way I wish she would have. Right now I'm reading The Match by Bruce Schoenfeld and I'm up to the part where he writes about Brough, du Pont, Hart and Fry. Schoenfeld writes that many of the women players at this time were like "sorority girls." Connolly was younger than these women and I think she would have broken up their little party a bit.

Connolly I think was the first to have a "killer instinct." Now I have read where other posters pretty much put all that hate thing on Eleanor "Teach" Tennant and make her out to be this mean old coach who just changed this sweet little child into a killer on the court who hated her opponents :fiery: but that's not totally true. Connolly herself in her biography makes it clear Teach couldn't have done it unless the seeds of hate were already in her. She hated to lose more than she loved to win. Even Ted Tingling says Connolly must have had the killer instinct in her so start with. Teach just honed it.
 

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As you guys all say, the tennis world could have been a radically different place had Mo not disappeared off the scene in 54 in so many ways. What influence would she have had on the prevailing style of tennis taught to youngsters throughout the 50s and 60s if she'd enjoyed a long reign at the top? Evert's (father and daughter) tennis values seem far closer to those of Maureen than to anyone else, it seems to me.

This is another instance of a player's premature departure possibly (note "possibly") resulting in the prolongation of some careers and the earlier ascent to the top of others. It didn't start with the assault on Monica or Tracy's forced retirement.
 

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The fact is, Maureen was the best of her time. Plain in simple. And that is what matters.

Had she not had her career cut short so early, who knows what really would have happened.

It would have been interesting to have seen her against Althea Gibson more frequently and eventually had she kept going, Margaret Smith. Considering those two women were bigger and stronger, I would assume they possibly would have been huge challenges for her.

Either way, she got to be a tennis champion for a brief time in her career.
 

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Jakeev said:
The fact is, Maureen was the best of her time. Plain in simple. And that is what matters.

Had she not had her career cut short so early, who knows what really would have happened.

It would have been interesting to have seen her against Althea Gibson more frequently and eventually had she kept going, Margaret Smith. Considering those two women were bigger and stronger, I would assume they possibly would have been huge challenges for her.

Either way, she got to be a tennis champion for a brief time in her career.
The great Pauline Betz was more than happy when someone once told her that Maureen's baseline game reminded them of hers. She also pointed out an interesting stat- that neither Doris Hart nor Maureen Connolly ever lost to Althea Gibson, and it's interesting to think where tennis would have gone had Maureen returned to the tour. Pauline and Maureen are the only two notable baseliners to come out of California in the 40s and 50s. All the rest were brought up as serve-and-volleyers in the style made famous by Alice Marble, Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne, and even Sarah Palfrey from the East Coast. To speculate, for Maureen to have continued to win majors, if not dominate through the rest of the decade of the 50s would have had a profound effect on the direction the game was taught. It'd be interesting to read Nancy Richey's thoughts on Maureen Connolly. Hopefully she'll chime in on this thread and enlighten us a little!
 

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alfajeffster said:
The great Pauline Betz was more than happy when someone once told her that Maureen's baseline game reminded them of hers. She also pointed out an interesting stat- that neither Doris Hart nor Maureen Connolly ever lost to Althea Gibson, and it's interesting to think where tennis would have gone had Maureen returned to the tour. Pauline and Maureen are the only two notable baseliners to come out of California in the 40s and 50s. All the rest were brought up as serve-and-volleyers in the style made famous by Alice Marble, Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne, and even Sarah Palfrey from the East Coast. To speculate, for Maureen to have continued to win majors, if not dominate through the rest of the decade of the 50s would have had a profound effect on the direction the game was taught. It'd be interesting to read Nancy Richey's thoughts on Maureen Connolly. Hopefully she'll chime in on this thread and enlighten us a little!

Another player who loved having people compare her to Maureen was Helen Wills.


The two people who might have been effected by Maureen staying in the game would be Althea Gibson and Darlene Hard. My the late 50s early 60s Maureen would have still been in her prime and may have stopped both women from winning a slam title.
 

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Maria Bueno and even Rev Mags may have felt the effects too, RoanHJ. Maureen was only about 5 years older than Maria, if memory serves (Maria was born in '39).
 

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Maureen's greatest assett was her mental toughness. She quite simply just refused to lose. No matter when she had been born given the access to the fitness regimes and technology of that era she would have been a world #1.

IMO, the greatest post-war player of them all, ahead of Court and Graf.
 

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Surely a sign of greatness when players from Wills all the way to Evert are compared to you - Connolly certainly set the standard as one of the top two or three female baseliners of all time. Speaking for myself, I would've loved to have watched Maureen play Althea in her prime on a grass court*. From what I recall, the two competed well before Gibson reached her heights, though certainly Connolly would hold the edge - even on grass - regardless.

*Another variable to consider; might Gibson've significantly improved had she not been lured into the pro ranks after such a brief time at the top? Was her coaching/training on par with Connolly's? Also, it seems class issues affected Gibson's career more significantly than a player like Connolly, who (it seems reasonable to gather) like Wills would've quite likely just kept on playing, piling up perhaps 12-15 more GS titles.
 

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Santorofan said:
Surely a sign of greatness when players from Wills all the way to Evert are compared to you - Connolly certainly set the standard as one of the top two or three female baseliners of all time. Speaking for myself, I would've loved to have watched Maureen play Althea in her prime on a grass court*. From what I recall, the two competed well before Gibson reached her heights, though certainly Connolly would hold the edge - even on grass - regardless.

*Another variable to consider; might Gibson've significantly improved had she not been lured into the pro ranks after such a brief time at the top? Was her coaching/training on par with Connolly's? Also, it seems class issues affected Gibson's career more significantly than a player like Connolly, who (it seems reasonable to gather) like Wills would've quite likely just kept on playing, piling up perhaps 12-15 more GS titles.
Racism is what hurt Althea Gibson's tennis career. Althea wasn't denied a chance to enter the top tournaments because she was poor. They didn't let her play because she was black. From 1944-1949, Althea wasn't allowed to play in the top tournaments and as a result she couldn't play the top players. There's no question it hurt her game.

With Althea it's tough to say what might have happened had she been allowed to play during those formative years. When she started playing against the top players in 1950, she struggled. As far as I know she never beat Doris Hart. Now maybe if Althea had been allowed to play in the top tournaments and against those players in the mid to late 40s, maybe things would have been different.

As for Maureen I don't think things would have been that different. Althea was eight years older than Maureen and Maureen's game was still improving in the mid 50s. As it was, Althea never beat Maureen. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood from Million Dollar Baby " she was younger and better." Keep in mind, Maureen by 1953, had parted ways with Teach Tennant and was working with Aussie great Harry Hopman. I think Maureen's game and fitness level would have greatly improved by the late 50s. In 1957, Maureen would have been 23 years old and at her peak, In 1957, Althea was about 31 years old.

Btw, I think it was Rollo that told me that in the early 60s, Pauline Betz and Althea Gibson played two matches and even though Pauline was older and hadn't played competitive tennis for some time she was still able to win one of the matches. As I said, Althea's game was stunted because of racism.
 

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Roan:

I'm in agreement about racial issues affecting Gibson's career, but what I meant regarding class was that Althea essentially had to stop playing tennis due to the fact that she was basically tired of living hand to mouth like she'd done for most of her life. She wanted to have a home, she wanted some freedom and independence and was tired of constantly asking others to help her. From what I've read, most top players from that period came from at least stable middle class families, with few exceptions. So this may have been a driving force or goal for Althea more so than some of the other top players. Stability. Financial independence. A home...

Regarding Maureen vs Althea, I agree, it is very much apples and oranges. Different life paths which make them difficult to compare. But I do think beyond the fact that Gibson got a late start due for the issues mentioned, I also think that Connolly's game was tailored made to excell earlier on like an Evert's or an Austin's as she was a pure baseliner. She NEVER went to net! On the other hand, Gibson's game was built on pure aggression - around what Chris Evert called a "booming serve" (which incredibly Evert stated Althea still had when they played a match vs one another in the mid-seventies). Thus, I believe it took more years to develop such a game as is normally the case. Is it possible that Althea could've overpowered Maureen on a given day on grass? I think yes, esp if she owned a decent dropshot. What I DO know is that Althea did possess a great offensive lob, which she believes in great part won her one of her two Wimbledon finals...regardless, I realize we'll never know for sure.
 

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I politely disagree...

RoanHJ said:
Racism is what hurt Althea Gibson's tennis career. Althea wasn't denied a chance to enter the top tournaments because she was poor. They didn't let her play because she was black. From 1944-1949, Althea wasn't allowed to play in the top tournaments and as a result she couldn't play the top players. There's no question it hurt her game.

With Althea it's tough to say what might have happened had she been allowed to play during those formative years. When she started playing against the top players in 1950, she struggled. As far as I know she never beat Doris Hart. Now maybe if Althea had been allowed to play in the top tournaments and against those players in the mid to late 40s, maybe things would have been different.

As for Maureen I don't think things would have been that different. Althea was eight years older than Maureen and Maureen's game was still improving in the mid 50s. As it was, Althea never beat Maureen. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood from Million Dollar Baby " she was younger and better." Keep in mind, Maureen by 1953, had parted ways with Teach Tennant and was working with Aussie great Harry Hopman. I think Maureen's game and fitness level would have greatly improved by the late 50s. In 1957, Maureen would have been 23 years old and at her peak, In 1957, Althea was about 31 years old.

Btw, I think it was Rollo that told me that in the early 60s, Pauline Betz and Althea Gibson played two matches and even though Pauline was older and hadn't played competitive tennis for some time she was still able to win one of the matches. As I said, Althea's game was stunted because of racism.
One of the most revealing things about the Pauline Betz Addie interview was her candid take on playing Althea Gibson. She flatly stated that Althea had a good serve, and an okay forehand, but no backhand to speak of whatsoever (pictures of Chris Evert drooling were dancing across my brain when she said that). You could see in Pauline's eyes (and she has those wonderful, expressive eyes that only age can provide) that she was speaking tennis, and just that. I have no doubt that Althea Gibson's experience as a tennis player was hampered by racism. I also have no doubt that she was not the greatest tennis player- not even in the conversation. She was a great athlete. The concept, and the mere conversation about athletes vs. tennis players sparks heated "racism" debates to this day. Arthur Ashe was a much better tennis player and tactician than Althea Gibson. He had better stroke production, better control of his shots, and a better all-around game. He was much more stunted by racism than Althea ever was, and no, Althea didn't have to turn pro when she did. Althea used the word "racism" like a great big huge chip on her shoulder, and I think that hurt her more than her tennis. All that said, I have nothing but respect for the late Althea Gibson, and what she DID accomplish.
 

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alfajeffster said:
One of the most revealing things about the Pauline Betz Addie interview was her candid take on playing Althea Gibson. She flatly stated that Althea had a good serve, and an okay forehand, but no backhand to speak of whatsoever (pictures of Chris Evert drooling were dancing across my brain when she said that). You could see in Pauline's eyes (and she has those wonderful, expressive eyes that only age can provide) that she was speaking tennis, and just that. I have no doubt that Althea Gibson's experience as a tennis player was hampered by racism. I also have no doubt that she was not the greatest tennis player- not even in the conversation. She was a great athlete. The concept, and the mere conversation about athletes vs. tennis players sparks heated "racism" debates to this day. Arthur Ashe was a much better tennis player and tactician than Althea Gibson. He had better stroke production, better control of his shots, and a better all-around game. He was much more stunted by racism than Althea ever was, and no, Althea didn't have to turn pro when she did. Althea used the word "racism" like a great big huge chip on her shoulder, and I think that hurt her more than her tennis. All that said, I have nothing but respect for the late Althea Gibson, and what she DID accomplish.

Jeffster, I don't understand what it is you disagree with. Maybe I wasn't clear in my post. So, let me clear things up a bit:

1. I don't think that Althea was a better player than Maureen Connolly. Not even close. Maureen was way better. So too was Doris Hart, who Althea could never beat.

2. Althea was a pioneer and a great woman but she in no way would make my list of top ten women tennis players. As I said, she couldn't even take out Pauline Betz who was older and hadn't even played top level tennis in years.

3. The only point I was making about race is that Althea was denied the chance to play in the top events against the top players from about 1944-1949. That is a fact. They didn't let her play and racism was the reason. Now I do think that hurt her game as it would anyone. If you're denied the chance to play against the best players during the formative years, then , yes, it's going to hurt a players game. They're not going to get much better playing lesser talent. Do you really think that by denying Althea the chance to play during those years it had no effect on her game? I think it had some effect but to what degree I don't know.

Now, finally, I want to make it clear that although I think it hurt her game to a degree that doesn't mean I think had she been allowed to play than she would have gone on to clean Hart and Connolly's clock. No, I don't. They were still better. But I do think she might have played a bit better.
 

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RoanHJ said:
Jeffster, I don't understand what it is you disagree with. Maybe I wasn't clear in my post. So, let me clear things up a bit:

1. I don't think that Althea was a better player than Maureen Connolly. Not even close. Maureen was way better. So too was Doris Hart, who Althea could never beat.

2. Althea was a pioneer and a great woman but she in no way would make my list of top ten women tennis players. As I said, she couldn't even take out Pauline Betz who was older and hadn't even played top level tennis in years.

3. The only point I was making about race is that Althea was denied the chance to play in the top events against the top players from about 1944-1949. That is a fact. They didn't let her play and racism was the reason. Now I do think that hurt her game as it would anyone. If you're denied the chance to play against the best players during the formative years, then , yes, it's going to hurt a players game. They're not going to get much better playing lesser talent. Do you really think that by denying Althea the chance to play during those years it had no effect on her game? I think it had some effect but to what degree I don't know.

Now, finally, I want to make it clear that although I think it hurt her game to a degree that doesn't mean I think had she been allowed to play than she would have gone on to clean Hart and Connolly's clock. No, I don't. They were still better. But I do think she might have played a bit better.
Thanks for the clarification Roan. I think we are basically on the same page here, only I was very much focused on the tennis and juxtaposing it against the politicization of Althea Gibson. I personally resent the entire concept of "Black History Month", as it negates the fantastic contribution that African-Americans, and more importantly, the American Tennis Assocation, have made to the game of tennis. Yes, racism played a major factor in her career. That is a given. Denying anyone the chance to pick up a racquet and hit a tennis ball is a crime. Certainly, we here in 2005 can not adequately address what African-American athletes experienced in the 40s, 50s, and the evolution into what they enjoy freely today. It's the difference between listening to Nina Simone and Janet Jackson- one is infinitely more direct and easily heard than the other, in no small way because of natural, raw earth talent. Yes, I think Althea Gibson could have been a better tennis player, and more on point, a better competitor had she been afforded the same formative experiences as some of her all-white contemporaries. Pauline herself only picked up a tennis racquet at age 9, and didn't come up through the normal Perry Jones Southern California USLTA industry of her day. Perhaps that's why she was the standout baseliner in a sea of serve-and-volleyers prior to the arrival of Maureen Connolly.
 
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