Tennis Forum banner

1 - 20 of 22 Posts

13,464 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The distinction of being the first overseas player to be inscribed on the Wimbledon roll of honour belongs to May Sutton, of the United States, who won the ladies' singles championship at her first attempt in 1905.

Although the ladies' singles event began in 1884, the first overseas competitor did not arrive until 1900, when Miss Marion Jones, the United States champion, made her challenge. May was next to follow in her footsteps.

Although California-bred, May Godfray Sutton was born at Longroom, East Stonehouse, Plymouth, England, on 25th September 1886. She was the youngest child of Adolphus de Grouchy Sutton (b. September 1836) and Adeline Esther Godfray (b. July 1850), who were married in 1871. At birth May weighed 15lbs and had a full head of curly hair.

Adolphus Sutton was a sailor by profession. Born in Jersey, he entered the Royal Navy in 1851 and rose to the rank of staff captain. When he retired from the service in 1890 he was suffering badly from bronchitis and asthma, and was advised to seek a milder climate. He decided to emigrate to the United States with the whole family.

Of the children, who were all born in England, two were boys and five were girls. The eldest was Adele (b. March 1874), who became Mrs Allen, followed by Charles (b. July 1875), Henry Godfray (b. July 1876), Ethel Matilda (b. January 1881), later Mrs B.O. Bruce, Violet Mary (b. January 1882), later Mrs H. Doeg, Florence Edith (b. September 1883) and May.

Towards the end of 1890 the family arrived in California and three years later bought a ten-acre ranch, three miles outside Pasadena and seven miles from the foot of Mount Wilson in the Sierra Madre Mountains. The ranch, which was surrounded by pines, was stacked with fruit trees producing apricots and plums. Also grown were a variety of other fruits such as peaches, nectarines, oranges and lemons for domestic consumption. The ranch was not very profitable but it allowed the Suttons to live a healthy outdoor life.

In 1897 the family built a tennis court at the ranch. This involved Henry and Ethel making countless journeys up into nearby Eaton's Canyon in the horse and buggy to cut out and haul down sufficient clay for the surface. The court, one of ten privately owned in Pasadena at that time, had a distinct slope, but this did not detract from the many hours of pleasure had by the family.

The children's interest in lawn tennis originated when Adele, as a youngster, played the game for fun in Plymouth. When the family moved to London she joined a small club at Acton and entered a few mixed doubles tournaments. Around this time the other sisters became accustomed to holding a tennis racket and hitting balls while playing all kinds of games in a recreation ground across the street from their home. They played cricket, rounders and game called "rice", and in both of the last two games used a racket and balls. This is probably why the sisters took to tennis so easily when they started to play.

At Pasadena, Adele seldom played lawn tennis but devoted most of her time to taking care of her younger sisters. For a while May was considered too young to participate and was forced to watch her sisters and brothers thoroughly enjoying themselves. One day, in desperation, she went crying to her father who agreed she could play and from that day on her sisters taught her all they knew about the game and played with her continually.

The two brothers were not outstanding players and they devoted their energies elsewhere. Charles became a lawyer, while Henry went off to Australia, where he died prematurely in 1901. Initially Violet was the best player of the sisters. She was a very steady performer who placed the ball extremely accurately but she could not hit hard. Florence played a similar game to Violet, in that she was everlastingly steady, but she did not control the ball so well or hit hard enough. Ethel was an all-round player who had a penetrating drive, a good chop stroke, but lacked determination. She was good natured and disliked playing hard against her sisters in tournaments.

Sturdily built

May played a more forceful game than her sisters. Her skills quickly developed and within a year or so she had overhauled them. Her main weapon was the forehand drive, which she wielded with power and precision. By comparison her backhand was weaker and generally used in a defensive manner. Her service was not particularly strong but she seldom double faulted. Although she was sturdily built with broad shoulders (at one time May weighed 11 stone, 6lb and her adult height was never more than 5 feet, 4-and-a-half inches), she was very quick on her feet and, when called upon, volleyed well. Her temperament was ideal and her enthusiasm boundless.

When the summer of 1898 arrived, Violet, who was playing better than Ethel or Florence at that time, entered the Southern California Championships, held at Santa Monica. She succeeded in winning the final from Miss Georgina Jones but was well beaten in the challenge round by the defending champion, Miss Marion Jones, one of the foremost players in the country.

During the following winter the sisters continually practised after school hours on their home court in preparation for the next summer, 1899. When the Southern California Championships came around, Ethel and Florence, as well as Violet, decided to enter. Originally May was left out as she was considered too young, but one day, a week or so before the tournament, she played so well that her brother Charles was able to persuade their father to allow her to enter. She was then twelve years of age. May drew Ethel in her opening second round match and did well to win the first set 8-6 before losing the next two, 6-3, 6-1. Violet in turn beat Ethel in the semi-final, 6-4, 6-4, and Florence in the final, 6-4, 6-4. As Marion Jones did not defend Violet became champion. Later that year Violet also won the Pacific States (later Coast) singles title at Del Monte, defeating Miss Bee Hooper in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

First tournament win

In 1900, all the sisters played at the Country Club tournament at Redondo Beach and for the first time May defeated Violet but as this was a small meeting the result was hardly noticed. Three months later, May won her first tournament, at the age of 13. At the Southern California Championships she eased through the singles and defeated Violet in the challenge round, 7-5, 6-1.

During the following year, May retained her title at the Southern California Championships, defeating Florence 6-3, 6-3, after the latter had disposed of Violet in the final, 8-6, 6-1. In September, May added the Pacific States title by beating the holder, Miss Miriam Hall, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.

So the pattern started to emerge. May, clearly rising above her sisters, began her domination of the Southern California scene, which was to last, incredibly, until 1928. If May did not participate in a tournament there was always Ethel of Florence waiting in the wings to keep the title in the family. Not only did the sisters amass hundreds of singles titles between them, but they also captured countless doubles events with many different partners.

In 1902 and 1903, May successfully defended her singles title at the Southern California and Pacific Coast Championships, always beating another Sutton in the title match. May also annexed the singles title at the Ojai Valley tournament in both years.

May widened her horizon in 1904. She began by defending her Ojai Valley title against Violet, and then played at Santa Barbara, where she defeated Ethel, who had become Mrs Bruce in 1902, in the last round, 6-3, 6-2. Under the care of her brother Charles, May then journeyed east to play at the National Championships, held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Wissahickon, just outside Philadelphia. The grass courts made the game quite different to that which she had been accustomed in California, where the surface was either asphalt, clay or cement. However, she acclimatised quickly and in rapid succession defeated Miss Evelyn Howell, 6-2, 6-1; Miss Frances Stotesbury 6-1, 6-0; Miss Sarah Coffin 6-1, 6-0; Miss Helen Homans, 6-1, 6-1; and Miss Elisabeth Moore, in the challenge round, 6-1, 6-2, to become champion. In the last match, May's powerful driving had Miss Moore chasing all over the court in a desperate attempt to return the ball over the net. For good measure May added the doubles crown when she paired with Miriam Hall to beat Elisabeth Moore and Miss Carrie Neely in the final, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. She also reached the final of the mixed doubles with F. Dallas. May did not compete in the Nationals again until 1921.

During the tour, May captured two other titles. At the Middle States Championships, held at Orange, New Jersey, she beat Helen Homans, 6-0, 6-0 and Carrie Neely, 6-1, 6-1, in the last two rounds, while at the Western Championships in Chicago, she was hardly pressed in defeating Miss Marie Wimer in the final, 6-2, 6-1. Back in California, she finished off the season in grand style by beating Florence in the final of the Pacific States Championships at San Rafael, 6-1, 6-4.

1905 was a year of adventure and enormous success for May. In early May she retained her Ojai Valley title by beating Florence in the final, 6-0, 6-3. A few weeks later, May made the 11,000 miles journey from California to England, crossing the Atlantic unaccompanied and landing at Liverpool towards the end of May. For a few days she practised on the courts of the North Lonsdale Club at Grange-over-Sands before staying with George and Blanche Hillyard at Thorpe-Satchville, their home in Leicestershire, to further acclimatise herself to the English conditions. She carried with her a letter from Marion Jones, who wrote in glowing terms about the visitor's play. When Hillyard first saw May they formed the opinion that she was too heavily built for speed about the court and that she posed no threat to the British players. They were proved otherwise when, the following day, May demonstrated her prowess in beating Mrs Hillyard, a six-time Wimbledon champion, and Miss Constance Wilson, another leading player. Other front-ranked players, who were guests of the Hillyards that week, soon came to the conclusion that May would be a force to be reckoned with at Wimbledon.

May's first tournament appearance was at the Northern Championships, held at Old Trafford, Manchester, during the middle of June. She attracted much interest. In the singles she won her first three matches with loss of only three games. In the semi-finals she kept and excellent length to score an easy victory over Constance Wilson, 6-2, 6-2, but in the final she was hard pressed on a sodden court to overcome Miss Hilda Lane, 7-5, 8-6. May reached the final of the mixed doubles.

A week later, May came south to Wimbledon for The Championships, held in those days at the Worple Road Ground. Spectators were shocked to see her ignore British protocol and play with the cuffs of her blouse rolled back, revealing bare wrists, because she found long sleeves too hot. Although May still wore the long white skirt, belted at the waist, favoured by leading players of the players, he blouse fitted more loosely than normal to allow for movement. There are those who said she used to wear her father's shirts instead of blouses for this very reason. With this costume she normally wore a head band, tied with a bow, white stockings and shoes. During the first week she had little difficulty in disposing of Miss N. Meyer, 6-0, 6-0, Miss Ellen Stawell-Brown, 6-3, 6-1, and Miss Winifred Longhurst, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the quarter-final, where she faced Miss Ethel Thomson. May's hard hitting and vigorous play contrasted with the beautiful style and coolness of her opponent who, with good judgement, produced drop shots and lobs to lead 5-2. May pluckily stuck to her guns and gradually wore the Englishwoman down to win 8-6, 6-1.

On the Monday, May entered the final by defeating Miss Agnes Morton. In opening set, rallies were long, with both players hitting hard from side to side. After trailing 2-4, May hit with greater severity to secure the next four games and the set. Miss Morton tired quickly in the following set and conceded without winning a game. In the final, Constance Wilson tried her best to wrest the initiative from May, but her earlier marathon match with Mrs Hillyard had taken its toll and she went down 6-3, 8-6.

Awaiting May in the challenge round was Dorothea Douglass, a vicar's daughter from Ealing, who had won The Championships for the past two years. The holder lacked match practice as she had not played competitively since spraining her right wrist at Nice three months earlier. After losing the opening game, May, with absolute confidence, won five consecutive games. Miss Douglass then made a determined effort and won the next two, but this was unavailing as May took the set 6-3.

May played relentlessly on her opponent's backhand to lead 3-0 in the second set before Miss Douglass countered by winning two games. Serving at 4-2, May fell behind at 30-40 but she saved this point and forged ahead at 5-2. Miss Douglass then made her last stand to read 4-5, but coolly May won the last game to love to become champion. There had been very little variety in the play, practically no lobbing and hardly a volley attempted. The rallies were sometimes long and exciting, but when they were extended May invariable won the point with a crushing forehand drive. Her victory never seemed in doubt from the second game of the first set. May, in partnership with Agnes Morton, lost in the final of the doubles, and with Holcombe Ward, a fellow American, fell at the quarter-final stage of the mixed doubles. Both were non-Championship events.

Following Wimbledon, May travelled to compete at the Welsh Championships at the Newport Athletic Club, where, in brilliant weather, she won four matches to capture the singles title. She had some anxious moments, especially against Mrs Ruth Winch in the semi-final. After taking the opening set, May found herself 2-5 and 0-40 down, but remarkably she was able to increase the tempo of her game and win the set 9-7. May won the final with ease from Constance Wilson, the defending champion, 6-0, 6-1. May also reached the final of the mixed doubles. At 18, she had taken Britain by storm, beating most of the leading players in the process of capturing three titles, including the crown at Wimbledon, without the loss of a set.

On her return to the United States, May won the Tri-State Championships at Cincinnati by beating Miss Myrtle McAteer in the challenge round, 6-0, 6-0, and then retained her Pacific Coast Championship, beating Florence in the final, 6-1, 6-0, to register her fifth victory in a row. Violet and Ethel won the doubles. This was the last title won by Ethel under her maiden name, for in early 1906 she became Mrs Doeg, moved to Mexico and eventually had six children. They all played the game, although John was by far the most successful. The highlight of his career came in 1930, when he won the United States Singles Championship, beating Frank Hunter and William Tilden on successive days, and Frank Shields in the final. The same year he retained his United States Doubles Championship with George Lott, reached the semi-final of the singles at Wimbledon and played in the Davis Cup. Two of Violet's other children, May and William, had good local records and played in some National events.

[In 1906], May decided to visit England again and defend her Wimbledon crown, but before doing so she added two more titles to her tally by winning the Coronado Country Club and the Ojai Valley tournaments, beating Florence in the final match at both.

May landed at Liverpool on 31st May and, after a few days' rest at Bootle, set about defending her Northern Championships title at Aigburth, Liverpool, where the entry was extremely good and included four Wimbledon champions. The attendance was very large on the last day to witness May lost in the final to Dorothea Douglass, 7-5, 6-2.

Miss Douglass took an early 3-0 lead before May won four consecutive games, mainly by the quality of her forehand drives. Later Miss Douglass lost the initiative when she dropped her service at 5-4, but made no mistake when she captured the last two games for the loss of two points, with some seemingly impossible backhand returns. In the second set Miss Douglass quickly profited from the use of the cross-court drive to reach 5-2. Realising something desperate must be done, May changed her tactics by going to the net and volleying, but it was too late and Miss Douglass triumphed on her fourth match point. Earlier in the week, May was given a fierce struggle by Mrs Charlotte Sterry, whose drop shots and volleys forced the match to three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. May reached the final when Miss Violet Pinckney retired.

For the next couple of weeks, May stayed with the Hillyards during which time she competed in the local Leicester tournament. She won the singles title without losing a set, although she was taken to advantage sets by Miss Toupie Lowther in the quarter-final, 6-0, 10-8, and Miss Violet Pinckney in the final, 6-0, 7-5. Her drives were too severe to cope with and her backhand had noticeably improved since the year before. May and Hugh Doherty were surprisingly beaten in an early round of the mixed doubles by Anthony Wilding and Winifred Longhurst, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

At Wimbledon, May stood out awaiting her challenger to emerge from the record entry of 48 in the All Comers' Singles. As expected, Dorothea Douglass reached the title round, winning easily against Charlotte Sterry in the final, 6-2, 6-2. A huge crowd assembled around the Centre Court on the second Thursday to witness the finale, among the spectators being the Grand Duke Michael of Russia and the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Plucky play

The first set was a tame affair compared with the second. May, who began somewhat hesitantly, recovered to two-all before losing the next three games. She managed to save the eighth game and even reached 40-0 in the following before losing the set, 6-3. May appeared to have the second set well in her grasp when she led 4-0, but Miss Douglass gradually caught up and eventually went ahead at 5-4. May equalised only to see the Englishwoman win the next game to love and then be within a point of the match at 40-0. May, grandly going for her strokes, saved four match points in the process of winning this game. She led 7-6, but Miss Douglass, playing most determinedly, won the next three games for the title, 6-3, 9-7. Miss Douglass owed her success to better judgement, greater accuracy and being more consistent, while May, as powerful as ever, failed to correct her length when continually hitting a foot or so beyond the baseline. Her plucky play towards the end was most admirable. As a consolation May, partnered by Blanche Hillyard, won the doubles.

A week later, May retained her Welsh title at Newport with the loss of only two games. She was expected to meet Mrs Sterry in the final but this lady was forced to retire in the semi-final owing to a strain. May had no bother in defeating Maud Garfit in the last round, 6-1, 6-0, and later won the doubles crown.

After a short rest, May travelled north to Newcastle for the Northumberland Championships, where her presence was well appreciated in the light of several leading competitors withdrawing at the last moment. May won the singles, defeating Miss Helen Aitchison in the final, 6-2, 6-1, and paired with George Hillyard to annex the first prize in the mixed doubles. An interesting exhibition match was arranged during the week between May and Sidney Smith, the latter giving 30 and owing 15. A bothersome wind interfered with Smith's famous drive and May won easily, 6-2, 6-1. May brought her visit to England to a conclusion by playing exhibition matches at the North Lonsdale Club annual tournament, before embarking for the United States on 12th August. On the way home, May defended her Tri-State title by beating Florence in the challenge round, 7-5, 6-1.

Early in 1907, May retained her Coronado Country Club title by defeating Florence in the final without dropping a game. Instead of playing at Ojai Valley she competed in the Canadian National Championships, held at Niagara-on-the-Lake, where, in a class of her own, she beat Miss Edith Rotch in the final, 6-2, 6-1. May then travelled down to New York where she embarked in the Cedric for her third trip to England. Three days after landing at Liverpool on the 27th May, she competed at the Leicester tournament, where the weather was so appalling that the meeting had to be abandoned without an event being completed. May was able to play only one singles match, that against Gladys Eastlake-Smith, whom she beat 6-4, 6-4.

A week later the weather at the Northern Championships at Manchester was hardly better. Seventeen days of rain prior to the start had made the courts very muddy and the Committee were forced to bring into use two hard courts. On this latter surface, May crushed Violet Pinckney, 6-0, 6-1, and Maud Garfit, 6-0, 6-3, but it was a different story in the final when play was switched back to the grass. The conditions admirably suited the play of Charlotte Sterry, whose volleying was crisp and clever, and her confidence supreme. May for her part was bewildered by her opponent's tactical ingenuity and a little dismayed when she found her attacking methods were not paying off. A good struggle ensued in the first set, which Mrs Sterry narrowly won 7-5, but in the second set May's usual spirit had forsaken her and she conceded without winning a game. Together, May and Blanche Hillyard lost in the final of the doubles.

On the eve of Wimbledon, May obtained a signal triumph in the challenge round of the Kent Championships at Beckenham by defeating Mrs Lambert Chambers, the newly-married Dorothea Douglass, to become the first overseas player to take the title. May held the reigns throughout the match and thoroughly deserved her 6-2, 8-6 victory. To reach the last stage May won four matches, dropping a set en route to Constance Wilson and Toupie Lowther, before brilliantly disposing of Gladys Eastlake-Smith in the final, 6-1, 6-0. May also achieved a fine win in the mixed doubles in partnership with the Australian Norman Brookes, who three weeks later won his first Wimbledon crown.

May's determination to regain her singles title at The Championships was evident from the outset of the meeting. An easy first round win against Miss Winifred Slocock, 6-2, 6-1, brought her up against Toupie Lowther, who undoubtedly gave her much to think about, especially in the second set, when she led 4-2 and 40-0. At this stage May showed wonderful perseverance and self-control in allowing Miss Lowther to make the mistakes. May in saving this game seemed to demoralise her opponent and, taking full advantage, won the next three games to take the match, 6-4, 6-4. Three straightforward victories, over Agnes Morton, 6-0, 6-2; Miss Constance Meyer, 6-0, 6-3; and Miss L. Bosworth, 6-2, 6-2, brought her to the final, where Constance Wilson showed much courage. Time and again she manoeuvred for position, got the desired opportunity and rushed in for the kill, only to volley into the net. The final score of 6-4, 6-2 hardly reflected the actual share of the scoring, for out of the 18 games played, 11 went to deuce and in several of these Miss Wilson had the vantage point.

Very severe

May was full of confidence and played well from the start against Mrs Lambert Chambers in the challenge round. Her drives were very severe and accurate with stroke after stroke clearing the net by only an inch or two. Although play was generally from the back of the court, May seldom failed to score when she got near enough to volley. Mrs Lambert Chambers hammered away at her opponent's backhand but noticeably this part of May's repertoire had improved immensely since the previous year and there was less advantage to be gained from this play.

In the opening set, May won the first three games before Mrs Lambert Chambers replied. In the fifth game two fine drop shots from Mrs Lambert Chambers made the score 40-30 in her favour but she was unable to capitalize on the situation and lost this and the next two games for the set. Mrs Lambert Chambers, finding herself 1-3 down in the second set, changed her tactics by hitting harder and going on the offensive. Her reward was to reach four-all but this was her last success as May took the last two games for victory at 6-1, 6-4 to become champion for the second time. Mrs Lambert Chambers fought stubbornly until the end, saving three match points in the process. May gained much satisfaction from winning the mixed doubles with her fellow American Beals Wright.

For the third year in succession May won the Welsh title and made the 80 guinea cup her own. She confirmed her Wimbledon form by defeating Constance Wilson and Toupie Lowther in the last two rounds, although both managed to take her to an advantage second set. May also won the mixed doubles. She intended to defend her title at the Northumberland Championships but at the last moment she declined and after a few days' rest sailed for the United States on 8th August. May did not return to England until 22 years later. In the United States, May won the Tri-State Championship for the third year in a row, beating Miss Martha Kinsey in the last match, 6-1, 6-1.

For the next five seasons, until she married at the end of 1912, May continued to dominate the tennis scene wherever she played. Generally she restricted her activities to California, but there were several occasions when she travelled further afield to seek more honours. During this period she won the Southern California Championship, the Pacific Coast Championship and Coronado Country Club tournament, each three times. She also captured the Newport Amateur Ladies' Invitation and the Western Championships twice, the Washington and Ohio State Championships once, and made another successful trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In 1908, May won several doubles titles with Miss Elizabeth Ryan. The following season, May and Florence visited Mexico City, the outcome being that May defeated her sister in the final, 6-1, 6-4. In 1912, May won the inaugural United States Women's Clay Court Singles Championship, held at Pittsburgh, where she defeated Miss Mary Browne in the final, 6-4, 6-2, and took the mixed title with Fred Harris. May won other tournaments and it was a rarity for her to leave without claiming at least one doubles title.

However, May was not invincible, for in 1910 she suffered a shock defeat when she lost in the final of the Ojai Valley tournament to Miss Hazel Hotchkiss, another product of California, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. May had met this player several times in previous years and usually managed to beat her in the straight sets. The press at the time considered this a sensational victory and one which made tennis history. Later in the year, May got her revenge twice. First at the Mount Washington tournament, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, and then at the Pacific Coast Championships, after a tremendous struggle, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. A year later, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Miss Hotchkiss beat May for the second time, by the unusual score of 0-6, 7-5, 6-0.

Wightman Cup donor

Much more was to be heard of Miss Hotchkiss, who became Mrs Wightman. In a very long career she won the United States Singles Championship four times, the doubles six times, and was Wimbledon doubles champion in 1924. She will be long remembered for donating the now famous Wightman Cup. On the one occasion when Florence Sutton entered the United States Singles Championship, in 1911, she was beaten in the challenge round by Miss Hotchkiss, 8-10, 6-1, 9-7, after leading in the final set, 6-5, 40-30.

May married Thomas Bundy at Christ Church, Los Angeles, on Wednesday, 11th December, 1912. The wedding took place at 8.30 in the evening, with Florence being maid of honour and Simpson Sinasbaugh, a noted local player, the best man. Thomas Clarke Bundy (b. Santa Monica, 8th October 1881) was an outstanding player who won many titles, including the United States Doubles Championship three times with Maurice McLoughlin, 1912-14. In 1910, he won the All Comers' Singles at the United States Championships and forced William Larned to five sets in the challenge round. He also played in the Davis Cup competition for the years 1911 and 1914.

During the next six years, May seldom competed as she was busy raising her family of four, Nathan, Thomas, Dorothy and William. However, in 1915 she found time to win the Ojai Valley title, with victories over Mary Browne and Florence, and defeat Miss Molla Mallory in the Hotel Virginia tournament at Los Angeles, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, a feat she repeated the following year. When May was absent the Sutton tradition of collecting trophies was left in the capable hands of Florence, who never married.

Although May played in a few tournaments from 1918 onwards, her entries were generally restricted to doubles events, and it was not until 1921 that she made a determined comeback in singles. That year she competed in the United States Championships, which were played for the first time at the West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, New York. Playing her normal aggressive game, she quickly disposed of Miss Travell, 6-0, 6-0; Miss Louise Raymond, 6-3, 6-2; and Miss Helen Gilleaudeau, 6-1, 6-2, to reach the semi-final, where she was forced to bow to Mrs Mallory (nee Bjurstedt), 8-6, 6-2. May also reached the semi-final of the mixed doubles with Robert Kinsey. While in the East, May won the Newport Inter-City tournament, beating Mary Browne in the final, 6-4, 6-4, but lost to the same person at the New York State Championships, in another close match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. May also captured the New York Metropolitan doubles, in partnership with Miss Helen Wills, who was destined to become one of the world's greatest players.

Early in 1922, May regained her Ojai Valley title, overcoming Mary Browne in the final, 8-6, 6-2, and won the doubles event at the Los Angeles City Championships, before challenging again at the Nationals. Three victories, against Mrs S.H. Waring, 6-2, 6-1; Miss Edith Handy, 6-1, 6-0; and Miss Martha Bayard, 12-10, 4-6, 6-0, brought her to the semi-final, where Helen Wills barred her way, 6-4, 6-3. On the same visit, May lost in the final of the New York State Championship to Mrs Mallory, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, but won the Seabright Invitational mixed doubles with the Frenchman Jean Borotra.

The following year, May did not go east. She beat Mary Browne in the final of the Ojai Valley and Santa Barbara tournaments, and also accounted for Miss Eleanor Goss in the final of the mid-winter meeting, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. She hardly played at all in 1924, although she did win the California State Championship doubles title with Helen Wills.

In 1925, May was chosen to represent the United States against Great Britain in the Wightman Cup at Forest Hills. With Mrs Mallory, she lost the opening doubles match to Miss Ermyntrude Harvey and Mrs Lambert Chambers, 10-8, 6-1. May was then 38, and Mrs Lambert Chambers, 46. Immediately after the tie, May played in the United States Championships. She beat Edith Handy, 6-1, 6-0, and Miss Charlotte Hosmer, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, but could make little impression against Helen Wills in the next round and went down 6-3, 6-2. May, renewing her partnership with Elizabeth Ryan, lost in the final of the doubles to Mary Browne and Helen Wills, 6-4, 6-3.

A record

For the next three years, May mainly stayed in California and curtailed her play. In 1927, she won the Ojai Valley singles title, but lost in the final of the Pacific Coast Championship to Miss Helen Jacobs, who later became United States and Wimbledon champion, 6-3, 6-2. The following year, May won a number of tournaments, including the Southern California Championship for a record ninth time - 28 years after her fist triumph.

May's last year of competition was 1929, when she decided to celebrate the occasion by visiting Europe again accompanied by her 12-year-old daughter, Dorothy. She competed in the French Championships at Auteuil without success, losing in the second round of the singles to Frau Friedleben, 7-5, 6-1. She fared no better in the two doubles events, losing in the opening round of both.

May then crossed the Channel to compete in the Kent Championships at Beckenham. She lost her opening match to Miss Ruth Tapscott of South Africa, 6-4, 6-2, but reached the third round of the doubles with Miss Marjorie Morrill, a fellow American. Dorothy played in the girls' singles and was beaten by the winner of the event, Miss Mary Whitmarsh.

A week later at the Queen's Club, May performed much better and reached the quarter-final of the singles. She scored notable wins over the American Miss Edith Cross, 2-6, 8-6, 6-0, and Mlle Yvonne Sigart of Belgium, 6-1, 6-0, before losing to Elizabeth Ryan, 7-5, 6-2. May reached the final of the doubles with Marjorie Morrill.

So to Wimbledon. Not the same place of her former triumphs at Worple Road, but across the town to Church Road, where the new ground and stadium had been opened several years earlier. In the first round, May received a bye and in the second was given a walkover by Mrs E. Robertson. In her next match, May defeated Ermyntrude Harvey in a gruelling match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, at the end of which Miss Harvey had been run almost to a standstill. In the fourth round, May brought off a sensational win over the No. 4 seed, Miss Eileen Bennett, who was not born when May last won the title, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Great credit must be given to May, who at one stage trailed 1-3 in the final set. Unfortunately, five days later she could not strike the same form and lost in the quarter-final, rather badly, to Miss Joan Ridley, 6-3, 6-2. May reached the third round of the doubles with Marjorie Morrill, but did not enter the mixed doubles.

On the way home, May competed in the United States Championships for the last time. Seeded at No. 5, she quickly dispatched Miss Catherine Jones, in the first round, 6-0, 6-1, but her next match against Miss Helen Marlowe developed into a marathon and she had to survive a crisis in the second set to win, 5-7, 8-6, 6-4. She then lost to England's Miss Betty Nuthall, who hit extremely hard that day, 7-5, 6-1. May lost in the second round of the doubles with Miss Josephine Cruickshank.

May's performance after returning to competitive play in 1921 was reflected in the annual United States national rankings, which placed her at No. 4 in 1921, No. 6 in 1922, No. 8 in 1925 and No. in 1928. Unfortunately, these lists were not issued before 1913.

A few years after May retired, Dorothy came to the fore. Similarly built to her mother, she had a powerful forehand, served well and enjoyed volleying. With the exception of one year, she was ranked in the American top ten from 1936 to 1946, her highest position being at No. 3. From 1937 to 1939, she played in the Wightman Cup, and in 1938 and 1946 competed at Wimbledon, where she reached the semi-final of the singles and the final of the mixed doubles on her last visit. She will always be remembered as the first American to win the Australian singles, in 1938. Dorothy, who became Mrs Cheney in 1946, currently holds the record for winning the most U.S.T.A. Championships on all surfaces, in the various age categories.

After a separation of 17 years, May divorced Thomas Bundy in Los Angeles during June 1940. Thomas, a real estate dealer, died on 13th October, 1945.

May, like her sisters, continued to play tennis, more or less on a daily basis, for many years. All four taught the game in the Santa Monica area, from the nineteen-thirties to well into the nineteen-fifties. For some time May coached at the Los Angeles Country Club.

May was still playing the game she loved four years before she died at her home in Santa Monica on Saturday, 4th October, 1975, aged 89.

13,464 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
According to the above short biography (1984 edition) of May Sutton, by Alan Little, these are May's main singles titles in the state of California throughout her career:

Pacific Coast Championships: 1901-05, 1908, 1910-11 (eight singles titles)

Southern California Championships: 1900-03, 1908-10, 1915, 1928 (nine)

Ojai Valley: 1902-06, 1908, 1912, 1922, 1923, 1927-28 (eleven)

Coronado Country Club: 1906-10 (five)

Premium Member
43,731 Posts
Regarding players coming from the US, there was also Elisabeth Moore, but she didn't enter Wimbledon. She played other tournaments in Ireland (I saw at least one in the results thread). It was before 1900. And like Marion Jones at Wimbledon, didn't go far, despite being a US champion (Moore will win the USC four times, in 1896, 1901, 1903 and 1905). Which is certainly an indication of the inferior level of US players compared to UK ones by then. That indication also worked the other way around: Irish player Mabel Cahill was twice US champion in 1891 and 1892, whereas she barely won any event in England before (she won a few small ones). May Sutton was the first US player to play up to the best players of England. It appeared she even was the best in the world (first winning everything on the West coast, then on the East coast, then in England!), along with Dorothea Douglass. I recall reading Sutton said the English player who impressed her the most was Charlotte Cooper.

25,876 Posts
Regarding players coming from the US, there was also Elisabeth Moore, but she didn't enter Wimbledon. She played other tournaments in Ireland (I saw at least one in the results thread). It was before 1900. And like Marion Jones at Wimbledon, didn't go far, despite being a US champion (Moore will win the USC four times, in 1896, 1901, 1903 and 1905). Which is certainly an indication of the inferior level of US players compared to UK ones by then. That indication also worked the other way around: Irish player Mabel Cahill was twice US champion in 1891 and 1892, whereas she barely won any event in England before (she won a few small ones). May Sutton was the first US player to play up to the best players of England. It appeared she even was the best in the world (first winning everything on the West coast, then on the East coast, then in England!), along with Dorothea Douglass. I recall reading Sutton said the English player who impressed her the most was Charlotte Cooper.
May is probably comes out the worst when it comes to slam numbers showing a players worth.

She was so much better than just 3 slams.

Her extreme topspin, schooled on California hard courts, rolled over the opposition.

It took a combination of high skill, someone who could break up her game, and a wet court to beat her. On a slick court her spin didn't blast throw, and a good net rusher could take advantage.

Two players who beat her this way were Haze Wightman and Chattie Stery, fitting what Hughes posted about

Sutton said the English player who impressed her the most was Charlotte Cooper

25,876 Posts
Wimbledon has a "Throwback Thursday" post on May-I love the little ditty!:)

From the Wimbledon site:

Throwback Thursday: ‘O May, May, May! The girl from the great USA’

1905 Wimbledon final. Dorothea Douglass (later Chambers) is in mid swing-while Sutton awaits the shot across the net.

by Malin Lundin

Thursday 2 October 2014
This week's Throwback Thursday from the Wimbledon Museum looks at May Sutton...
Following The Championships 1905, the popular sporting magazine Lawn Tennis and Badminton noted that the year’s tournament at Wimbledon would ‘long be remembered, and deservedly so, as an epoch-making one, and as a brilliant page in the history of lawn tennis’.

Making the year so memorable was the 18-year old American player, May Sutton, who for the first time in the history of The Championships took the Ladies’ Championship title away from Britain. Indeed, she was the first ever foreign player to become Wimbledon Champion and came to epitomise the decline of the British domination of the game and the rapid growth in the success of players from countries such as America and Australia.

British-born May grew up in California, spending much of her childhood playing tennis with her siblings on the family’s private tennis court at their home in Pasadena. Along with her three sisters, May came to dominate the Californian tennis scene in the first decade of the twentieth century and reached national success after winning the United States Championships in 1904.

The following year, May crossed the Atlantic to challenge her British opponents, becoming only the second American woman to compete at Wimbledon. Playing at The Championships, she defied current rules of fashion, shocking the British spectators by wearing a shorter skirt revealing her ankles and rolling up the sleeves of her blouse showing bare wrists.
May reached the Ladies’ Singles final without the loss of a single set. On Saturday 8 July 1905, a huge audience gathered at the All England Club on Worple Road to watch the American meet the British player Dorothea Douglass (later Chambers) who had won The Championships for the past two years. Throughout the match May displayed absolute confidence and with a strong forehand she defeated the previous Champion 6-3, 6-4.
Dorothea Douglass later remarked of her opponent, ‘If anyone had pluck it was Miss Sutton. To come to a strange country and to play and defeat one after another of the best players in this country, was a feat which filled us all with unbounded admiration’.

The unprecedented success of the young American even inspired a song published in Lawn Tennis and Badminton at the end of July 1905.

There’s a lady from over the way,
From the West of the great USA,
Drive, volley and service
With puzzling curve, is
To her but the merest child’s play!
The name of this lady is May;

O May, May, May!
The girl from the great USA,
With the muscular force that outrivals a horse,
And the dash of a light coryphée [a type of ballet dancer],
She aspires, like her nation, to lick all creation,
Does May, May, May!

O May, May, May!
The girl from the great USA,
She mocks at the sun, and until she has won,
The thunder keeps out of the way;
For its bolts are a joke when compared with
The stroke
Of May, May, May!

May returned to play at The Championships for the next three years; losing her title to Miss Douglass in 1906 and winning it back again in 1907.

Premium Member
43,731 Posts
I also saw in the results thread that during the first war, Sutton, Hotchkiss and Bjurstedt made events for facing each other in special tournaments. They were the three best players in the US around that time, totally dominating the competition. Bjurstedt got the final word in terms of domination (Sutton was barely playing anymore), but was soon going to be totally dominated by Lenglen and Wills the decade after.

25,876 Posts
I also saw in the results thread that during the first war, Sutton, Hotchkiss and Bjurstedt made events for facing each other in special tournaments. They were the three best players in the US around that time, totally dominating the competition. Bjurstedt got the final word in terms of domination (Sutton was barely playing anymore), but was soon going to be totally dominated by Lenglen and Wills the decade after.
Did May win 2 of 3 matches with Molla in 1915? That was the year Molla won the Nationals. In Bjurstedt's defense it was on May's home courts in California, and no doubt the first time Molla played on cement.

Premium Member
43,731 Posts
Did May win 2 of 3 matches with Molla in 1915? That was the year Molla won the Nationals. In Bjurstedt's defense it was on May's home courts in California, and no doubt the first time Molla played on cement.
Yes. Here are the results from these 1915 tournaments:

November 12-14, Women’s Round Robin Invitational, San Francisco, California, USA (Hard)
Venue: California Lawn Tennis Club

Nov 12: Molla Bjurstedt (Nor) d. Hazel Wightman 6-4 5-7 6-2
Nov 13: May Bundy d. Hazel Wightman 6-2 4-6 6-4
Nov 14: Molla Bjurstedt (Nor) d May Sutton Bundy 10-8 6-2

A New York Times article declares Molla's win seals her position as the world's best. They note this is Molla's first foray onto hard courts, a surface that favors Bundy. The article also speculates that Molla traveled West to directly confront Bundy, who has played in the east for several years.

Both play a similar style, knocking the cover off the ball on the forehand and standing on the left side of the court to avoid hittinh backhands. May's topspin results in hard balls with greater depth that Molla, whose bullet-like forehand is hit much flatter.

This round robin event basically conincided with, and totally overshadowed, the end of the men's event at the Pacific Coast Chmps.


November 25-27, Dec 11 Women’s Round Robin Invitational, Long Beach, CA, USA (Hard)

*An invitational round robin event based on a series on exhibition matches.

Nov 25
May Sutton Bundy d Molla Bjurstedt (Nor) 6-1 6-4
Florence Sutton d Mary Browne 6-4 6-3

Nov 26
Mary Browne d May Sutton Bundy 6-4 6-3
Molla Bjurstedt (Nor) d Florence Sutton 6-4 6-3

Nov 27
Molla Bjurstedt (NOR) d Mary Browne 2-6 6-2 6-4
May Sutton Bundy d Florence Bundy 6-1 6-0

Bjurstedt and Bundy play a "decider" on basis of even 2-1 records in round robin. This was in effect a "final" that was not originally planned.

Dec 11-Final
May Sutton Bundy d Molla Bjurstedt (Nor) 6-3 1-6 6-2

*An invitational round robin event based on a series on exhibition matches.

May's two wins over Molla at Long Beach tilt the head to head in her favor.

The Washington Herald is quite specific in stating Bundy's 6-1 6-4 win was on Thanksgiving Day-cementing the Nov 25 date. The New York Times validates the Nov 25-27 dates with specific results.

May's two wins over Molla at this event even their head to heads at 2-2 if Molla's 2 earlier exhibition matches are counted.
I seem to remember another of those with Hazel winning one of her matches. It was more balanced. I'd need to check again the 1915-1918 results.

Premium Member
43,731 Posts
We don't have much vids about May Sutton. We've read a lot about her, but how do we imagine her game? I've read about her forehand topspin, but what enlightens me more also on the following document, is the quality of her movement. The movie is blurred, but still, you can watch May Sutton Bundy at 5:47 here (she was making a comeback back then, since she won Wimbledon in 1905 and 1907, that makes more than 20 years later!). She's facing Betty Nuthall in a 1929 match at the USC. The whole thing starts at 3:35. May Sutton is the smallest of the two. She moves a lot to play on her forehand most of the time, since it was her "weapon". But she moves very well, doesn't she?


25,876 Posts
From the archive: May Sutton, America's first female champion - The Championships, Wimbledon 2017 - Official Site by IBM

From the archive: May Sutton, America's first female champion dips into the archive to remember the career of two-time Ladies' Singles champion May Sutton.

By Paul Newman
Share on Google+
Share on Facebook

May Sutton, who was born 130 years ago this week, was the first American to win the Ladies’ Singles at The Championships, but that was by no means her only claim to fame. Seventeen of Sutton’s fellow countrywomen have followed in her Wimbledon footsteps – the United States has produced more champions at the All England Club than any other country - but she is the only American Ladies’ champion who was actually born in Britain.

Sutton’s family emigrated to the United States when she was just six and went on to become one of the most successful in the history of the sport. Sutton, who triumphed at Wimbledon in 1905 and 1907 and also won the US title in 1904, married Tom Bundy, three times a US doubles champion. Their daughter, Dorothy Bundy, won an astonishing 391 national championships, the last of them at the age of 96, and claimed the Australian national title in 1938. Sutton’s nephew, John Doeg, was the US champion in 1930, while her grandson, Brian Cheney, made one appearance at The Championships in 1967.

Born in Plymouth on 25 September 1886, Sutton was the youngest of seven children. Their father, a captain in the Royal Navy, suffered respiratory problems and was advised on his retirement to live in a warmer climate. The family moved to California, where they eventually lived on a ranch near Pasadena.

Sutton’s sisters had begun playing tennis while still living in Britain and their parents built a court for them at the ranch. Four of the girls – Ethel, Violet, Florence and May – played to a high level, though it soon became clear who would be the most successful.

May was strongly built and deceptively quick around the court. Although only 5ft 4in tall, she had a very powerful forehand. She won her first tournament at the age of 13 and was soon dominating competitions in southern California. At 17 she travelled to Philadelphia to compete in the US national championships, where she won the singles and doubles titles at the first attempt.

The following year Sutton crossed the Atlantic to become only the second American woman to compete at The Championships. The 1899 US champion, Marion Jones, had reached the quarter-finals on her only appearance at the All England Club in 1900.

Given her background there was much interest in Sutton, which was only heightened by her attire. Because of the heat, she wore a shorter skirt than was customary and rolled up the sleeves of her blouse, thus exposing both her ankles and her wrists, which to British eyes was quite shocking.

If Sutton’s dress stunned the crowds at Worple Road, where The Championships were held until 1921, her tennis had a similar effect. The American won her first three matches for the loss of only eight games before being pushed hard by Ethel Thomson, whose clever touch play took her into a 5-2 lead in the first set before Sutton won 8-6, 6-1. A 6-4, 6-0 victory over Agatha Morton took Sutton into the All-Comers’ Final, in which she beat Constance Wilson 6-3, 8-6.

Until 1922 the defending champions went straight through to the Challenge Round, in which they faced the winner of the All-Comers’ Final. Dorothea Douglass, who had won the title in 1903 and 1904, took the first game against Sutton, but her opponent quickly took charge by winning the next five. Targeting Douglass’ backhand, May dominated the rallies from the back of the court, her forehand proving especially effective, and won 6-3, 6-4.

Having also claimed the title at the Northern Championships in Manchester before heading to the All England Club, Sutton went on to triumph at the Welsh Championships at Newport. She returned home having won three titles in Britain without losing a set – all at the age of 18.

The 1905 final at The Championships was the first of three in a row contested by Douglass and Sutton. Douglass earned her revenge one year later, winning a fiercely competitive contest 6-3, 9-7, but was well beaten in 1907, Sutton winning 6-1, 6-4, having again swept through her matches without dropping a set.

For the next five years, until her marriage in 1912, Sutton continued to compete regularly in the United States. Thereafter she focused on raising her four children, though she started entering tournaments again – mostly in doubles – in 1918. Three years later she made a comeback in singles and reached the semi-finals of the US national championships.

In 1925, at the age of 38, Sutton represented the United States against Britain in the Wightman Cup at Forest Hills. One of her opponents was 46-year-old Dorothea Lambert Chambers (nee Douglass), 18 years after their last meeting at The Championships.

Sutton finally retired in 1929 at the age of 42, but only after one last visit to The Championships, which by now were being staged at Church Road. Remarkably, she reached the quarter-finals by beating the No 4 seed, Eileen Bennett, who had been born 11 days after Sutton’s 1907 Wimbledon triumph. Sutton’s final match was a 3-6, 2-6 defeat to Joan Ridley.

Thereafter it was the turn of Sutton’s daughter, Dorothy, to pick up the family baton, which she did by becoming the first American to win the Australian national title in 1938. Sutton, who continued to play tennis well into her eighties, died at her home in Santa Monica at the age of 89 in 1975.

Sutton serves to Dorothea Lambert Chambers at Wimbledon. Note the pony roller, which was used to role the lawns.

1 - 20 of 22 Posts