Monday, June 06, 2016

Day-by-Day: Finally, Lenglen...


The complete Suzanne Lenglen series, as it appeared on WTA Backspin's "The Daily Backspin: RG Edition" during the 2016 Roland Garros tournament, from May 22-June 5.

May 22, 2016 (Day 1)

It's well past high time someone gave the great, trendsetting, WAY ahead of her time Suzanne Lenglen a daily nod during Roland Garros, so I'll be doing it here. Beginning today.

To start off, here's a nice write-up on Lenglen from the Tennis Fixation blog from a few years ago.

May 23 (Day 2)

After becoming the first woman tennis player to turn pro in 1926, Suzanne "La Divine" Lenglen was unable to continue to contend for major titles. The AELTC revoked the flashy Frenchwoman's honorary club membership after her decision, despite her being a six-time Wimbledon champion. So the All-England Club was ever-so-"progressive" even way back then. Imagine that.

This video is from seven years later, at age 34 or 35, when Lenglen was still considered the greatest female tennis player to ever live.

[YouTube details]
"Sportshots - Popular sports and pastimes under the Cine-Camera lens - Described by Charles Eade of the "Sunday Express".
This week Charles Eade takes Suzanne Lenglen for his subject.

On the roof of the Gallerie Lafayette on Regent Street we see champion tennis player Suzanne Lenglen demonstrating her different tennis racquet grips and tennis strokes to a small watching crowd. Commentator Charles Eade describes practice techniques as we see Suzanne hitting a tennis ball against a wall. Several slow motion shots show Suzanne's skill in detail.

May 24 (Day 3)

Happy 117th birthday, Mademoiselle Lenglen, courtesy of the Google Doodle.

May 25 (Day 4)

Another Lenglen moment. In this case, a brief clip of a practice session where she's elegantly swatting volleys. While the swing of her racket -- sometimes beautifully sweeping with a wonderful follow-through -- is what immediately catches your eye, it's just as interesting to focus only on her feet. As we see so often today, so much of a player's game comes down to great footwork. Lenglen is always on her toes in this drill, bouncing on the balls of her feet the entire time, preparing for the next shot as soon as the ball leaves her racket. And she's doing it while wearing an almost mid-calf length skirt, too. You get the sense here of her athleticism here, and wonder what sort of player she might be if plucked from the past and able to develop her skills in an era when such attributes would have played even better vs. the many similarly-styled athletes of today.

Hmmm... would "Lenglen 2016" resemble maybe a mash-up of Mauresmo's graceful movement (especially on grass), Aga's flair and a healthy dash of the first Martina's ahead-of-her-time athletic ability? Add in a personality with equal part BJK's willingness to step outside the "accepted" boundaries, as well as a desire to stand out via her fashion sense and style, and the mind boggles thinking about just how great -- and controversial, because it just goes with the territory -- an ever-present presence she'd have on the world sporting stage in the current era.

May 26 (Day 5)

Kristina Mladenovic, FRA: rockin' the stripes... if only she was the only one wearing them. Call it the "Lenglen Pastry Exception to the Fashion Rule."

May 26 (Day 5)

Another Lenglen moment. Actually, THE moment, one could make a case.

Before Martina faced off with Chrissie, Steffi and Monica met to decide slam titles, or Serena and Venus moved the Williams Family Practice Session onto the grand slam stages, there was the idea of Suzanne Lenglen, recognized as the greatest women's tennis player alive, and Helen Wills.

The only problem with their "rivalry," though, was that they only ever met once on a tennis court. It happened ninety years and three months ago, on February 16, 1926. And when it happened, it was called "The Match of the Century."

But, first, some context...

Frenchwoman Lenglen, of course, was the winner of eight slam singles titles from 1919-26, including six Wimbledon crowns. She compiled a 341-7 match record, and once won 181 matches in a row. In 1920, she won Olympic singles Gold, losing just four total games en route to the victory stand in Antwerp. Lenglen reached the final at Roland Garros (then a French-only event) in 1914 at age 14. At 15, she became the youngest winner of a major championship (it's still a record) when she won the World Hard Court Championships. World War I, though, caused her to miss five years of her career, as the sport didn't appear again in Europe until 1919.

A flamboyant, fashion trendsetter (and French, too... go figure?), Lenglen was the first true female tennis celebrity. The sport's biggest star attraction in the late 1910's and early 1920's, Lenglen was dubbed "La Divine" (The Goddess) by the French press. Lenglen famously gained attention for (gasp) appearing at Wimbledon in a forearm-baring dress cut just above the calf. Predictably, the Brits were shocked by the bold Pastry, who was also known for sipping brandy from her "emergency kit" between sets of play.

American star Wills was six and a half years younger than Lenglen, and different from her (near)-contemporary in so many ways. Well, other than on-court dominance, that is. By 1926, the 20 year-old California native had already won three U.S. Open titles and Olympic Gold in 1924 in Lenglen's Paris hometown.

{from Wikipedia} "Wills was the first American woman athlete to become a global celebrity, making friends with royalty and film stars despite her preference to stay out of the limelight. She was admired for her graceful physique and for her fluid motion. She was part of a new tennis fashion, playing in knee-length pleated skirts rather than the longer ones of her predecessors. Unusually, she practiced against men to hone her craft, and she played a relentless game, wearing down her female opponents with power and accuracy.">

While Lenglen was flamboyant, Wills was described as introverted and detached. She rarely showed emotion. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice dubbed her "Little Miss Poker Face," and she was said to ignore both her opponents and the crowd during matches.

Kitty McKane Godfree, the only player to ever defeat Wills at Wimbledon, said, "Helen was a very private person, and she didn't really make friends very much." Wills, especially as she became more successful (shocker), was considered an unpopular public figure, and was desparagingly called "Queen Helen" and "The Imperial Helen." Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman (a four-time U.S. Open champ) offered a reason, saying, "Helen was really an unconfident and [socially] awkward girl -— you have no idea how awkward.... I thought of Helen as an honestly shy person who was bewildered by how difficult it was to please most people."

In her autobiography, Wills said, "I had one thought and that was to put the ball across the net. I was simply myself, too deeply concentrated on the game for any extraneous thought."

The playing styles of the two women were in direct opposition to one another. Wills was blessed with a natural physical presence, but was seen as having less overt athleticism and what we would now call a "Plan B" course of action. She employed a serve-and-volley game and powerful groundstrokes that drove opponents deep in the court and served to cover her vulnerable forward movement toward the net; while the light-footed and imaginative Lenglen played a more varied game, mastering the drop shot and known for brilliant shot-making. She was at her best on grass courts. And then, of course, there were the sips of alcohol during matches, an act which, really, we could do worse than seeing some player attempt to employ today, as I right? (Wink, wink.)

After having never met in a match, the two woman -- who would both be considered "the greatest ever" during their day -- finally faced off for what would be the only time in the final of a tournament at the Carlton Club in Cannes, France in February 1926. The match -- dubbed "The Match of the Century" -- was anticipated much like a fabled heavyweight championship boxing match. Ultimately, Lenglen won the contest, benefiting from a few questionable calls that went her way, though she and the 4000-strong crowd had previously celebrated prematurely after her first MP when Wills' shot was called out. The court was cleared and play resumed after a linesperson said that he had declared the ball in and the out call that had "ended" the match had actually been made by someone in the stands!

Fifteen minutes later, Lenglen finally won 6-3/8-6. She was said to be close to collapse several times during the match, and some believe she was exhausted and in a nervous state because by simply playing the match the 26-year old was defying her father for essentially the first time. He'd forbidden her to play Wills, and she apparently had a sleepness night on the eve of the match-up.

Later that season at Wimbledon, in what would be her final appearance there, Lenglen unknowingly kept Queen Mary waiting in the Royal Box for her appearance in a match. The Frenchwoman had been told the match would start much later in the day, and fainted upon hearing of the error. The act was viewed as an "insult to the monarchy." Lenglen withdrew from the tournament, and never played there again.

It is believed by some that Lenglen purposely avoided Wills the rest of the year in 1926. Wills' emergency appendectomy during Roland Garros that spring sent her out of Paris and kept her from playing Wimbledon, as well. Lenglen then turned professional after the '26 season, taking up U.S. entrepreneur Charles Pyle's offer of $50,000 to tour the U.S., where she played in a series of exhibition matches vs. U.S. Open champ Mary Browne. Criticized for her decision, and AELTC at Wimbledon revoked her honorary membership.

Lenglen, though, described her decision as "an escape from bondage and slavery" and said in the tour program, "In the twelve years I have been champion I have earned literally millions of francs for tennis and have paid thousands of francs in entrance fees to be allowed to do so... I have worked as hard at my career as any man or woman has worked at any career. And in my whole lifetime I have not earned $5,000 – not one cent of that by my specialty, my life study – tennis.... I am twenty-seven and not wealthy – should I embark on any other career and leave the one for which I have what people call genius? Or should I smile at the prospect of actual poverty and continue to earn a fortune – for whom?" Concerning the amateur tennis set-up of the day, Lenglen said, "Under these absurd and antiquated amateur rulings, only a wealthy person can compete, and the fact of the matter is that only wealthy people do compete. Is that fair? Does it advance the sport? Does it make tennis more popular – or does it tend to suppress and hinder an enormous amount of tennis talent lying dormant in the bodies of young men and women whose names are not in the social register?"

Lenglen won all 38 matches she played on the tour vs. Browne, and was exhausted by the time it was over. Rather than rest and return to the game later, she retired to run a Paris tennis school. Health issues were with Lenglen throughout her life and career. She suffered from chronic asthma as a child, and picked up tennis partly as a way to gain strength to combat her numerous health problems. She won every Wimbledon title but one from 1919-25, having been forced to withdraw from the '24 tournament in the QF due to health problems associated with jaundice. In June of 1938, Lenglen was diagnosed with leukemia. She went quickly as three weeks later, she went blind, and on July 4 she died in Paris of pernicious anemia at age 39.

Meanwhile, Wills went on to dominate the sport more thoroughly after Lenglen's 1926 exit. She added sixteen additional slam singles titles after '26 to up career total to nineteen, inheriting Lenglen's crown (and replacing her in the minds of many) as the greatest player in the sport's 20th century era. In 1933, Wills defeated Phil Neer, the #8-ranked U.S. male player at the time, in an exhibition match, 6-3/6-4. She won her record eighth Wimbledon title in 1938, a mark that wasn't surpassed until Martina Navratilova won her ninth crown fifty-two years later in 1990.

So, who was better? Lenglen or Wills?

When asked what he believed to be the most beautiful sight he had ever seen, movie legend Charlie Chaplin replied, "the movement of Helen Wills playing tennis." But Elizabeth Ryan, who faced both in her career and played doubles with both women, said, "Suzanne, of course. She owned every kind of shot, plus was a genius for knowing how and when to use them."

While Lenglen died young, Wills (who won half of her major titles as "Helen Wills Moody" after marrying in 1929), lived to be nearly 100. She died in 1998 at age 92 in Carmel, California.

The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills,
by Larry Englemann (1988)

There was an entire book devoted to the lives of the two tennis greats who played just once: The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills. It's out of print, but can be purchased cheaply on Amazon and eBay. In fact, I'm awaiting the arrival of my copy right now.

Below is an extended excerpt from the book from, where additional excerpts can be found. What I've pulled out focuses on the Lenglen/Wills match. I especially liked the mention of Lenglen's "emergency kit" and its immediately positive impact on her game in the heat of battle.

Further text from the book (along with some discussion) can be found on a forum thread on

[From The Goddess and the American Girl]

In the fourth game Lenglen seized control of the [1st] set. She exchanged long backhand drives with Wills, staying behind the baseline on her backhand side, clearly tempting her to go for the easy winner down the forehand side. But Helen Wills did not go for those winners. She hit ball after ball deep to Lenglen's backhand... one newsman wrote that Helen Wills played as though she believed Suzanne Lenglen's weakness was her backhand. It wasn't... Lenglen took... a 3-2 lead.

Lenglen won the 1st set 6-3. Between sets she had "two deep swallows" from her "emergency kit" -- said to be iced cognac. "There was a noticably new spring in her walk when she returned to the baseline to receive Helen's serve."

Wills served the opening game of the second set. She sliced her first service wide to Lenglen's forehand, drew the Maid Marvel off the court, then moved in quickly and took the return with a winning volley to the backhand side. The crowd loved it. She took three more points in rapid succession and without much difficulty. The last point of the game was nearly unbelievable: a beautiful topped backhand shot straight down the line. The shot completely outwitted Lenglen and left her standing flatfooted in the backcourt. Wills had raised the level of play once again.

[After 7 games the score stood at Wills 4, Lenglen 3...] Before serving the eighth game, Suzanne Lenglen took another gulp from her emergency kit. Then she served and won the first point. But Helen Wills again came back and took two points and the lead. The fourth point of the game involved an exceptionally long rally. Then Lenglen returned one of Wills's long forehand shots with a powerful forehand angled return. Helen moved for the ball near the juncture of the service line and the sideline. But then she held back on her swing and watched the ball bound well outside. Newsman Don Skene, sitting near where the ball came down, watched it hit wide by "three inches at least." Associated Press correspondent Ferdinand Tuohy also had no doubt about the ball. "It struck far outside," he wrote.

Cyril Tolley, the line judge, remained silent. Helen Wills stood for a moment near where the ball went down, listening for the call. Then, in an extremely rare gesture, she abandoned her silence and her serenity and her poker-faced look. In a loud and clear voice, almost a desperate shout that betrayed her anger, she demanded of Tolley, "What did you call that ball?"

"Inside," he responded. "The shot was good!"

Fred Moody, Helen's regular Riviera escort, was sitting near the line too, and he knew that the ball was out. He had no doubts at all. "The ball was out and Helen was robbed..."

In the eleventh game Lenglen... broke Wills's service at 30 and appeared to be in control of the match. She now led 6-5 with her own service coming. Then, with renewed confidence she jumped out to a 40-15 lead and double match point in the twelfth game. She hit her first match point down the middle to Wills's backhand and then stayed back for the return. There were several long exchanges as Helen tried pull Suzanne into the forehand corner with some powerful crosscourt blasts. Eventually, Wills sent a sizzling drive deep into that corner. Lenglen moved over for the return, hesitated, and then stopped. Then she heard a wonderful wonderful wonderful sound as a loud and clear voice roared "Ouuuut!" Suzanne Lenglen flung the remaining two tennis balls she held high into the sky and skipped quickly to the net, a smile of relief on her face, her right hand extended. Helen Wills met her at the net and grasped her hand.

The tennis court was almost instantly engulfed by a mob.

Meanwhile, from the far end of the court Lord Charles Hope frantically fought his way through the crowd, swimming through the shouting celebrants to the umpire's chair. When he was within a few feet of Commander Hillyard, he shouted out a shocking statement. "The shot was good!" he said. "I didn't call it out!"

...once Hillyard was certain that he had heard Hope right, he turned apologetically to Suzanne. "The match is not over," he said cautiously. "That ball was good."

Suzanne Lenglen gave the umpire a stunned look as the remark registered. The she responded in a calm and deliberately measured tone, "Then we must go on."...

...Helen Wills... saved the second match point and brought the game to deuce. Then with her hard drives and sharp crisp angles she took two more points and the twelfth game. Six to six.

...Suzanne Lenglen [now leading 7-6] served cautiously in the fourteenth game, placing each service with meticulous care... Finally, with one of her pretty placements she arrived once more at match point. This was fifteen minutes after she believed she had won the match.

She served to Wills's backhand once again and took the strong return with her forehand, punching over a drop shot just to the left of the center line. Wills responded wtih a running desperate save that was high over the net. Too high... Lenglen... caught it near the service line, shoulder high and slapped it back at an angle across the court for a winner. The match was over.

[YouTube description]
Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills played only once, at a small tournament in the south of France in 1926. It was billed as the Match of the Century, and 3000 spectators and media from all over the world crammed into the stands at the Carlton Club. Lenglen won the first set 6-3 and led 6-5 40-15, and on the next point she thought she won the match when she heard an "Out" call on one of Wills' drives. As spectators crowded the court and bouquets of flowers were given to the victor, a linesman made his way through the crowd to tell the chair umpire that the "Out" call came from someone in the stands, and that the ball was actually good. When Lenglen heard this she was mortified but said, "Then we must continue playing." The court was cleared, and play resumed. Wills won the game to tie the set at 6-6, then Lenglen needed to call on all of her reserves to win the next two games for the match. In this video, you will see Lenglen (left side of screen) shake hands with Wills as photographers crowd the court. Then you will see Wills put on her dark sweater, and then remove it. There is then another sequence of photographers coming onto the court, and if you look closely you will see that Lenglen is now on the right side of the screen when the two players shake hands (for the second time).

May 27 (Day 6)

Another Lenglen moment.

Today, a few notes about how La Divine's influence stretched beyond a racket and ball. She was also a fashion icon. As noted on the Museum at FIT blog, "Lenglen fully embodied the idea of a liberated, active woman, and her fashion choices were a visible extension of her spirit and tenacity, on and off the court."

She is forever linked with French designer Jean Patou, known for his designing of sportswear for women, including being credited with inventing the tennis skirt. Patou created the then-shocking outfits worn on court by the French superstar, as she played in sleeveless dresses cut at the knee at a time when women dressed covered from head to toe. Designing with the idea of "femme moderne," the designed crafted clothes that were elegant, but also true to the newly-realized female athleticism of the day.

Here is a brief interview with Ariele Elia, the Assistant Curator of Costume + Textiles at the Museum at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, in which she touches on Patou, Lenglen and active wear from the era connected to an exhibition at the museum in 2014. The interview is followed by a short piece on Patou which includes photos and more on his connection to Lenglen.

Celebrated as an "Icon of the Week" a few years ago on, Lenglen's place in fashion history was put into greater context.>


"She was great entertainment. Her temperament drove spectators to tears. But even the fainthearted couldn’t look away. After all, she introduced glamour to the court.

Lenglen’s earlier tennis outfits went along with her time. She paired short-sleeved white blouses and mid-calf white cotton skirts with a wide brimmed bonnet for sun protection. Her twist to the status quo was in skipping traditional corsets and heavy underwear.

What set her further apart was a trademark cropped bob she kept until her retirement. Early into her career, she began wrapping it around a wide silk scarf. Her version of a feminine sportsband was the first of its kind.

At her 1920 Wimbledon finals, she made headlines with a change in appearance. Decked in full makeup, Lenglen walked onto court sporting a full-length fur coat only to unsheath it to reveal a tight-fitting sleeveless top and a scandalously short skirt. God forbid, it was knee-length! Of her outfit, (men's tennis star) Bill Tilden remarked, “Her costume struck me as a cross between a prima donna’s and a streetwalker.”

Her daring wear was crafted by Jean Patou, a designer most revered for eradicating the flapper look by lengthening women’s skirts. Once he started designing her cutting edge tennis wear, Lenglen became a pinnacle athletic figure for the Jazz Age.

Her career was about the time women’s suffrage met its peak; when greater opportunities for equality started to emerge. What Lenglen contributed to her time was incredibly significant. She turned women’s tennis from a game to a sport through and through.

And while her on-court outfits scandalized, they more importantly paved the way for flexibly convenient sportswear for women. To the practical attire, Lenglen also added a personalized touch of glamour – her shiny white stockings rolled to the knee for example, caused a bit of perverse outrage.

What we’ll appreciate most in retrospect today, is how Lenglen moved in her outfits. Combining balletic styles to her tennis strokes gave Lenglen enough of an edge to make her sportswear high fashion, even in the midst of a game."

Lenglen's influence and inspiration continues today. The Hermes 2010 Spring Collection saw the 1920's Frenchwoman serve as the muse of designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

The Hermes link shows many of the looks that were created. Here's an example of two (on the left), along with images of Lenglen (right) that resemble what Gaultier produced ninety years later.

May 28 (Day 7)

Another Lenglen moment.

The impact of Suzanne Lenglen can be felt at both slams held on the European continent. It was the star power and skill of the flamboyant Frenchwoman in the late 1910's and early 1920's that caused the game to outgrow even Wimbledon, leading to the construction of a new, bigger complex in order to accomodate it all in 1922. What resulted are the grounds on which the tournament is still played today. The All-England Club, though her honorary membership was revoked when she turned pro in 1926, still ranks her among the five greatest Wimbledon champions.

But, naturally, her legend is far more evident at Roland Garros in her hometown of Paris.

While she never played on the current site of the tournament, Lenglen is the only player to be honored at any of the four majors with BOTH a stadium that bears her name, as well as a championship trophy named in her honor. The La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen is awarded each year to the women's singles champion of Roland Garros. The current trophy was created in 1979. Every women's champ receives a smaller replica, while the original remains the property of the French Tennis Federation (FTF).

[From Wikipedia] "Prior to Lenglen, female tennis matches drew little fan interest, which quickly changed as she became her sport's greatest drawing card. Tennis devotees and new fans to the game began lining up in droves to buy tickets to her matches. Temperamental, flamboyant, she was a passionate player whose intensity on court could lead to an unabashed display of tears. But for all her flamboyance, she was a gifted and brilliant player who used extremely agile footwork, speed and a deadly accurate shot to dominate female tennis for seven straight years. Her excellent play and introduction of glamour to the tennis court increased the interest in women's tennis, and women's sports in general."

In 2001 the FTF organised the first Suzanne Lenglen Cup for women in the over-35 age class. First played in France, the annual event is now held in a different country each year.

Originally designated "Court A", the tournament's second largest stadium (after Chatrier Court) seats 10,068 spectators. Built in 1994, it was renamed Court Suzanne-Lenglen in 1997. A bronze bas relief of Lenglen by the Italian sculptor Vito Tongiani stands over the east tunnel-entrance to the stadium. The court has an underground irrigation system, the first of its kind, to control moisture levels within its clay surface.

While Chatrier Court, named in honor of former French player and FTF President Philippe, is larger (seating nearly 15,000) it also has more of a "generic" quality, in my opinion. It's "boxy" shape and sharp angles aren't nearly as aestethically pleasing as the curved, more unique and recognizable design of what is now Court Lenglen. There's a certain flair to how the stadium seems to resemble something akin to a rising sun behind the fans on either side of the court.

While Court Lenglen, were it to be designed by a truly creative architect today, could surely be made more befitting of its legendary namesake, it seems to fit her just fine. No matter how large a space and role it fills on the grounds, one could never envision the more style-less, rigid-looking Chatrier bearing Lenglen's name.

That simply would not do.

May 29 (Day 8)

...LIKE FROM DAY 8: Accidental Lenglen tributes like Garbi's...

May 29 (Day 8)

Another Lenglen moment.

While Suzanne Lenglen's career was filled with success and impact, both on and off court, it also had its fair share of controversy and drama, as well as one high-profile loss.

The Frenchwoman won six titles each at Wimbledon and Roland Garros during the period in which she dominated (and played a huge role in re-shaping) the sport that we see today. She never won in the United States during her amateur career, though, and actually suffered a shocking and controversial loss there to Norwegian Molla Mallory in the only match she ever played at the tournament that is now known as the "U.S. Open."

Of course, we ARE talking about Lenglen, after all. So there was a bit more to it than just that. Here are the accounts from various sources about the whole affair:

(1)- from (International Tennis Hall of Fame)
(2)- from
(3)- from Sports Illustrated (Sept.13, 1982 - "The Lady in the White Silk Dress")

- " Between 1919 and 1926, Lenglen lost only one match, a highly controversial default to Molla Mallory at the 1921 U.S. Nationals. Lenglen had lost the first set badly, 6-2, and through fits of coughing and tears, alerted the chair umpire she could not continue. It was the only significant glitch in her career and one of two memorable matches that have been widely chronicled about Lenglen." (1)

- "During this period, Lenglen's only defeat in singles (not counting pre-match withdrawals) occurred in an unscheduled appearance at the 1921 U.S. Championships. To raise reconstruction funds for the regions of France that had been devastated by the battles of World War I, she went to the United States to play several exhibition matches against the Norwegian-born U.S. champion, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory.

Lenglen arrived in New York City the day before the tournament after a stormy and delayed sea voyage, during which she was ill the whole time. Upon arrival, Lenglen learned that, without her permission, tournament officials had announced her participation in the U.S. Championships.Because of immense public pressure, she agreed to play in the tournament despite suffering from what was diagnosed later as whooping cough. As a concession, she was given a day to recover. To her surprise, there was no seeding for the event and her name had been drawn to play Eleanor Goss, a leading American player. Goss immediately defaulted, leaving Lenglen to face Mallory in the second round as her first opponent.

In their match, Lenglen lost the first set 6–2 and just as the second set got underway, she began coughing and burst into tears, unable to continue. The crowd jeered her as she walked off the court, and the American press severely criticised her. This worsened when, under doctor's orders after it was confirmed that she was afflicted with whooping cough, she cancelled her exhibition match. Unaccustomed to such treatment, a devastated Lenglen went home. " (2)

- " America's first glimpse of Lenglen came in August 1921. Against Charles's wishes, Suzanne agreed to play a series of exhibitions in the U.S. for the benefit of "the [war] devastated villages of France." Once in New York, she further agreed to play in the U.S. women's championship, being held that year for the first time at Forest Hills after 34 years in Philadelphia. Charles, back home in Nice too ill to travel, told his friends that Suzanne had made the biggest mistake of her life.

Everything went wrong from the start. First she caught a bad cold and had to postpone her departure twice. Then, aboard the liner France, she declined to use the deck tennis court that had been set up for her and issued a news bulletin declaring that "the fox-trot and the shimmy were excellent training for tennis." In New York her reception by the press was effusive (MLLE. LENGLEN'S PETIT FEET AMAZE ON ARRIVAL), but she soon learned that her fate in the draw at Forest Hills was to play No. 5-ranked Eleanor Goss in the first round and, probably, the five-time U.S. champion, Mallory, in the second. The seeding of players according to ability to prevent just such an undesirable pairing had not yet been instituted. Even worse, on the day of Lenglen's scheduled first-round match, Goss defaulted and Lenglen, who had had one day's rest and one day's practice, was ordered to play Mallory instead so as not to disappoint the crowd that had gathered at Forest Hills Stadium to see her.

New surface, new ball, new climate and, for her first opponent, the best female player in America. All this without Papa by her side. Lenglen's nerves showed signs of fraying even before her match began. Once it was under way, her strokes lacked power and she coughed intermittently. Mallory, for her part, was at the top of her form. Allison Danzig, who was then a reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle and later became the tennis writer for The New York Times for 45 years, recalls, "Molla had a hell of a forehand. She didn't have a backhand. She had the weakest service I have ever seen. But what a forehand!"

Mallory put her forehand to good use in the first set, winning it 6-2 while Lenglen coughed more frequently. Lenglen had beaten Mallory badly in France the previous year. Now Mallory, backed enthusiastically by her good friend Bill Tilden, who disliked Lenglen intensely because her fame overshadowed his, was about to take her revenge. With the score 0-15 in the first game of the second set, Lenglen, serving, double-faulted and then forfeited the match, saying she was too ill to continue. Holding a towel to her mouth as some spectators booed, she was led sobbing from the court. "Cough and Quit" became Lenglen's middle name in America, and that view of her prevailed until she returned to the U.S. as a pro in 1926 and set the record straight. " (3)

- " A spectator at the Lenglen-Mallory match that day was 15-year-old Helen Wills from Berkeley, Calif., who was in New York to play in the National Junior championships. As Lenglen's successor, Helen Wills Moody was to win eight Wimbledon singles titles. In her book, Fifteen-Thirty, which was published in 1937, Moody recalled her first sighting of Lenglen on the clubhouse veranda at Forest Hills: "She wore a yellow organdie dress, a large hat and a white lapin coat described as ermine by the newspapers. The fur coat on a hot day made me ask why. I was told that she had a cold.... I was impressed, and later even more so when she came out to practice with six racquets." " (3)

- " Once healthy, she (Lenglen) set about preparing herself for redemption. In the singles final at Wimbledon the following year, she defeated Mallory in only 26 minutes, winning 6–2, 6–0, reputedly the fastest Ladies major tournament match on record. The two met again later that year at a tournament in Nice where, with Lenglen showing her complete mastery of the sport, Mallory failed to win even one game. Mary K. Brown relates that she asked Lenglen how she greeted Mallory at the net after the game when they met to shake hands. She said that Lenglen told her that after shaking hands she emitted a couple of gentle 'coughs.' "(2)

Linked in history to Lenglen because of this one match, Mallory is a unique tennis figure in her own right.

- " Although she had won a Bronze medal in singles for Norway at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, and was the many-time champion of her homeland, Mallory was relatively unknown when she arrived in New York City to begin work as a masseuse in 1915. She entered the U.S. Indoor Championships that year unheralded and beat three-time defending champion Marie Wagner 6–4, 6–4, which was the first of her five singles titles at that tournament. She also won the singles title in Cincinnati in 1915.

Mallory had less in the way of stroke equipment than most tennis champions. But the sturdy, Norwegian-born woman, the daughter of an army officer, was a fierce competitor, running with limitless endurance. Robert (Bob) Kelleher, a former president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and a ball boy during Mallory's era, once said, "She looked and acted tough when she was on the court hitting tennis balls. She walked around in a manner that said you'd better look out or she'd deck you. She was an indomitable scrambler and runner. She was a fighter."

She was a player of the old school. She held that a woman could not sustain a volleying attack in a long match. "I do not know a single girl who can play the net game." Therefore, she relied on her baseline game, consisting of strong forehand attacks and a ceaseless defense that wore down her opponents. She took the ball on the rise and drove it from corner to corner to keep her opponent on the constant run. Her quick returns made her passing shots extremely effective. She once said, "I find that the girls generally do not hit the ball as hard as they should. I believe in always hitting the ball with all my might, but there seems to be a disposition to 'just get it over' in many girls whom I have played. I do not call this tennis." "(2)

- " Mallory’s game was founded on fitness, strength, and size. She could play longer, hit harder, and move around the court better than her opponents. She played with supreme confidence and focus and attacked every rally as if it were match point. " (1)

- " She would ultimately become one of the biggest names the sport has ever seen, winning a record eight U.S. National Women’s Singles Championships against eight different opponents. For that to materialize, however, Mallory would have to defeat the era’s most talented and recognizable players, including Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Helen Wills, Mary K. Browne, and Frenchwomen Suzanne Lenglen, the game’s most colorful and dominant player, to secure her place in history. She accomplished that task in droves, earned immortality with her enshrinement into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1958. In 2008, 50 years after her induction, Mallory’s name was placed in the Court of Champions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center alongside King, Evert, and Navratilova. " (1)

- " Her second round match with Suzanne Lenglen at the 1921 U.S. National Championships brought Mallory her greatest celebrity. Before the match, Bill Tilden advised Mallory to "hit the cover off the ball." Once the match began, Mallory "attacked with a vengeance" and was ahead 2–0 (40–0) when Lenglen began to cough. Mallory won the first set 6–2 and was up 40–0 on Lenglen's serve in the first game of the second set when Lenglen began to weep and walked to the umpire's stand and informed the official that she was ill and could not continue. After the match, the USTA accused Lenglen of feigning illness. The French Tennis Federation (FTF) exonerated Lenglen and accepted her testimony (and a doctor's) that she had been ill. However, Albert de Joannis, vice president of the FTF who accompanied Lenglen during her trip to the United States, quit his post in protest of the FTF's conclusion. He claimed that Lenglen was "perfectly fit" during the match and that, "She was defeated by a player who on that date showed a better brand of tennis."

Mallory won the singles title at the U.S. Championships a record eight times in fifteen attempts, with the last of her titles occurring at age 42 in 1926. Her worst finish there was a quarterfinal loss in 1927 at age 43. In 1926, Mallory hit one of the heights of her career when she came back from 0–4 in the third set of the final against Elizabeth Ryan, saving a match point in winning her eighth championship. Her farewell to the U.S. " (2)

- " Mallory, who played in every U.S. National Championship from 1915-1929, finished her love affair with the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills as a singles semifinalist in 1929. Adding to her record titles were two additional finalist appearances (1923, 1924) and three trips to the semifinals. Her “worst” result was the quarterfinals in 1927. Tack on two U.S. National Women’s Doubles Championship titles (1916, 1917) and three in mixed doubles (1917, 1922, 1923) and the breadth of her career becomes crystallized. Two of those titles came with partner Bill Tilden, a formidable mixed doubles team as the sport has ever seen. On seven other combined occasions Mallory was a doubles and mixed doubles finalist. " (1)

- " Championships was as a 45-year-old semifinalist in 1929, losing to Helen Wills Moody 6–0, 6–0. Mallory is the only woman other than Chris Evert to have won the U.S. Championships four consecutive times. " (2)

May 30 (Day 9)

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: Doing a full Lenglen on the grass...

May 30 (Day 9)

Another Lenglen moment.

Any individual that becomes world famous, or even iconic, as was the case with Suzanne Lenglen, is then subject to the representation -- in print, comment or art -- of their physical image or personality. Some speak and act with knowledge, while others do so with varying degrees of information, intelligence and/or sensitivity. That's certainly the case today, when every opinion of anyone about anyone -- no matter how toxic -- can stand on its own on the vast stage that the internet can provide.

[clockwise from top left: Caricature Zone art; Illustration by Helen Wills (from "Excerpts from Tennis" (1928); Drawing (1921); cover of "Gaze's Handbook to Lawn Tennis" (1922); art from 1925; Maurice Picaud caricature; sketch; sports card; cigarette card]

In her day, Lenglen was no different. Coverage of her tennis grace and skill, on and off-court flamboyance and penchant for drama and emotional upheaval (from a French tennis player... so figure) was widespread, with talk of her fashion, looks and competitive disposition all fair game. Only a select few likely knew "the real Suzanne," but everyone surely had an opinion, or was able to boil down her "essence" in a single artistic image. Naturally, she was often physically compared to young American Helen Wills, the player who was expected to be and would eventually become the heir to Lenglen's tennis throne. Wills was often complimented for her good looks, while Lenglen was the subject of compliments that were often presented as being given in spite of a similar physical beauty of her own.

A sampling, in words and pictures, from the past, as well as today...

(1)- from "The Goddess and the American Girl" (1988, by Larry Englemann)
(2)- from Sports Illustrated (Oct.16, 1991 - "Tennis Everyone?")
(3)- from The Rotarian: "Meet Suzanne!" (Oct. 1926, by John R. Tunis)

" Coverage of Lenglen was more flamboyant. La Grande Suzanne was a national treasure in France, where her name was invoked with the same fervor as Joan of Arc's. But she was no porcelain-cheeked beauty. "Her face was homely in repose," the Paris Herald's Al Laney wrote in a later book, "with a long crooked nose, irregular teeth, sallow complexion, and eyes that were so neutral that their color could hardly be determined. It was a face on which hardly anything was right. And yet, in a drawing room this homely girl could dominate everything..." Lenglen wore ermine and partied on champagne, she traveled by chauffeured limo and private rail car, and she knew everyone who ever wrote a memoir about the Lost Generation. She was also a bit of a mess, a baseline Zelda Fitzgerald who succumbed routinely to fits of depression and hysteria. " (2)

" Suzanne Lenglen stood about five and a half feet tall. She was a muscular, large-boned girl with gray eyes, raven hair, and a sharp, birdlike profile. She had an unusually long nose and large irregular teeth that protruded unhandsomely from her mouth even when she smiled. Paul Gallico recalled that she had "a hatchet face and a hook nose"; while Hazel Wightman, a lifelong friend of Suzanne, described her by simply saying, "She was homely--you can't imagine a homelier face." Bill Tilden summed up her appearance by observing, "Heaven knows no one would call her beautiful." Yet despite her physiognomy, she had a rather attractive and healthy demeanor in the early 1920s. Because she eschewed the traditional long-sleeved blouse and wide-brimmed hat of the other players, her face and arms were deeply tanned. But the pressure of practice and play gradually eroded her physical health as well as her emotional stability. By the mid-1920s, when she stood at the pinnacle of her career, she looked thirty years older than her actual age. There were deep dark circles under her eyes and her skin was wrinkled and creased. The constant exposure to the sun caused her complexion to deteriorate rapidly. She found it necessary to wear ever heavier layers of powder and makeup... And yet nearly everyone who watched her perform pirouettes on the tennis court remarked that her lack of physical beauty was largely overcome by her grace and poise and movement. " (1)

[ A Leap for Life (1920) ]

" “Wills dominated women’s tennis as few athletes in any sport have done; winning every singles match she entered from 1926 to 1933. Like Lenglen, she was introduced to tennis by her father and played a man’s game.” But there the similarities end. Whereas Lenglen was homely and prone to nervous fits, Wills was a great American beauty and heartthrob, a California girl whose health and good looks defined the American “New Woman.” " (1)

[Comics featuring Lenglen: (1) American Cartoon following 1921 U.S. defeat: "The tamer is subdued by Mallory lioness"; (2) following her defeat of Helen Wills in "The Match of the Century" in 1926 - A man says, "Teach me, Suzanne, the secret of subduing stubborn Wills"]

" News of the match (vs. Helen Wills) swamped the front pages. SUZANNE WEEPS, WIN'S AND FAINTS, screamed the London Daily Herald. "One of the most grotesque and thrilling and momentous games on record." crowed (James) Thurber. The London Morning Past likened Lenglen's play to "the rhythmic silence of Bernhardt or an arabesque of Karsavina" and suggested that each of her conquests should be celebrated in verse "like the victorious swordplay of Cyrano de Bergerac." "(2)

[clockwise from top left: Chinese ink caricature (1924); "Tennis with Mademoiselle Suzanne Lenglen" (Rene Vincent); Ivory Coast stamp; sports card; Netherlands stamps; Art Deco exhibition in Paris (2014); Suzanne-Lenglen Court bas relief; Suzanne-Lenglen Court bas relief (side view); cover of "Suzanne Lenglen: Tennis Idol of the Twenties" book (1988)]

" Suzanne on the losing side is news. Distinctly so. Let her be beaten once and the story of it will flash to the uttermost parts of the globe. But Suzanne winning? Oh, that is something else again!

And yet, you see how all that is a part of her nature; that dramatic stand, that sudden, tense, hushed moment, that possibility of defeat coming to her. You see how she loves it, revels in it, adores it all. It is her, it is Suzanne. But I must stop myself here. That, it is true, is one part of Suzanne. Suzanne upon the court. I am to give you an intimate picture of Suzanne away from the crowds, from the surface part of her life. For I can most truly and earnestly say to you that they little know of Suzanne who only know her as a tennis player. Indeed, it is apart, away from the roar and the applause of the mob that you see the real Suzanne Lenglen. There in the exquisite intimacy of her villa upon the Rue de Russie in Nice, there is the circle of her own friends, with this one who is the world-world famous writer and that one who is equally well known as a musician, there you begin to know and appreciate the girl that Suzanne Lenglen really is.

Even as to face. For upon the court, with a colored band swathed across her forehead, she is homely. But put her in a smart Patou dress with a smart Patou hat pulled down over one eye, and I say unto you that she will walk into a salon filled with the best dressed women in all Europe, and in five seconds each one will be looking nervously at herself in the nearest mirror. Suzanne homely? Most assuredly, at times. But see her in her street clothes, catch her off the courts, in the Ambassadeurs at Cannes of an afternoon for dancing, and you will be astonished. You will be amazed, if you have only seen her upon a tennis court. What, that Suzanne Lenglen? H'mm, pretty good looking, isn't she? That is what you will say to yourself. "(3)

NOTE: the previous selection is from a fascinating two-page, "first-hand" account of "the real Suzanne" which appeared in "The Rotarian" magazine in 1926. Many of the things I've read while compiling this Lenglen series were written decades later, but this one is of its day. It can be found here.

[ Likeness of Lenglen in the International Tennis Hall of Fame ]

And, even recently, another version was added to the Lenglen iconography, as Google celebrated her 117th birthday last week with a Google Doodle...

And who knows what will come next? I seriously don't know how a movie version of her life has never been filmed... it might be one of the few tennis movies that would work.

May 31 (Day 10)

Another Lenglen moment.

Suzanne Lenglen came of age as a tennis player during "The Golden Age of Sport" during the 1920's, the product of a hard-driving tennis father who orchestrated much of the direction of her life. A beloved icon, a lightning rod for controversy and a transformative sporting figure, as well as a challenger of the generally accepted mores of the day, Lenglen burst onto the scene as a champion teenager with a game unlike that of any other. Her personality would change many things in her wake. She won her first Wimbledon title at age 20 in 1919, once World War II had ended and some semblance of "normal" life returned to the European continent, and often reached her greatest heights on the grounds of the All-England Club.

But things didn't end well there for her. One scheduling mix-up set off a chain of events that would see the end of her amateur career only a few days later. How she reacted, once again, allowed her to set a new course for the sport, even if she would never be around to see it. While a certain group of Hall of Fame men's players from the 1950's are often hailed as "The Barnstormers," Lenglen was one of the originals, carving out a professional path nearly three decades earlier.

BUD COLLINS (1929-2016)

And, now, I'll turn it over to the late, great Bud Collins, from his The Bud Collins History of Tennis book (2008):

=The Golden Age=
It was called "The Golden Age of Sport" -- hyperbolic, probably, considering the purple language of the sports pages of the past, although there was some truth to it. Sport came on strong in the "Roaring Twenties" as never before, held high by such highly-publicized stars as Babe Ruth in baseball, Jack Dempsey in boxing, Red Grange in football, Bobby Jones in golf, Man o' War in horse racing. Tennis was right up there, too, with players whose names had a broad public impact: Big Bill Tilden, Suzanne Lenglen, Helen Wills Moody, the Gallic "Four Muskateers" -- Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. World War I was over, the trenches were silent and a prosperous period, with more leisure, seemed ripe for games-playing heroes and heroines who could be colored gold.

LENGLEN, age 15 (1914)

The year 1919 was the year of Suzanne Lenglen's arrival on the world tennis stage. She would dominate until she turned pro in 1926. A product of constant drilling by her father, Charles Lenglen, a well-to-do Frenchman, she had style as well as ability and, along with contemporary Helen Wills Moody, would come to be ranked among the greatest women players of all time.

Lenglen appeard in her first tournament at age 12. In 1914 Suzanne won the singles, 6-2/6-1, over Germaine Golding and doubles, with Elizabeth Ryan, in the World Hard Court (clay) Championships. She was 15, so she was not exactly an unknown when she came to Wimbledon upon the resumption of play following World War I. Playing on grass for the first time, Lenglen won the title in a match that is still regarded as one of the greatest Wimbledon finals.

Although the stocky Lenglen was no conventional beauty, and never married, she had a captivating allure and numerous love affairs, an appeal that was dynamite at the box office. Her magnetism and invincibility made the original Wimbledon too small, leading to the construction of the "new" (present) complex in 1922. Her long, Gallic nose and prominent chin were complemented by a fiery disposition, a chic appearance and dancer's movements. She was 20 and advanced to the Wimbledon challenge round past Phyllis Satterthwaite, 6-1/6-1, in the all-comers final to face the seven-time champion, Britain's Mrs. Dorothea Douglass Chambers. Chambers had won her first Wimbledon in 1903 and was two months from her 41st birthday.


Lenglen's dress created a sensation. The British had been accustomed to seeing their women in tight-fitting corsets, blouses and layers of petticoats. When Suzanne stepped onto Centre Court in a revealing one-piece dress, with sleeves daringly just above the elbow, her hemline only just below the knee, reaction ranged from outrage on the part of many women spectators -- some reportedly walked out during her matches, muttering "shocking" -- to delight among the men.


Bu everybody was also impressed by the young Frenchwoman's grace and disciplined shotmaking as she won the title, 10-8/4-6/9-7, the 44 games amounting to the longest female final until Margaret Court's 14-12/11-9 victory over Billie Jean King topped it by two games in 1970.


Future champ Kitty McKane, an eyewitness in the full-house crowd of perhaps 8,500 that included King George V and Queen Mary, wrote: "It was very hot afternoon, and I think Suzanne wanted to quit when she was behind, 4-1, in the 2nd set. But her father would have none of it, shaking his umbrella furiously at her, and tossing her sugar cubes soaked with brandy. After losing the second set, she seemed back in control with a 4-1 lead in the third. But Mrs. Chambers, who'd missed out on two set points in the first at 6-5, came back to win five games to 6-5 and 40/15 on her serve, on the verge of her eight championship with two match points. Suzanne was lucky on the first. Reaching for a lob she hit it barely, on the frame, and the ball hit the net cord; dropping over. But the second she saved with a backhand down the line. She was unstoppable after that."

Suzanne Lenglen, who hadn't lost a match to anyone since the end of the war, came to the United States for the first time and suffered the lone defeat of the life at the top -- on a default (vs. Molla Mallory, due to illness). It was one of the most stunning results in tennis, and was long talked about and cited whenever Lenglen was discussed.


The position occupied by Lenglen at the time of the great default was described by the eminent tennis writer, Al Laney: "She probably did more for women's tennis than any girl who ever played it. She broke down barriers and created a vogue, reforming tennis dress, substituting acrobatics and something of the art of the ballet where decorum had been the rule. In England and on the Continent, this slim, not very pretty but fascinating French maiden was the most popular performer in sport or out of it on the post-war scene. She became the rage, almost a cult. Even royalty gave her its favor and she partnered King Gustav of Sweden in mixed doubles more than once."

Suzanne Lenglen avenged her controversial default to Molla Mallory at Forest Hills the year before when she trounced Mallory in the Wimbledon final, 6-2/6-0. Lenglen's appear was such that before her first match, a 6-1/7-5 decision over Britain's Kitty McKane, "a line stretched more than a mile and a half from the underground station to the entrance to the All England Club," wrote Wimbledon official Duncan Macaulay. "People used to call it the 'Lenglen trail-a-winding' after the famous World War I song of those days ['a long, long trail...']." Lenglen won three Wimbledon titles for the second time, teaming with Aussie Pat O'hara Wood to win the mixed doubles, over Elizabeth Ryan and Randolph Lycett, 6-4/6-3, and, with Ryan, the doubles over McKane and her sister, Margaret McKane Stocks, 6-0/6-4.

After her loss to Lenglen at Wimbledon, Mallory, 38, returned to Forest Hills to win her seventh U.S. title, defeating 16-year old Helen Wills in the final, 6-3/6-1. It was the greatest disparity in ages for any major final.


[Wimbledon's Jubilee Year -- the 50th year celebration -- presided over by King George V and Queen Mary, bestowing medals on champions]
Marring the festivities was the unexpected demise of Lenglen's brilliant amateur career, coming to a sad end amid controversy at Wimbledon when she failed to show up on time for a women's doubles match at which the King and Queen were present. Due to a mix-up after a scheduling change, Lenglen arrived at Centre Court after the Royal Couple had departed. This drew a reprimand and she became hysterical and never quite recovered, though the officials agreed to postpone her match. Meeting hostility from the crowds and the press, Lenglen, with compatriot Didi Vlasto, were upended 3-6/9-7/6-2, by the eventual champs, Elizabeth Ryan and Mary K. Browne. It was Suzanne's solitary doubles defeat in 30 such matches at the Big W where her overall record was 90-3 (32-0 in singles, 29-2 in mixed). She won her first two singles matches -- 6-2/6-3 over Browne, the 35-year old ex-U.S. champ and her foil-to-be on the subsequent pro tour -- and 6-2/6-2 over Mrs. G.J. Dewhurst of Britain. She also won a mixed doubles match with Jean Borotra over Miss B.C. Brown and H.I.P. Aitken, both of Britain, 6-3/6-0, and those were her last matches as an amateur. She withdrew, never to play another amateur tournament.


Signing on as the first touring pro with American promoter Charles C. "Cash and Carry" Pyle, Suzanne went on a North American tour, winning nightly (36-0) over Browne. Unable to entice the Bills, Johnston and Tilden, to turn pro, even with big bills, Pyle settled for the next best American, Vinnie Richards, just 23. He completed the Lenglen troupe with Americans Howard Kinsey and Harvey Snodgrass. Frenchman Paul Feret and Browne, the original cast of barnstorming pros to make their way across the land on one-night stands.

After debuting at New York's Madison Square Garden on October 9, where they drew 13,000 fans and grossed $40,000, they traveled the U.S. and into Canada by train. Lasting four months over the winter of 1926-27, the tour was a success. It was reported that Lenglen was paid a $25,000 bonus beyond her $50,000 guarantee, and that Pyle, who had no interest in tennis as such, made about $80,000 while putting pro tennis into operation, and went off to other interests. Lenglen, barred from the significant tourneys as a pro, retired from competition and did some coaching until her death in 1938. She had traveled the pro tour like an empress: private railway car, chef, maid, press agent and lover, Baldwin Baldwin, a wealthy strangely-named American.

June 1 (Day 11)

Another Lenglen moment.

A few of them, actually. As in a collection of odds & ends...

"HOW I PLAY TENNIS - By Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen" (1925)


(you can see the linesman who came in and waved off the "out" call, leading to the resumption of the match)



And then there's the different...



In 1926 Saint-Granier made had an ‘hilarious’ burlesque performance imitating Suzanne Lenglen in the Casino de Paris. A nobleman from Gascogne, he made a career as a journalist, writer, lyricist, singer and actor in Paris.

And then there's, uh, this...


Yeah. That.

Oh, and as if I haven't out-Lenglened myself enough over the past two weeks (there are still two days left in this series, though), I finally received the Suzanne Lenglen/Helen Wills book (The Goddess and the American Girl) I ordered. Here are the quotes that lead off the first chapter:

June 2 (Day 12)

...LIKE FROM DAY 12: Lenglen Law #46

June 2 (Day 12)

Another Lenglen moment.

Suzanne Lenglen was known for her groundbreaking fashion style, both on and off the court. It was all from the inventive mind of French design Jean Patou. So, who exactly was he?

While Patou is forever linked with Lenglen and his work with athletic (or athletic-looking) female activewear in the 1920's and 1930's, within the industry, that might not even be what he's MOST known for.

Here's a rundown of his life and professional accomplishments from various sources, as well as a sampling of some of the looks he created for Lenglen, whose worldwide presence helped to initially make a name for him in fashion circles...

(1)- from
(2)- from
(3)- from Encyclopedia of Fashion
(4)- from
(5)- from Whistling Wood International School of Fashion & Design

“Certain dressmakers desire to pass for an artist.
I have one ambition: that is to have good taste.”
- Jean Patou

JEAN PATOU (1880-1936)

" Love him for: being the dignified designer, for inaugurating the monogram and for creating the perfumes of stars. " (2)

" Jean Patou is a lesser known brand today than Chanel, but in the 1920s they both ruled. He is credited with creating the ‘designer tie’ for men and pioneered the boyish gaeconne look for women. He was praised for his ultramodern and sporty style. When Suzanne Lenglen, the French tennis star wore Patou’s long white sleeveless cardigan and a fly-away white pleated skirt for her game it became sensational news. He left his mark when he created the most expensive fragrance ‘Joy’ that is still loved by people. He also created the first suntan lotion. Jean Patou had an extravagant way of living yet his designs were simple, youthfully classic and most importantly wearable. " (5)


" Fashion history records that Jean Patou is best known for Joy, the world's most expensive perfume, and for his famous cubist sweaters. His contributions to fashion were, however, much more substantial and far reaching. His genius was his ability to interpret the times in which he lived and translate the ideals of that era into fashion. In Paris during the 1920s, couture was evolving from serving a few wealthy clients into a huge autonomous industry and Patou recognized couture's tremendous potential, both in France and in the United States. Patou helped expand the industry by introducing sportswear, expanding his business into the American market, emphasizing accessories and, like Paul Poiret, offering his customers a signature perfume.

The 1920s ideal woman was youthful, physically fit, and healthy looking. The truly athletic woman was realized in Suzanne Lenglen, the 1921 Wimbledon tennis star, who wore Patou clothes both on and off the court. The benefits gained by the sports stars and other celebrities publicizing Patou's designs were many. Patou also provided a complete wardrobe for American female aviator, Ruth Elder, as well as many well-known stage stars. Patou customers, most of whom did not play sports, sought to emulate this new look. Patou recognized the need for clothes for the sports participant, the spectator, and for those wishing to appear athletic, both in the U.S. and in Europe. " (3)



" He used jersey, which was originally used for menswear, to design silhouettes that were easier to move in for the more modern and active woman that emerged in the 20’s. Designing for tennis player, Suzanne Lenglen, he set a new scandalous trend, calf-length skirts and a sleeveless cardigan. This new silhouette created a lot of press for Patou including a spread in Vogue featuring Lenglen. " (4)

VOGUE spread (December 1926)
"Suzanne Lenglen Shows How to Dress for Tennis -
Her Jean Patou sports costumes are correct and chic on the court and after the game"

" Patou was born in Normandy, France in 1880. Patou's family's business was tanning and furs.[1] Patou worked with his uncle in Normandy, then moved to Paris in 1910, intent on becoming a courtrier. " (1)

" Patou was born and raised in a genteel, privileged background. Arguably, this upbringing gave him an intuitive feel for elegance and societal grace. Elegance for him was understated, subtle. His love and focus on cut, detail and fabric made him an instant favorite amongst the fashionably discerning in Paris.

Patou, notably, had a head for business. " (2)

" In 1912, he opened a small dressmaking salon called "Maison Parry". His entire 1914 collection was purchased by a single American buyer.Patou's work was interrupted by World War I. He was mobilised in August 1914, shortly after the German invasion of Belgium. Patou served as a Captain in the Zouaves. Reopening his couture house in 1919, he became known for eradicating the flapper look by lengthening the skirt and designing sportswear for women and is considered the inventor of the knitted swimwear and the tennis skirt. He, notably, designed the then-daring sleeveless and knee-length cut tennis wear for Suzanne Lenglen. He also was the first designer to popularize the cardigan and moved fashion towards the natural and comfortable.


Patou is credited with inventing the "designer tie" in the 1920s when men's ties, made in the same fabric as the women's dress collection, were displayed in department stores next to Patou's perfume counter. The designer tie style is still prominent amongst contemporary fashion designers, such as Louis Feraud, Timothy Everest, Duchamp and Paul Smith and Patrick McMurray. " (1)

" After establishing robust presence in Paris, he set foot in America and took the style world by storm. As with the other prolific designers if his time, Patou had an inimitable winning charm about him. On one of his New York trips, he effortlessly convinced 6 New York models to return to Paris with him to be his live mannequins!

He was one of the first designers to introduce coveted perfumes in his collection and importantly, the avant garde unisex perfume. " (2)

" In 1925 Patou launched his perfume business with three fragrances created by Henri Alméras. In 1928, Jean Patou created "Huile de Chaldée", the first sun tan lotion.

In the 1930's, Patou's clothes were marketed mostly to rich American women. When the stock market crashed, however, so did the market for luxury fashion. The House of Patou survived through its perfumes, which remain well known today.

The best known of Patou's perfumes is "Joy," a heavy floral scent, based on the most precious rose and jasmine, that remained the costliest perfume in the world, until the House of Patou introduced "1000" (a heavy, earthy floral perfume, based on a rare osmanthus) in 1972. Before Joy, the House of Patou released many other perfumes, many which were to celebrate particular events. For example, Normandie (an oriental forerunner to perfumes such as Yves Saint Laurent's Opium) celebrated the French ocean liner of the same name, and Vacances (a mixture of green and lilac notes) celebrated the first French paid national holidays. Other Patou perfumes of the same time were Amour Amour (the forerunner of Joy, using the same rose notes, but without the jasmine), Adieu Sagesse, Que Sais-Je? (these three were released at the same time; Patou's idea was that the light floral Amour Amour was suitable for blondes; the tart, spicy Adieu Sagesse for redheads, and the heavy floral Que Sais-Je? for brunettes), L'Heure Attendue (a wonderful, unique oriental perfume), Divine Folie (a floral vanilla), Câline (a wonderful chypre perfume, similar to the much later Diorling by Christian Dior), Moment Suprême (a perfume based on lavender), Colony (which had a strong pineapple note), Chaldée (Patou's Huile de Chaldée sun oil had become so popular, many customers were buying it purely for its smell, therefore, Chaldée the perfume (a dry musk) was produced), Le Sien (one of the first perfumes for men and women), and Cocktail (literally a floral cocktail). All these, with the exception of Le Sien, were re-released during the 1980s (under the name Ma Collection), and were available until recently, all in a 50ml Eau de Toilette Spray, 75ml Eau de Toilette bottle, and 30ml pure perfume bottle, each with a unique art deco box.

A Jean Patou silk scarf, printed in a pattern complementing that of the box was included with the pure perfume. Joy remains the world's second best-selling scent (the first is Chanel No. 5), created by Henri Alméras for Patou at the height of the Great Depression (1935) for Patou's former clients who could no longer afford his haute couture clothing line.

Patou died prematurely in 1936. His sister Madeleine and her husband Raymond Barbas continued the House of Patou.

Designers for the House of Patou have included Marc Bohan (1954–56), Karl Lagerfeld (1960–63) and Jean Paul Gaultier (1971–73). Christian Lacroix joined the label in 1981. The last fashion collection produced by the House of Patou label was in 1987 when the haute couture business closed following Lacroix's departure to open his own house.

After the closure of the haute couture business the company has continued to produce fragrances under the Jean Patou brand. Patou also produced fragrances for Lacoste, when Patou acquired the license in the 1960s, and Yohji Yamamoto in the 1990s.

Patou remained a family-owned business until September 2001 when it was bought by P&G Prestige Beaute a division of Procter & Gamble, which also market perfumes for Jean Kerléo and Karl Lagerfeld. In 2011 Patou was acquired by Designer Parfums Ltd., a UK-based firm.

Of the 35 fragrances launched by the company in its 87 year history, only five remain in production, including "Joy" (1936).

"Joy" was voted "Scent of the Century" by the public at the Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards in 2000, beating its rival "Chanel No. 5". " (1)


" Compared with the other greats of his time, he didn’t live as long as Chanel did, for example. This perhaps left his story less often told in modern ages. But in the end, Patou’s talent to celebrate the natural woman’s eloquent form was unparalleled. " (2)

So now you (and I) know.

All right, there's one more part in this series remaining. Whew!

Tomorrow: Lenglen, the final years.

June 3 (Day 13)

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: Garbi continuing with the impromptu Lenglen impersonations...

Maybe even more than we know. From the 1982 Sports Illustrated piece, "The Lady in the White Silk Dress," concerning Lenglen during her pro tour of the U.S. in 1926:

"Lenglen was charming the socks off the press wherever she went. Her interviews were frequently conducted over breakfast in her hotel suite, where her costume ranged from black silk pajamas to a white satin negligee."

So (not quite the same, but still)...

Hmmm, what could it mean?

June 3 (Day 13)

...and, finally, a concluding Lenglen moment.

[ Excerpts, when noted (*) - from Sports Illustrated (Sept.13, 1982 - "The Lady in the White Silk Dress") ]

Unfortunately, unlike Helen Wills (who would live to 92), the young would-be rival who shared the court with her for the only time in the "Match of the Century" in 1925, Suzanne Lenglen's life was a short one. Almost exactly thirteen years after she controversially played her last amateur match Wimbledon at age 26, she died in 1938 at age 39. But she packed quite a great deal into her short life.

At the time of her death, the London Times called her the greatest woman tennis player of her time, and declared that she'd made Wimbledon, which she won six times and forced to expand because of her overwhelming popularity, the "greatest tournament in the world." The New York Times stated that she was the greatest female player who ever lived, "a flashing, tempestuous figure vibrant with life. She never had a rival in accuracy and scientific placement."

(*) When her contemporaries ran out of words to describe Suzanne Lenglen they always fell back on "incomparable." On that and that alone they could all agree. Everything else about her was cause for furious debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

No matter where she went or what she did, controversy, scandal, gossip and rumor buzzed about Lenglen's bandeaued head like a swarm of benevolent bees, and she, who understood better than even the best sports promoters of her day the uses of fame, did nothing to quiet any of it. This delightful, outrageous and quintessentially French woman was the unrivaled queen of tennis from 1919 to 1926.

One loss in seven years. And she didn't just beat her opponents, she demolished them. They measured their successes against Lenglen in points. A game was a triumph. A set was historic. In 1925, her greatest year as a player, she won the Wimbledon singles title after losing a total of only five games to her seven opponents and the French championship after losing just four. In 1926 her fame transcended not only tennis but also all of sport. In an era of living legends like Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Jack Dempsey, Gertrude Ederle and Bill Tilden, she was the best-known athlete in the world, the one whose private life was hot news and whose personal style was a yardstick by which contemporary sophistication was measured.

In an age without the internet, television or even color motion pictures, she was a worldwide star. An athlete. A trendsetter. A constructor of her own image. A star of the highest order, and a legitimate forerunner of the silver screen celebrities that would soon follow in her wake during Hollywood's Golden Age and beyond.


(*) Lenglen was nothing if not daring. Her disdain for convention was a large part of her allure during the period of social tumult that followed World War I. She was continually doing in broad daylight what most people only dreamed of in the dark of night. She drank, she danced, she smoked, she swore, she wore her skirts short and her arms bare and she had lovers—lots of them. She was a Gallic elaboration on the postwar silent movie siren, The Vamp, adding to that sullen stereotype her own elements of wit and charm.

As a tennis player, Lenglen was her father's creation. As a public figure, a star, she invented herself. She would appear at a strategic moment, dressed with care and surrounded by courtiers, often handsome young tennis players, all of them chattering and laughing at what, one imagined, was something terrifically witty, utterly sophisticated, terribly chic and, above all, deliciously French. She was far from beautiful, but she was glamorous to her painted fingernails, and there were few sacrifices she was unwilling to make for her breathless audiences. Regardless of the climate, she appeared for tennis clad in fur, or fur-trimmed, coats with large collars that framed her pale, powdered face, with its gray-green eyes and dark red lips. When she posed for photographers she stood with her rackets in the crook of her left arm and her right hand on her hip, holding her coat so as to reveal the tennis costume underneath—a white silk dress, knee-length and pleated, and a brightly colored sweater which exactly matched the two yards of silk chiffon wound around her bobbed black hair, the celebrated "Lenglen bandeau" that was copied by millions of women, whether or not they had ever held a racket. Beneath the silk dress she wore silk stockings rolled just above the knee, and who knew what else. Certainly not a petticoat. Tennis had had its beautiful women before Lenglen—the French champion Marguerite Broquedis was one—but it is nevertheless safe to say that Lenglen, in the liberated style of her play—full of acrobatic, even balletic leaps and lunges—her dress and her life, introduced sex to tennis, and vice versa.

Lenglen was a budding star as a teenager before World War I, and burst into full bloom almost immediately after the battlefields were empty. More than anything, she knew how to seize the stage, and the moment, and make it her own.

(*) Until 1922 Wimbledon was a tournament to decide who would challenge the defending champion. Lenglen won that honor in 1919, losing only 17 games and no sets in the process. The defender that year was Chambers, 40, the greatest player of her day and the ladies' singles title-holder for the previous seven years.

The two, separated by two decades and a chasm of experience, went at it for three sets—Chambers, the proper Edwardian in her ankle-length tennis costume, and Lenglen, the child-woman at the dawn of an era, short-skirted, brazenly bare-armed, consuming cognac-soaked sugar lumps tossed to her from the grandstand by her father. As King George V and Queen Mary looked on, Lenglen won 10-8, 4-6, 9-7 in a tremendous upset. The new queen of tennis was crowned and the tone of her long reign set when, after the match, she received congratulations while in her bath.

For the rest of her life, Lenglen maintained that the Chambers match had been her most difficult and most rewarding. But Mrs. Chambers viewed it as tragic for the Frenchwoman. Years later she confided in Tinling her belief that the match had given Lenglen "a taste of invincibility and a subsequent compulsion for it," which eventually caused her great unhappiness.

From then on Lenglen had everything—fame, adulation and all the trappings, if not the substance, of wealth. The city of Nice provided the Lenglens a large, comfortable house, the Villa Ariem, just across the street from the entrance to the tennis club. Her clothes were designed by Patou, the celebrated Parisian couturier. Her friends were beautiful or rich or titled or all three; her lovers were legion if not always suitable. Before she was 22 she had already broken off an affair with the French tennis player Pierre Albarran, a married man. Her mother, a dumpy little woman whom Suzanne sometimes called "ma poule" was her daughter's sympathetic chaperon. Tinling, who as a youth of 14 and 15 had umpired many of Lenglen's matches on the Riviera, recalls Anais and Charles Lenglen seated below him, wrapped in rugs against the chill, arguing loudly and reproving their daughter for her slightest errors.

When Lenglen turned pro in 1926, she once again became the center of attention. But nothing was ever the same. She was still famous, and still beloved. She still made headlines, and was the topic of gossip, often due to public affairs with married men which, even in a very different environment than that of today, did nothing to dim her lasting popularity with fans.

(*) As the (pro) troupe headed farther west (in 1926), public apathy grew and ticket sales declined. Los Angeles, a tennis hotbed, was supposed to have been the last stop on a triumphant tour, but as gate receipts dwindled, Pyle kept signing up more cities. In spite of the disappointing returns on his investment, he treated the Lenglen entourage to a 10-day holiday at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego in December. Suzanne was photographed shaking hands with Jockey Tod Sloan at the nearby Caliente race track and doing calisthenics on the beach at Coronado, clad in "a black wool tank suit of meager proportions." Carefully excluded from the photographs but often included in Suzanne's excursions around San Diego was a tall, tanned and very rich California playboy, one Baldwin M. Baldwin, known as the Sheik. Grandson of E.J. (Lucky) Baldwin, who had made an enormous fortune during the California gold rush and who later owned the tract in Arcadia, Calif. where the Santa Anita race track now stands, young Baldwin became her constant companion, as constant, that is, as his position of husband, father and scion allowed. Two years later there was open talk of divorce and marriage, but in 1926 the Sheik was a somewhat shadowy figure. He joined the tour in its last weeks, and occasionally was referred to in newspaper accounts as Lenglen's business manager.


Typically, Lenglen was the "star" of the year-long tour, earning her "diva" reputation, charming groups on one hand, then creating personal tension with others. But, always, she was 100% "Lenglen," as no one else could hope to be.

(*) Meanwhile, Lenglen was charming the socks off the press wherever she went. Her interviews were frequently conducted over breakfast in her hotel suite, where her costume ranged from black silk pajamas to a white satin negligee.

In private, among the other members of the troupe, however, she was less than sunny. Snodgrass, who's now 86 and lives in Sun City, Ariz., says, "She was really a contradiction. Her game was grace and speed, soft shots, well-placed; she was a very well-conditioned athlete. But she was always upset, flaring mad. Sometimes it was hard to understand how the two could be connected. She had the worst temper I've ever seen. She was always threatening to bolt and go home. Off the court the other players on the tour didn't want to have anything to do with her."

But Lenglen, with her retinue, did not lack for company. "She took her meals in her bedroom, as she found American food inedible," says Ann Kinsolving Brown. "She drank French wines and made great salads, with beetroot, green peppers and Gruyere cheese. At breakfast, late in the morning, her bed became the center of a sort of royal levee. She would be massaged by O'Brien in front of anybody. Her telephone was by her bed. Once she answered a friend's call, 'I'm in the hands of an Irishman.' "

As always, she was unpredictable. One time, in the middle of a match, she told Pyle that she was not feeling well. She had had her period, she said. She wanted a break. Pyle replied that all the women he'd ever known complained when they didn't have their periods. Lenglen's response was to burst out laughing and carry on with the match.

But once the famed barnstorming tour of the U.S. was over, at age 27, except for the occasional "informal" match, she was no longer a tennis player. She tried and failed to regain her amateur status. One of her fellow tour pros -- fourth-ranked Frenchman Paul Feret -- was reinstated, though, as the French tennis federation accepted his excuse for his decision to turn pro, a version of "temporary insanity" brought on by the disconsolation over the recent death of his young wife. Lenglen wasn't so "lucky."

It was typical of the stance taken at the time, for as much as Lenglen's fame and drawing power did for individuals and the sport of tennis in general, no slack was cut for her once she was deemed to have turned her back in search of monetary gain of her own.

(*) There was a furor (when she turned pro). The French federation, for which Lenglen had earned hundreds of thousands of francs, called her action deplorable, refused her permission to play exhibitions at its member clubs and asked the Nice Tennis Club to expel her, which it did not do. The All England Club, however, revoked her honorary membership.

The elaborate pretense that tennis was an amateur sport, the same charade that was doggedly maintained until 1968, already was fully institutionalized by the mid-1920s. Lenglen and other notable players of the day were rewarded for their efforts in wondrously devious ways. It was rumored, for instance, that Wimbledon officials once guaranteed Lenglen's appearance by betting her father, Charles, a considerable sum that she would not show. When of course she did, Papa Lenglen collected.

As long as an athlete toed the line as it was laid down by his national or local tennis federation, he or she was reasonably well looked after, and in the case of a star such as Lenglen, lavishly indulged.

Deviation from the rules, however, brought swift punishment. The capital crime was uncamouflaged professionalism, even straightforward teaching professionalism, and its penalty was that most terrifying fate of all, banishment. At Wimbledon it was understood that a player, even a former champion, who had become a teaching professional was no longer even entitled to sit in the friends' box with those who had not. In 1932, when Lenglen, then in retirement, returned to Wimbledon as a spectator, she and Dorothea Lambert Chambers, with 13 Wimbledon singles titles between them, were seated together, far from the center of social action. Chambers' trangression had been to become a teaching pro.

After the tour was over, so was Lenglen's time in the U.S., where she'd once been denigrated for her "cough and quit" default loss in her only U.S. Championships appearance in 1921 vs. Molla Mallory.

(*) In February 1927, Lenglen went back to France with her mother. They returned to America only once after that, in December 1928, when they went to visit Baldwin's mother, Mrs. Anita Baldwin, in Arcadia, Calif. Baldwin was still wed, but rumors of his imminent marriage to Lenglen persisted.


Back to Europe Suzanne went, this time for good, with the Sheik in tow. As the party left New York, Baldwin's lawyer announced to the press that he would seek a divorce for his client in Paris.

The divorce never came about, nor did the marriage, but the affair lasted four more years. By 1930 Lenglen was at work selling sports clothes in a Parisian dress house, which was distinguished by a vest-pocket tennis court on the premises. Some society page observers exulted in print over what they saw as Lenglen's descent from queen to shopgirl, although no one seemed sure whether financial need was involved. In fact, it probably was. The family had lost the use of the villa in Nice, and Charles Lenglen had succumbed at last to failing health, in 1929, dying at age 70.

When the French tennis federation reinstated Feret in 1933, it was expected that Lenglen, who had also applied to regain her amateur, status, would be next, but that never happened. Her movements were still news, though, and her public appearances in informal tennis matches always attracted attention.

Five-time U.S. champion Helen Jacobs recalled in her book. Gallery of Champions, a practice match she played with Lenglen in 1933 during the French championships at Roland Garros Stadium: "Jean Borotra was playing on the stadium court and the stands were filled to capacity. The court to which Suzanne and I walked was behind the stadium, but visible from its rim. A spectator must have passed the word that 'Lenglen was playing,' for in a matter of minutes we were being followed by a procession of people far more eager to watch Suzanne than any of the tournament aspirants."

Her father, who essentially "created" her tennis career, died in 1929. It was said to have crushed her. In 1934, she almost died of acute appendicitis. The end, when it arrived, came quickly.


In June 1938 she was diagnosed with leukemia and three weeks later, she went blind. On July 4, 1938, at the age of 39, Lenglen died in Paris of pernicious anemia. She was buried in the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen at Saint-Ouen near Paris.


(*) From 1933 until her sudden death at the age of 39, in 1938, Lenglen was director of a government-backed tennis school in Paris, apparently having given up hope of being readmitted as an amateur.

The one event in her life that she could not stage-manage was her death, of pernicious anemia. On June 29 she was given a transfusion and on July 4 she was dead. The disease by then was no longer considered incurable, but Lenglen's health had never been robust.


Her funeral at Notre Dame de l'Assomption in Paris befitted that of a national heroine. Her old friend King Gustav V of Sweden sent an emissary, as did Premier Edouard Daladier of France. Borotra and Brugnon represented the Musketeers, and floral displays from tennis clubs filled three automobiles in the procession to the cemetery in suburban Sain-Ouen. Suzanne was buried in the family plot, alongside her beloved Papa.

Burial site: Cimetiere de St. Ouen
Departement de Seine-Saint-Denis
Île-de-France, France
Plot: Division 6, old cemetery

At Wimbledon, Moody, who had just won her eighth singles title, said Lenglen was "the greatest woman player who ever lived." So, at one time or another, did every other prominent player who had ever been her opponent, including Mallory, Chambers and Browne.

But of them all, the one who knew her best was Elizabeth Ryan. Ryan was one of the last players to beat Lenglen at singles, when she was 14. She also gave Suzanne one of her few tough matches at Wimbledon, a three-setter in 1924, after which Lenglen withdrew from the tournament. For six years Ryan was Lenglen's doubles partner, at Wimbledon and elsewhere. As a team they were never beaten.

Ryan died in 1979 at the age of 87, 24 hours before Billie Jean King finally broke her longstanding record of 19 Wimbledon titles. In 1941, when Ryan was a teaching pro at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, sports-writer Bob Considine sought her out there and asked her the old question—who was the best?

"Why, Suzanne, of course," Ryan replied. "She owned every kind of shot, plus a genius for knowing how and when to use them. She never gave an opponent the same kind of shot to hit twice in a row. She'd make you run miles...her game was all placement and deception and steadiness. I had the best drop shot anybody ever had, but she could not only get up to it but was so fast that often she could score a placement off of it. She had a stride a foot and a half longer than any known woman who ever ran, but all those crazy leaps she used to take were done after she hit the ball. Sure, she was a poser, a ham in the theatrical sense. She had been spoiled by tremendous adulation from the time she was a kid.... But she was the greatest woman player of them all. Never doubt that."

Seventy-eight years after her death, only one woman (Chris Evert, with 7) has won more Roland Garros titles than Lenglen's six. Had she lived, she would have been 75 when Evert won her first title in Paris in 1974. Lenglen is still listed amongst the greatest champions of Wimbledon, as well. Since she played her final match in the tournament in 1925, only Martina Navratilova (9), Helen Wills (8) and Steffi Graf (7) have moved past her on the all-time career singles titles list at the All-England Club. She would have been 79 when Navratilova won her maiden title at SW19 in 1978.


Of course, Lenglen lives on in photos and stories, as well as on the very grounds of Roland Garros in the form of Court Suzanne-Lenglen and the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, presented to the women's singles champion every year.


And thus ends this two-week tour of (many, but hardly all) things Lenglen. It's been a very informative trip for me, and I hope it, at the very least, infused a little life for others into a very familiar name, but one which may be only that for many if they don't choose to learn more about unquestionably one of the greatest personalities and performers in the history of the sport. Maybe THE greatest, in fact.

She was, quite simply, both of, and before, her time.

Au Revoir, La Divine.

June 4 (Day 14 Postscript)

...REALIZATION ON DAY 14: Suzanne Lenglen makes one last appearance in this space during this Roland Garros...

Apparently, those impromptu/accidental Lenglen poses the last two weeks DID mean something...

And this lob, dare I say it, would have made Lenglen proud.

La Divine... still making history.

June 5 (Day 15 Post Postscript)

The last French woman to win a slam title of any kind in Paris was Nathalie Dechy in Mixed Doubles in 2007. But an ALL-Pastry RG women's doubles championship duo is even more rare. It's been forty-five years since Gail Chanfreau & Francoise Durr lifted their second of back-to-back titles in 1971. But since Chanfreau was Aussie-born and played under the Australian flag before marrying French player Jean-Baptiste Chanfreau and moving to France in the late 1960's, you have to go back to 1945, when sisters Paulette Iribarne-Fritz and Simone Iribarne-Lafargue won, for the last time two French-BORN Pastries won the WD in Paris. Until today, that is. Lenglen would be proud.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: the French championships held during World War II from 1941-45 -- called the "Tournoi de France" --aren't "officially" recognized as RG champions. Thus, under those rules, you'd have to go back even further for an all French-born team... to 1926, when Didi Vlasto won with, yes, Suzanne Lenglen. Bam.

...ONE MORE LENGLEN REFERENCE ON DAY 15: I spoke too soon again. One day after "occasional in-point Lenglen pose" producer Garbine Muguruza won the singles title, two French-born woman won the women's doubles title for the first time since 1945.... or 1926, that is).

Actually, I was doubling up on Mladenovic/Lenglen pics long before RG, when Kiki's outfit for Paris was first revealed, and the headscarf immediately brought to mind the look of a certain 1920's superstar.

Ah, this was La Divine's plan all along, I suspect.

So... one more:

All for now.


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