Friday, June 03, 2016

RG.13- A Most Interesting Final Two

In order to survive, everyone has had to have their head on a virtual swivel at this Roland Garros. Whether it be the rain, the shoddy television coverage or the schedule, the tournament organizers, fans, players and media have been forced to look right when left would have been recommended, or up when they really preferred down.

The pattern held firm on Day 13, as all four singles semifinals were scheduled on the same day (for apparently the very first time ever), with the women's matches starting simultaneously on two different courts, and then being followed up by the simultaneous contesting of the two men's semis. It wasn't exactly the way anyone would have wanted it, but it's all worked out pretty well for Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza so far.

On Chatrier, #1 seed and defending champ Serena Williams, nursing an abductor injury, faced off with tournament revelation Kiki Bertens, nursing a calf injury of her own. While Williams was looking to move a step closer to being able to play for her 22nd career singles slam, Bertens was the first Dutch woman in the semis in Paris in forty-five years, and the first unseeded woman from any nation to get so far at Roland Garros since 2003.

Even with the odds of history stacked against her, Bertens broke out first in the contest. As Williams appeared a bit sluggish, Bertens went up 40/love on Williams' serve in the opening game. On the third BP of the game, Serena double-faulted. After holding serve, Bertens went up 40/15 on the Williams serve in game #3. But she didn't take advantage of two second serves, failing to get them back into play. Although, it should be noted, since we ARE talking about Serena, "second serve" doesn't mean the same as with other players -- yet another difference with the Serena Dictionary and all the others). After fighting off a third BP chance, Williams held for 3-2 as the early going remained decidedly tight.

On Lenglen, things were a little different.

Muguruza broke Samantha Stosur, the 2010 RG finalist, in the opening game of the match. But after saving two BP in game #2, the Spaniard only picked up speed. She broke the Aussie again for 3-0, as Stosur was still searching for her first winner in the match. After holding for 4-0, Muguruza held a 17-6 advantage in points, while Stosur's racket had still yet to produce a winner for the stat sheet. She finally got it on the opening point of game #5, with a smash shot, then added #2 with an ace as she got on the board at 4-1. While Williams was struggling to hold serve, Muguruza held for 5-1. While she now had two on her own, Stosur still hadn't produced a winner on the Spaniard's serve.

Up 4-2, Bertens ran to the net for a ball, sliding across the clay surface, and then wincing in pain once she skidded to a stop inches from the net. Serena held for 4-3.

Stosur fired another winner -- an ace -- in game #7, but then followed it up with a DF and forehand error. The Aussie held for 5-2, but still had only been credited with three winners (with none of them coming via a traditional groundstroke). She finally fired a forehand winner to level things on Muguruza's serve at 15/15, but the Spaniard routinely served out a 6-2 set, with Stosur's backhand error providing the final point.

Meanwhile, back on Chatrier, Williams had still yet to be presented with a BP opportunity eight games into the match (Bertens was just 1-for-6 on her own). Bertens held for 5-3, having won sixteen of twenty-two points on serve. A game later, she got her seventh BP chance -- a set point -- but failed to convert it. Williams held for 5-4. A game later, a Williams net cord dribbler evened the score on Bertens serve at 30/30. Serena got her first BP after executing a drop shot that Bertens didn't even risk racing to the net to retrieve, then the Dutch woman fired a shot long to break her own serve as things were knotted at 5-5. Just minutes after being SP down, Serena held for a 6-5 lead.

On Lenglen, Muguruza went up 40/love on Stosur's serve and opened the 2nd set with a break. A game later, the Spaniard fired two aces and held at love for a 2-0 lead. Stosur's backhand winners put her up 30/15 in game #4, and she reached BP with a Muguruza DF. Another forehand winner from the Aussie got the break and things were tied at 2-2. Muguruza finally was going to be made to see if she could withstand an overdue challenge.

Williams and Bertens went to a tie-break to decide the 1st set. Again, the Dutch took the early lead. 1-0 with a mini break. Williams ended a 19-shot rally with a forehand winner to tie things at 2-2, then crushed a crosscourt return backhand to take a 4-2 lead. Down 5-2, Bertens swept back-to-back Williams serve points to get within one. After Serena hit a forehand into the net for 5-5, Bertens fired a big serve up the middle but failed to follow it up, hitting a crosscourt forehand wide to give Williams a set point. Serena failed to execute a volley drop shot, then dumped another backhand volley into the net to give Bertens her second SP at 7-6. Bertens' error was then followed up by a Williams backhand return winner to reach her second SP at 8-7. She then hit a big serve that Bertens popped up. Serena approached the net and iced a put away shot to take the TB at 9-7.

In the other match, Muguruza was ready to roll again. She took a 40/15 lead on Stosur's serve in game #5, and the Aussie double-faulted. She broke her again two games later as Stosur, who'd held a game point, once again double-faulted on Muguruza's second BP as the Spaniard moved within a game of her first RG final at 5-2. But, serving for the match, Muguruza's roll was suddenly stopped as her form slipped. She fell behind love/40, and Stosur got the break for 5-3 with a backhand winner, the only winner she needed in the game.

While Muguruza was trying to close out the match, Williams and Bertens were in the early stages of the 2nd set. After holding for 1-0, Bertens broke Williams at love for 2-0. But Williams broke back a game later. The two remained on serve for the next few games. Williams saved BP in game #6, then got the break of Bertens to move ahead and spot the finish line at 4-3.

In game #9 of the 3rd set, Muguruza got within two points of the final, but Stosur held for 5-4 and forced her to try to serve it out for a second time. Stosur took a 30/15 lead. But Muguruza had had enough. Reaching down to find her inner Serena, she blasted an ace to get to 30/30, then another to reach match point. A Stosur forehand unforced error ended the proceedings, as Muguruza won 6-2/6-4, reaching her second slam singles final ('15 Wimbledon) but becoming the first woman from Spain to do so in Paris since 2000. But who would she face on Sunday?

Well, we sort of had a pretty good guess by now. Williams held for 5-3, went up 30/15 on Bertens' serve and quickly reached MP. Bertens served wide and forced a backhand error from Williams. MP #2 came and went when Serena shot a ball barely beyond the baseline. Bertens saved MP #3 when a Williams forehand went wide. She held for 5-4, turning the ball over to Williams to complete the straight sets match. Usually, Serena might put on an ace display at this point. But it didn't happen here. She had none in game #10 (and just 5 for the day, the same number as Muguruza), and fell behind 15/30. But she did produce two winners, and it was all she'd need. Bertens gave up the other two necessary points via errors as Williams advanced to her 27th career slam final with a 7-6(7)/6-4 victory. She'll try to become the first woman to defend a Roland Garros singles title since Justine Henin in 2007.

Thus, Williams and Muguruza will face off once more for a slam title, eleven months after they first did so in London. It'll be their fifth match-up of five career matches (Serena leads 3-1) to take place on the grand slam stage, including the Spaniard's huge upset of Williams in Paris two years ago.

It's the sort of "Past, Present and near Future vs. Maybe the Present, and Likely the Future" final pairing that maintains the WTA's position as the Most Interesting Tour in the World.

Bring it on.

...meanwhile, Martina Hingis' assault on the WTA record books in her second third career continued as she became the seventh woman to complete a Career Mixed Doubles slam (and just the fifth to do it in the Open era) with a defeat of Mirza/Dodig in a 10-8 3rd set TB in the final today. Hingis/Paes become just the fourth duo (second in the Open era -- with the last completed CMS coming in 1975) to win all four major titles.

Hingis' fifth career MX titles ties her for the most amongst active female players, and her 22nd overall slam title (5 WS/12 WD/5 MX) ties her with Venus Williams behind Serena for the most for any active WTA player.

36...Serena Williams (21-13-2)
22...Venus Williams (7-13-2)
22...Martina Hingis (5-12-5)

If Mirza wins the mixed title at Wimbledon next month, she'd join Hingis on the list of those with a Career Mixed slam.

- the doubles final is set, and it'll be the comeback Hordette duo of Makarova & Vesnina looking for their third slam crown (and second RG, to go along with their '13 title) as a duo. They finally took down the young Czech team of Krejcikova/Siniakova today, though I suspect this won't be the last we'll hear from THEM. Vesnina already has one slam title this year, having taken the MX title in Melbourne.

The pair will be playing in Rio, as well.

Hopefully it doesn't make The Kasatkina angry... Elena wouldn't like her when she's angry.

The Russians' opponents will be a pair of Pastries. Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic defeated another all-Hordette twosome (Gasparyan/Kuznetsova) to reach their first major final, improving their record to 20-1 in their last twenty-two matches.

The last French woman to win a slam title in Paris was Nathalie Dechy in 2007, in Mixed Doubles. The last to win in women's singles or doubles was Mary Pierce in 2000, when she swept both titles. 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, and since Chanfreau was Aussie-born and played under the Australian flag early in her career you have to go back to the 1940's to find the last time two French-born women were crowned co-champions. Garcia & Mladenovic lifting the Coupe Simone Mathieu this weekend would would end that drought... and could be the precursor to something even more come Fed Cup final time.

- All four of the remaining seeded girls advanced out of the junior singles QF today, including #1 Olesya Pervushina (RUS), #2 Amanda Anisimova (USA), #4 Anastasia Potapova (RUS) and #12 Rebeka Masarova (SUI).

The all-Hordette duo of Pervushina/Potapova are still alive in the girls doubles semis, as well. They'll face the Italian team of Tatiana Pieri & Lucrezia Stefanini.

- Meanwhile, the wheelchair singles final will feature two unseeded players, as 40-year old '13 RG champ Sabine Ellerbrock defeated Brit Jordanne Whiley, while #2 Yui Kamiji fell to Dutch player Marjolein Buis.

The 28-year old Buis is a two-time slam doubles champ, winning RG with legendary Esther Vergeer in '12 (they also won Paralympic Gold in London) and the AO this year with Kamiji. This will be just her second singles final, having previously lost in Paris in 2011 to Vergeer. Buis' fellow Dutch players Jiske Griffioen (3) and Aniek Van Koot (2) have won multiple slam singles crowns since Vergeer's retirement, so she'll be looking to join the club and expand their nation's deep WC tennis legacy. She's stated that her goal is to win singles Gold in Rio... so maybe this can be either a stepping stone or at least something to tide her over if things don't go as planned in Brazil.

In doubles, it'll be the top two seeds facing off. #1 Griffioen & Van Koot advanced to their fourteenth consecutive slam doubles final (they've won six), where they'll face #2 Kamiji/Whiley. Kamiji has won seven of the last nine doubles majors, six of them with Whiley.

- in the WTA 125 Series in Bol, Croatia crowd favorite Ana Konjuh reached the semifinals, along with Nao Hibino, Polona Hercog and Mandy Minella.

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: It goes without saying...

...A HORDETTE TWO-FOR-ONE DEAL ON DAY 13: A Vitalia Diatchenko Update AND a Chakvetadze Sighting!

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: The Interesting Tour in the World: Hall of Famers Edition

...STILL NOT RETIRED ON DAY 13: Francesca!


Today's two men's semifinals were also scheduled on separate courts with simultaneous start times.

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: The most expressive eyes on tour?

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: A true sign of a champion: never forgetting the one that got away

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: Didn't see this the other day. Not sure how this was captured on camera so long after a match, though.


...LIKE FROM DAY 13: "King of the... fans?"


...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?

...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.

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #4 Garbine Muguruza/ESP

#7 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) vs. #5 Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA/FRA)

Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs. #2 Mirza/Dodig (IND/CRO)

#1 Olesya Pervushina/RUS vs. #12 Rebeka Masarova/SUI
#4 Anastasia Potapova/RUS vs. #2 Amanda Anisimova/USA

#1 Pervushina/Potapova (RUS/RUS) vs. Tatiana Pieri/Lucrezia Stefanini (ITA/ITA)
Aikawa/Albon (JPN/SUI) vs. Arias Manjon/Danilovic (ESP/SRB)

Sabine Ellerbrock/GER vs. Marjolein Buis/NED

#1 Jiske Griff#1oen/Aniek Van Koot (NED/NED) vs. #2 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR)

14...Venus Williams (7-7)
10...Maria Sharapova (5-5)
4...Victoria Azarenka (2-2)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-2)
3...Ana Ivanovic (1-2)
2...Petra Kvitova (2-0)
2...Francesca Schiavone (1-1)
2...Samantha Stosur (1-1)
2...Caroline Wozniacki (0-2)
NOTE: 12-Hingis (5-7), 2-Zvonareva (0-2)

1971 Evonne Goolagong, AUS
1974 Chris Evert, USA
1976 Sue Barker, GBR
1977 Mima Jausovec, SLO
1978 Virginia Ruzici, ROU
1987 Steffi Graf, GER
1989 Arantxa Sanchez, ESP
1990 Monica Seles, YUG
1997 Iva Majoli, CRO
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2004 Anastasia Myskina, RUS
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Li Na, CHN

24 - Margaret Smith-Court (11-5-3-5)
22 - Steffi Graf (4-6-7-5)
21 - SERENA WILLIAMS (6-3-6-6)
19 - Helen Wills Moody (0-4-8-7)
18 - Martina Navratilova (3-2-9-4)
18 - Chris Evert (2-7-3-6)
12 - Billie Jean King (1-1-6-4)
12 - Suzanne Lenglen (0-6-6-0)

3 - Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens (3-0)
3 - Angelique Kerber (2-1)
3 - Dominika Cibulkova (1-2)
2 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2 - Genie Bouchard (0-2)

2007 Patty Schnyder, SUI
2008 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2009 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2010 Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
2011 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2012 Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
2013 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2014 Andrea Petkovic, GER
2015 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2016 Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS

10...Martina Navratilova
7...Billie Jean King
6...Margaret Court
5...Cara Black
5...Lisa Raymond
5...Anne Smith
5...Katarina Srebotnik*
5...Helena Sukova
5...Wendy Turnbull

5...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
4...Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
3...Sania Mirza, IND
3...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
ALSO: 5-Cara Black, 2-Liezel Huber

Cara Black
Margaret Court
Daniela Hantuchova
Doris Hart
Billie Jean King
Martina Navratilova
[won each slam in Open era]
Cara Black
Margaret Court
Daniela Hantuchova
Martina Navratilova
NOTE: The Open era began four months after King's final AO mixed title in 1968

Margaret Court/Ken Fletcher
Doris Hart/Frank Sedgeman
Margaret Court/Mary Riessen

2005 Daniela Hantuchova & Fabrice Santoro
2006 Katarina Srebotnik & Nenad Zimonjic
2007 Nathalie Dechy & Andy Ram
2008 Victoria Azarenka & Bob Bryan
2009 Liezel Huber & Bob Bryan
2010 Katarina Srebotnik & Nenad Zimonjic
2011 Casey Dellacqua & Scott Lipsky
2012 Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi
2013 Lucie Hradecka & Frantisek Cermak
2014 Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Jean-Julien Rojer
2015 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Mike Bryan
2016 Martina Hingis & Leander Paes

TOP QUALIFIER: Viktoriya Golubic/SUI
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Lucie Safarova/CZE
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Lucie Hradecka/CZE d. Grace Min/USA 6-7(4)/6-1/11-9 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #25 Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU d. CoCo Vandeweghe/USA 6-7(4)/7-6(4)/10-8 (3:38)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - Kiki Bertens/NED def. #29 Daria Kasatkina/RUS 6-2/3-6/10-8 (Bertens 5-2 3rd, for match and 5 MP in game; Kasatkina twice for match; Bertens on 7th MP)
FIRST VICTORY: #24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (def. Sorribes Tormo/ESP
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Jelena Ostapenko/LAT (lost 1st Rd. to Osaka/JPN)
UPSET QUEENS: The South Americans (players from three S.A. nations in 2nd Round)
REVELATION LADIES: The French (second most players in 2nd Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (remaining Quartet members Vinci, Errani & Schiavone 0-3; retired Pennetta last not in MD in 2002)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: C.Buyukakcay/TUR, V.Cepede Royg/PAR, L.Chirico/USA and V.Golubic/SUI (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: M.Georges/FRA, V.Razzano/FRA, and T.Townsend/USA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: A.Cornet, K.Mladenovic and P.Parmentier (all 3rd Rd.)
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: Kiki Bertens/NED and Shelby Rogers/USA (two of four unseeded quarterfinalists, most at RG since 1988)
IT "Turk": Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR (first Turk w/ GS match win)
COMEBACK PLAYERS: Ekaterna Makarova/Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS)
CRASH & BURN: #3 Angelique Kerber/GER (1st Rd./Bertens - fifth AO champ out RG 1st Rd. in Open era)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL (4th Rd. vs. Radwanska, down 6-2/3-0 and rain suspension, no play next day, then ten straight games on rainy 3rd in 2-6/6-3/6-3 win; 3-11 vs. A-Rad)
DOUBLES STAR: Nomineess: Garcia/Mladenovic, M.Hingis/SUI
Légion de Lenglen HONOREE: Alize Lim/FRA ("shorteralls" outfit)
Coupe LA PETIT TAUREAU: Yulia Putintseva/KAZ

Artist: Paul Thurlby (2013)

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Muguruza earned it.

The loss doesn't diminish Serena one bit.

Only Muguruza's 3rd title. Obviously, Chris O'Neil gets mentioned when this happens, so some short quick thoughts on her. First off, her stats seem to be incomplete. Two, she seemed to be much more active in doubles. Third, due to a quirk in the rankings at the time, and the smaller fields at majors 64 at AO/F, 96 W/USO, she couldn't always build on her success. Wen she won in December of 78, it means 79 should have been a year to build on. And except for a QF in August in Canada. She didn't. But her ranking only went from 111 to 80 when she won, too low to make a bunch of tourneys, and had to take a WC to the French-unclear if she needed one for Wimbledon or the US Open. Second quirk is that there were only 16 seeds back in the day, and for Wimbledon and USO, the seeds played the first round, and some unseeded got the bye. O'Neil got them for both, and lost in the 2nd round of each. Ranking too low to enter, she didn't enter any more slams until 1981.

Sat Jun 04, 05:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And, of course, the AO, especially back then, is always sort of an outlier when it comes to stats. What with the distance to travel for most players, the lack of a focus on slam titles, and even the changing dates (late December, late January) of the event over the years.

Of course, this means players like O'Neil (and Barbara Jordan) still get mentioned long past the point in time when they likely would be very often.

So there's that. ;)

Sat Jun 04, 06:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Fun fact-O'Neil's last GS match was against Jordan-1983 Wimbledon.

Guess I should clarify an earlier statement. Wish the WTA would fix O'Neil's page as the info is weak, then again, even Navratilova's stuff is off(some of the early stuff). Anyway O'Neil actually did try to play slams in 1980, and lost in Q rounds both at the French and the US Open.

Sun Jun 05, 02:21:00 PM EDT  

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