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Archive for the ‘Queens of the Court’


Queens of the Court: Maria Bueno, Fire and Ice 11

Posted on November 29, 2009 by JA Allen

Maria Bueno won severn Grand Slam singles titles.

Maria Bueno won seven Grand Slam singles titles.

You are ice and fire with a touch that burns my hands like snow—Amy Lowell

Maria Esther Andion Bueno rose to the top of women’s tennis in the ’50s and ’60s, employing her natural ability to carve a unique mark on the women’s game.

Bueno grew up during an era prior to the movement known as women’s liberation.  Back then she was a novelty—a woman born with natural athletic gifts who lived to find and fulfill her destiny.  Such a feat was rare in those days because even superlative women often remained wedged in their seats at the back of the bus.

Remarkably, Bueno won seven grand slam singles championships, three Wimbledons, and four U.S. Open titles, 11 doubles championships with six different partners, and one mixed doubles title with partner Bob Howe at the French Championships in 1960—for a total of 19 grand slam crowns.

She was ranked in the top 10 in the world from 1958 through 1960 and then again from 1962 through 1968.  She held the No. 1 ranking in 1959, 1960, and in 1964.

Bueno, born on Oct. 11, 1939, resided in Sau Paulo, Brazil.  Her father and mother both loved and played tennis socially.  The family lived modestly in comfortable middle class society in a home directly across the street from a tennis club facility.

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Queens of The Court: Billie Jean King – The Heart and Stomach of a King 5

Posted on November 22, 2009 by Marianne Bevis

Women's Professional Tenni is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

Women's Professional Tennis is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

A tribute to a personal heroine who celebrates her 66th birthday on 22nd November.


A first impression

What was it about one particular woman, wielding her wooden racket in the black and white world of 1960s television, that imprinted itself in this fan’s memory? She came from another country, and she played a game I had barely learned to understand, let alone master.

To me, she looked middle-aged even though still in her early 20s. She was ordinary in appearance but unusual in demeanor.

I knew nothing of her background nor of her achievements in tennis—other than she had just beaten the homely, and British, Ann Jones. But once I heard her name, I never forgot it.

Billie Jean King.

Her story has been simmering in the bloodstream ever since, because her name takes me back to my very first monochrome memories of tennis and of Wimbledon—for it was only Wimbledon that made its way into British living rooms back then.

These were impressionable years for a girl heading towards adolescence. It was the uncomfortable realisation that my mother seemed quite embarrassingly enamoured of the Santanas and Newcombes. It was also the uncomfortable realisation that King was being undermined by that mother’s slights about her appearance, her manner, and her attitudes.

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Queens of the Court: Evonne Goolagong, A Luminous Star 5

Posted on November 15, 2009 by Claudia Celestial Girl
Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong claimed seven Grand Slam titles during her career.

Evonne Goolagong can be described in mathematical terms.

Parallels and angles. Circles and singularities (a situation that is completely unique). Chaos versus The Metronome.

She will be forever remembered as a seven-time Grand Slam winner: four Australian Open, two Wimbledon, and one French Open title(s).

She was a contemporary of Jimmy Connors. (Jimbo was born Sept. 2, 1952, Evonne on July 31, 1951), and her career paralleled his in its dramatic jump-start.

In 1970, at age 18, Connors recorded his first significant victory in the first round of the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, defeating Australian tennis legend Roy Emerson.

Goolagong came out of nowhere to win the 1971 French Open at the age of 19 and then shocked the world again a month later when she routed her idol, fellow Australian Margaret Court, 6-4, 6-1, to win her first Wimbledon title.

1971 was the year that Love Story was No. 1 at the box office (in the US at least) and “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the No. 1 song. It was also the year that the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times and Apollo 14 landed on the moon.

1968, three years before, was a seminal year in the annals of tennis. It was the moment (March 30) that saw the birth of the “open” era, where professionals were allowed to compete in the majors—the beginning of modern tennis.

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Queens of the Court: The Brief, But Dominant Career of Little Mo 5

Posted on November 04, 2009 by JA Allen
Maureen Connolly won nine of the 11 Grand Slam tournaments in which she competed.

Maureen Connolly won nine of the 11 Grand Slam tournaments in which she competed.

“There is nothing like competition. It teaches you early in life to win and lose, and, when you lose, to put your chin out instead of dropping it.”

Maureen Connolly

Although her career spanned just a little over four years, Maureen Connolly’s reign at the top of women’s tennis was one of the game’s most dominant.

Like many little girls growing up in America, Maureen Catherine (“Little Mo”) Connolly loved horses. She wanted a horse of her own and she wanted to learn how to ride. But family circumstances prevented Mo’s mother from being able to afford to give her little girl riding lessons.

Instead, her mother bought her the tennis racket she desired and enrolled her in lessons. Because of that, Maureen Connolly became a tennis player—perhaps the greatest tennis player her sport has ever known.

Growing up in California aided her development, as, in San Diego, weather was hardly ever an issue. At the tender age of 10, she learned to play on the municipal courts of the City of San Diego, where her first coach, Wilbur Folsom, encouraged the young Connolly to switch from a left-handed grip to a right. Connolly was a natural left-hander.

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Queens of the Court: Althea Gibson, A Sports Pioneer 21

Posted on November 02, 2009 by Claudia Celestial Girl
Althear Gibson was 23 before she was allowed to compete in a major championship.

Althea Gibson was 23 before she was allowed to compete in a major championship.

Born in 1927, the year after the historic “Match of the Century ” featured in our previous two articles between the divine Suzanne Lenglen and the poker-faced Helen Wills, Althea Gibson is another of our Queens of the Court.

In 1956 Althea Gibson made history by becoming the first person of African descent, of any nationality, to win a tennis major (the French).

Ironically, Althea Gibson became the first black woman to not only achieve major success in the world of professional tennis, but also to compete after leaving tennis as a professional golfer.

But her career in tennis was a tough row to hoe.

Unlike Suzanne Lenglen or Helen Wills, who both played their first tournaments as teenagers, and so began amassing statistics, Althea Gibson did not enter the world “tour” of tennis until the age of 23. Why?

As an African-American woman from Harlem, New York, Althea Gibson was not allowed to play the majors until in the fall of 1950, when she was allowed to enter the U.S. National Championships (later to become the U.S. Open), then played at Forest Hills.

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Queens of the Court: Suzanne Lenglen, An Original Diva 14

Posted on October 30, 2009 by Claudia Celestial Girl
Suzanne Lenglen paved the way for the modern "Divas".

Suzanne Lenglen won 12 Grand Slam titles.

She was called ‘La Divine.’  Some say in the 1920s Suzanne Lenglen was a bigger name in sports than that of Babe Ruth.

Between 1919 and 1926, at a time when three and not four tennis majors were played, she won twelve Grand Slam titles, on three different surfaces, and an Olympic Gold medal (Antwerp). Notably in seven of 81 singles titles she did not lose a game!

She was dominant in a way that only a handful of male stars have been since the open era of tennis.  More than that, she imposed her personality on the sport, and the entertainment world of the day.  We recognize such a personality in contemporary terms, in modern English, we might call her a diva. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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