Nell Truman: Tennis player who defied the US to win the Wightman Cup

 

Making her first steps as a tennis player in a decade when British women won five singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments must have been a challenge for Nell Robinson, née Truman. What made her career all the more commendable was the fact that she was not even the best player in her own family.

While her sister, Christine, was the more accomplished singles player,winning the French Open in 1959 and finishing runner-up at Wimbledon two years later, Nell was a fine exponent of doubles. She reached the final of the French Open in partnership with Winnie Shaw, two quarter-finals at Wimbledon with her sister and the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at the US Open alongside Roger Taylor. The most celebrated match of her career was in the Wightman Cup, when she partnered Christine to victory in the deciding rubber at Wimbledon in 1968.

The 1960s was a golden decade for women's tennis in Britain. Angela Mortimer won Wimbledon in 1961, beating Christine Truman in the final, and Ann Jones beat Billie Jean King in the final eight years later, having lost to the American at the same stage in 1967. Jones also played in five French Open finals, winning in 1961 and 1966, and lost in two finals at the US Open, where Virginia Wade won in 1968.

Nell could not match the power of Christine, but was quick around the court and volleyed well, which served her well in doubles. "She wasn't tall like me but she had quick reactions and was a very good all-court player," Christine said. "She was a good foil for me because she was small and nippy. She had quick reactions. I had the bigger shots, so we were a good combination. It wasn't easy being the younger sister, any more than it was for my daughter being compared with me when she played. I don't doubt it was hard for Nell, but she was always good fun, very smiley and bubbly."

The youngest of six children, Nell came from a sporting family. Fittingly, her parents, Stanley and Aimee, met at a tennis club. Her brother Humphrey competed at Wimbledon, her sister Isabel played in the junior event there and her sister Elizabeth was captain of Lancashire. It was at Oxford University, where she studied geography, that Nell emerged as a serious tennis talent. She captained the university's team and won a gold medal at the World Student Games in 1967.

She had made her first appearance in the singles at Wimbledon three years earlier. Nell was a regular competitor at the All England Club until 1972, enjoying her best run in the singles in 1969, when she reached the last 16. Having beaten Judy Congdon and Wendy Gilchrist, she eventually lost to Judy Tegart of the United States. In the doubles Nell and Christine reached the Wimbledon quarters in 1965 and 1969. However, it was with Shaw that Nell reached the final of the doubles at the 1972 French Open before losing to King and Betty Stove. Nell and Taylor had made the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at the US Open two years earlier.

Between 1965 and 1972 Nell played five times in the Wightman Cup, which was contested every year by women's teams from Britain and the US. The Americans had won seven years in a row when the two countries met at Wimbledon in 1968 and the match score stood at 3-3 when Christine and Nell played Stephanie DeFina and Kathy Harter in the deciding rubber. Amid great excitement on the old No 1 Court the sisters triumphed 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, Nell hitting the winning shot.

"Nell felt more confident playing doubles and it was through playing doubles in the Wightman Cup that she really made her name, though she played more singles later in her career," Christine said. "I think the fact that we were sisters playing together captured the public's imagination."

In her final year of competition, in 1972, Nell played on the new professional women's circuit in the US, sponsored by Virginia Slims. She married Christopher Robinson, a solicitor, and had the first of their four children in 1973. After settling into family life in north Essex she played more golf than tennis. She was also a keen gardener and bridge player.

Nell made a good recovery after a first stroke two years ago but never recovered after suffering a second stroke. She is survived by her husband and four children, Nicholas, Melissa, Anna and Clare.

Paul Newman

Frances Ellen (Nell) Truman, tennis player: born Loughton, Essex 12 December 1945; married 1972 Christopher Robinson (one son, three daughters); died Cambridge 8 April 2012.

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players