Pauline Betz: Grand slam-winning tennis player banned for merely considering turning professional
Friday 17 June 2011
Pauline Betz dominated women's tennis during the 1940s, winning five grand slam singles titles and one mixed doubles title. Blessed with powerful ground strokes, a rasping backhand, speed, unbounding stamina, athleticism and a killer instinct, Betz looked set to dominate for years to come in the same way that Martina Navratilova was to later. However, her amateur career was cut short in April 1947 when the US Lawn Tennis Association banned her from amateur matches – and therefore all grand slams, as professionals were only admitted in 1968.
Betz's crime was that along with Sarah Palfrey Cooke, another multiple Grand Slam winner, she considered the suggestion made by Cooke's husband that she turn professional, though no contract was signed. As the great Jack Kramer wrote in his 1979 memoir, "She was ruled out as an amateur on the basis of intent." He believed she was the second-best woman player he had seen, behind Helen Wills Moody.
Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1919, Pauline May Betz was raised in Los Angeles and was introduced to tennis at the age of nine by her mother, a PE teacher. She was soon winning tournaments throughout California, attaining her first national top-10 ranking at 19. She won a scholarship to Rollins College in Florida, where she graduated in economics in 1943. She played for the men's team at No 4, alongside Kramer.
Betz was still an undergraduate in 1942 when she won her first US singles title. Although shorter than most on the circuit, her steel and determination was exemplified in her semi-final against Margaret Osborne duPont, saving a match point at 5-3 down in the final set. The final saw her beat Louise Brough 4–6, 6–1, 6–4. The two met again the next year, with Betz again victorious in another gruelling three-set final.
Between 1941 and 1946, Betz fought her way to a record six consecutive US singles finals, winning on four occasions. In September 1946, the week she won her fourth US Open, she appeared on the cover of Time, which proclaimed her "the first lady of tennis."
In 1946, she won the women's Wimbledon singles title at the first time of asking without dropping a set, beating Louise Brough in the final 6-2, 6-4, and also played a key role in America's victorious Wightman Cup team. At the time of her suspension, in 1947, Betz was world No 1, undefeated in 39 matches, and the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion. She immediately turned professional, enjoying a 13-year undefeated career on tour with such notables as Pancho Segura, Don Budge, Kramer and "Gorgeous Gussie" Moran.
In retirement Betz coached professionally, while motherhood did not diminish her on-court tenacity: in a 1959 exhibition, while five months pregnant, she beat Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title. Betz played tennis until 2003 and was also an excellent golfer, table-tennis player and tournament bridge player.
Pauline Betz, tennis player: born Dayton, Ohio 6 August 1919; married 1949 Bob Addie (died 1982; five children); died Potomac, Maryland 31 May 2011.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...