Fox's 20th Century: Tennis - 1915-20: Suzanne Lenglen

FIRST SOME facts. In major championship finals she conceded an average of only 1.3 games per set, and 42 per cent of those she won 6- 0.Between 1919 and 1926 she suffered just one singles defeat, and then only because she was ill. On five occasions she won a tournament withoutlosing a game. Yet she changed tennis more because of her style and appearance than her near invincibility.

FIRST SOME facts. In major championship finals she conceded an average of only 1.3 games per set, and 42 per cent of those she won 6- 0.Between 1919 and 1926 she suffered just one singles defeat, and then only because she was ill. On five occasions she won a tournament withoutlosing a game. Yet she changed tennis more because of her style and appearance than her near invincibility.

Probably no match in the history of the game was as revolutionary as the meeting at Wimbledon in 1919 of this 20-year-old Frenchwoman and MrsLambert Chambers, of England, who had dominated before the First World War. Mrs Chambers wore what she considered appropriate: a gored skirtonly a few inches off the ground and shirt buttoned at the wrist. Freedom of movement came second to etiquette.

Mlle Lenglen appeared in a one-piece dress with sleeves daringly cut below the elbow. But more sensationally, her hemline was just beneath the knee.Some women spectators muttered "disgusting". But they were to be entranced by a match that heralded a new approach to tennis as well as fashion.

Whereas the pre-war style of play had been stately, Lenglen introduced balletic movement. In a thrilling final, she darted about the court, apparentlywithout a flaw in her play. Yet Chambers was a stern and experienced opponent. Lenglen eventually won 10-8 4-6 9-7.

The victory marked the beginning of the Lenglen era in which she confirmed that her ball control was near impeccable, her volleying powerful andher athleticism something never previously seen. At Wimbledon in 1925 she lost only five games in five rounds, and her only championship defeatwas by Molla Mallory when, in 1921, she had become ill on the way to the United States from Europe. She dominated the game until 1926.

Her temperament had always been volatile, culminating in an hysterical withdrawal from Wimbledon when she misunderstood the time of the startand kept Queen Mary and the crowds waiting. On entering the court she received an unfriendly reception and was so unnerved that she burst intotears and refused to play.

She turned professional that year, which was regrettable since she met another great player, the hard-hitting American Helen Wills Moody only once.That match, in Cannes, also in 1926, saw Lenglen win 6-3 8-6. Yet many tennis fans insisted that Wills Moody was the greater of the two and had notreached her peak. Lenglen died in 1938.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue