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?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine