tennis in the 1920s
French woman Suzanne Lenglen dominated women’s tennis in Europe in the 1920s, not only with her successes on court but also with her flamboyant style which brought crowds to women’s tennis for the first time. Lenglen was born 70km north of Paris and took up tennis at the age of 11 when her father introduced her to the game in the hope that the exercise would mend some of his daughter’s health problems. She took to the game very quickly and reached the final of the French Championships just four years later. Although she lost in Paris, she won the World Hardcourt Championships later that year before her career was put on hold by the onset of World War I. With the return of the Grand Slam tournaments, Lenglen immediately dominated, winning Wimbledon every year bar 1924 from 1919 to 1925. Her final win was the last win for a French woman at Wimbledon until 2006, when Maurismo triumphed. However, she also gained attention for her “risqué” dress on the courts, revealing bare arms with the cut just above the calf. Lenglen’s dress, flamboyance and passion for the game drew crowds to women’s tennis for the first time, and she was honoured for this in 1997 when the second court at Roland Garros was renamed Court Suzanne Lenglen. The French Championships were only open to French players until 1925 and the equivalent of today’s Roland Garros was the World Hardcourt Championships which Lenglen won in 1921, 1922 and 1923. She then won two more Roland Garros titles in 1925 and 1926 once the competition was open to all nationalities. In 1920, Lenglen competed at the Olympic Games in Antwerp, easily winning gold in the singles tournament before winning another gold medal in the mixed doubles. She also won bronze in the women’s doubles. Lenglen retired in 1927 after a short professional tour and ran a tennis school in Paris as well as writing books on the sport. She died at the age of 39 after contracting leukemia.
[extracted from Wall of Fame]