Post image for Women’s Team Events 1920′s -1930′s

Women’s Team Events 1920′s -1930′s

by thadmin on December 18, 2011

Although Australian Men were traveling and playing in tournaments over the 1890′s to early 1900 period, women’s tennis rated poorly.  The Davis Cup competition inspired the international tennis playing nations yet it was until 1963 that an equivalent event, the Federation Cup was instigated. In the 1920′s the UK and USA teams did play the Ladies International Cup and the Wightman Cup but neither were International events for all nations.

The 1920′s saw the growth in interest in Women’s tennis largely due to Suzanne Lenglen.  She won many of the major events and even turned professional which proved even more that crowds would attend ladies matches.

Sending tennis players and teams abroad was sanctioned by the National tennis associations along with invitations to play by host nations.  In 1925,  a team of Australian women left for the UK with approval but no financial support from the ALTA.  A fundraising committee was formed  in NSW and eventually they had enough funds to send three players to join a fourth  who was already in Europe on a private tour.  The girls also planned to play at Wimbledon and the lead up tournaments, then travel through Europe and onto the USA for more team events and the US National Championships.

1925 Ladies Team

Akhurst was the current Australian Singles Champion, Mrs Harper the 1924 Champion and Miss George who joined the team whilst traveling privately.  Mrs Utz, not in the photo was also traveling in Europe. Miss St. George was an emergency who did play in Europe.


1925 Overseas

Sending a team on such an expedition was seen as an important method of assessing local sporting ability compared to the best if the UK, USA and other countries.

In June 1925, the Australian Team played the dominant English team.

At the end of the first day, the press reports were most flattering for the Australian Ladies had outperformed the USA team which had played the English ladies the previous year. At 2 rubbers all, in fact, the Australians were given a chance to win the event.

Day one

Mrs R Harper (AUS)  defeated Miss Joan Fry 6-3 6-2

Mrs Lycett defeated Daphne Akhurst (AUS) 7-5, 1-6, 6-1

Miss K McKane defeated Esna Boyd (AUS) 8-6, 6-3

Mrs H Utz (AUS) defeated Miss Harvey 4-6, 6-3, 6-3

Following the first day, a large crowd attended the doubles round and over both days Mrs Harper was praised, ahead of the English players as showing the best form.

Scores were:

Lycett/Fry beat Boyd /Utz 6-4, 5-7. 9-7

McKane/ Harvey beat Harper/ Akhurst 6-2, 6-4

McKane/ Harvey beat Boyd /Utz 6-0, 14-12

Harper/ Ackhurst beat Lycett/Fry 11-9, 1-6, 6-1

UK won 5-3.

Daphane Akhurst was not in the greatest form having recently undergone a minor knee operation the week prior to the event and may well not have been fully recovered or confident to play at her best.

Over the next few months, the Australian Ladies performed well, with both Boyd and Akhurst making the quarter finals at Wimbledon.

From a teams perspective the tour went extremely well, defeating Wales 12-0,  Ireland 6-2 and while there Boyd defeated Akhurst in the Irish Singles Championships, Scotland 11-1, then Holland 10-2 and Belgium 11-1.

Against France, Suzanne Lenglen’s inclusion into the strong French team resulted in a team loss of  7-4 in what the press once again proclaimed was credible performance.  Esna Boyd playing Lenglen on the second day astounded the critics by losing the first set 7-5 which was the best performance bar one other against Suzanne in the previous year. Readers need to remember that Lenglen played close to 300 tournament singles matches between 1919 -1926 and lost only one match and indeed only conceded two sets in this time, so to have pushed the champion to a 7-5 score was a major achievement.

In local Australian papers, we found quoted reference by Boyd that she won the first set 7-5 against Lenglen, which was an inaccuracy that was represented in other articles into early 1926, until an interview with Boyd clarified the actual result. Nevertheless having coming back from 5-3 down to 5 all, a frustrated Suzanne changed racquets three times and became quite vocal to her mother in the crowd.   Of course, in what appears to be a pattern of behaviour, Suzanne claimed some blistering to her hand as the excuse Boyd had got so close.  Boyd was in awe of Suzanne and the thought of winning a few games was excitement enough yet alone to push the first set to such a close result.

By September the ladies were playing Philadelphia in a close 3-4 match to the Americans and then down in San Francisco they played the famous Helen Wills and co. on asphalt courts which the Australians were not adjusted to and they lost convincingly 1-6.

On the journey home they stopped in New Zealand winning all matches there.

The tour was an outstanding success and despite being self funded, the team received 50% of the funds generated at the gate of the International Meetings, plus many invitations to stay within no cost accommodation permitted the team to preserve funds and even arrive home with funds much to the surprise of the original local fund raisers. In fact tour expenses were 676 pounds and receipts exceeded 1488 pounds.

In an article by Esna Boyd in November 1925 about the trip she explained disappointment at the lack of interest shown by the Australian tennis officials and the UK public, that was until they started to beat the English stars. In America while the results were not as impressive, the girls arrived in New York stayed three days then went to play at Philadelphia and that night caught the train across the continent to San Francisco, rested that day and played the top ranked Americans (Helen Wills) on asphalt the next day after a season on grass without practice on asphalt…. as she eluded,  imagine Gerald Patterson’s reaction to such preparation which he would rightly call madness. Many years later this was the life-style of the tennis professionals.

The upshot of the tour was that Australian Ladies were of world standard and if provided with the opportunity to acclimatise to different surfaces would hold their own against the best UK & USA players.  The excellent results on court and in the bank paved the way for a 1928 tour.

1928 Overseas

Having seen the ladies perform so well in 1925, the Australian Lawn Tennis Association actually decided to endorse the 1928 tour comprising Esna Boyd, Louise Bickerton, Daphne Akhurst and Mrs Pat O’Hara Wood.

It was to be an even more successful tour as far as results go but financially the effort resulted in a loss situation.

The following report was published by Harley Malcolm (Hon. Sec. of the Australian Association)

Ayres Lawn Tennis Almanack pages 21-28

” TOWARDS the end of 1927 one of the most comprehensive sporting tours ever organised was under consideration by the Australian Lawn Tennis Association. The object of the tour was twofold. Its first was to give Australian women players a chance of measuring their skill against the leading exponents of the world, its second to acknowledge officially the success of the first Australian ladies’ team, financed chiefly by subscriptions from New South Wales, which visited Europe in 1925.

True to their motto- Festina Lente- the Association, before planning such a lengthy tour, canvassed all the available players. The result was that virtually Australia’s strongest team – Miss Boyd (captain), Miss Akhurst, Mrs O’Hara Wood and Miss Bickerton- was nominated.

With myself as manager, the team left Melbourne on March 5 for an eight months’ tour. Journeying overland to Perth, the players joined the Demosthenes for South Africa, on board which were the French team bound for Durban. After an extended tour of the different provinces, against which they won six matches, the team left Cape Town on April 24 by the Nestor, arriving at Tilbury on May 24.

The French Championships in Paris were the team’s next objective, followed by a hurried return to England to practice on grass for the Championships at Wimbledon and the match against Great Britain at Bournemouth, the two chief fixtures of the tour. Tournaments and matches against Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Holland and France followed in quick succession, broken only by a sight-seeing trip to Switzerland and the beautiful Rhine Valley.

Returning to England for a brief and well-earned rest, the team played their last match against Ireland on the courts of the Fitzwilliam Club, Dublin. This encounter practically concluded the tour, for Miss Akhurst and Miss Bickerton, after brief visits to France, Switzerland and Italy, returned to Australia, via Naples and Singapore, with the manager, reaching home on November 24. Mrs. O’Hara Wood and Miss Boyd, deciding to stay longer in Europe, returning later.
Having summarised the tour – in which not a single match was lost – I may review the itinerary in more detail. The first task of the tourists on reaching South Africa was to accustom themselves to the climate and the hard courts, the latter almost unknown in Australia for official match play. The first match at Maritzburg against a Natal side which included Miss E Heine, resulted in an easy win for the tourists. But Miss Heine confirmed the promise shown on her European visit by defeating Miss Boyd 64 61, although it is only fair to add that the Australian visitor was undoubtedly affected by the unusual heat. The next side to be met -the Orange Free State- also included one of South Africa’s front rank players, Miss RD Tapscott. This time Miss Boyd won both her singles in two sets.

A stern fight was waged when Australia met South Africa in Johannesburg. Rain prevented practice, and the local players, familiar with the different bound and flight of the ball at an attitude of over 6000 feet, started with a distinct advantage. They appeared to be heading for victory when, leading by four matches to three, Mrs Neave and Mrs McArthur won the first set of the final contest against Miss Boyd and Miss Bickerton. But the Australian pair rallied pluckily, and, profiting by weak lapses on the part of their opponents, captured the second and third sets to two. As each side had won four matches and ten sets, it was decided to count games, when it was found Australia led by the narrow margin of six games. The chief fixture of the match was the defeat of Mrs Peacock and Miss Heine in singles, and their undoubted superiority, as a pair, in doubles. Miss Akhurst scored a decisive win over Miss Heine, but Miss Boyd, after winning the first set comfortably, allowed Mrs Peacock to reach 4/0 before finally banking the second set at 8/6. A large crowd watched the play on the second day, and gave a warm ovation to the Australians for their well-earned and, to the South Africans, unexpected victory.

Returning to Pretoria, where the ladies were taken for an aeroplane flight, the visitors scored a further win, although Miss Boyd did not compete in the singles. Visits to diamond mines and other forms of entertainment in this delightful city occupied the players in their spare time. On their return to Johannesburg they were invited to a farewell dinner and theatre party by the Johannesburg officials.

Kimberley was the next place to be visited, where the fifth match, against Griqualand West, was staged. Miss Tapscott was again on the opposing side and, judging by her fine fight against Miss Boyd, the Australian were not sorry this pertinacious player had not been included in the Test team the previous week. Miss Rogers, another Kimberley player, was expected to harass Miss Akhurst but, through nervousness, could only collect two games. More visits to mines provided interesting education, and after only one day’s stay the overnight journey to Capetown for the final match in South Africa was begun.

Here the interest was not quite so keen nor the audience so large as in previous centres, for the French team had visited the town two days earlier. Miss A de Smidt drove vigorously in the first set against Miss Boyd, but lack of experience prevented her turning this pace to advantage. At Capetown, as in all other towns, the visitors received unbounded hospitality, and they left many friends behind them when they set sail on April 24 for their Mecca -London.

After only three days on land a hurried departure was made for Paris, in order to compete in the French Championships. Although unsuccessful in winning any of the titles, much valuable experience was gained in meeting new and varied opponents.

Gipsy and Beckenham tournaments provided the teams next practice ground, but wet weather had made the courts particularly “dead”, a heavy factor against the invaders, accustomed to the sun-baked surfaces of Australia. Miss Boyd and Miss Akhurst felt this handicap when they met Miss Ryan, whose chops, drawing guile from the heavy turf, worried them both considerably. The defeat of these two players in the doubles at Gipsy was balanced by an Australian success in the mixed doubles, when EF Moon and Miss Akhurst defeated LA Godfree and Miss Ryan (score of final was 63 57 86) . Mrs O’Hara Wood raised Australian stock by capturing a set from Miss Ryan at Beckenham, and Miss Akhurst again figured in the mixed doubles final with PDB Spence.


If no championship titles from Wimbledon went overseas to Australia, the Dominion flag was worthily upheld by Miss Akhurst, who shared with Miss Ryan the honour of being the only competitor to reach three semi-finals. In the singles Miss Akhurst had victories over Miss Jacobs, who led 6/5 in the final set, and Miss Bennett. Against the latter, Miss Akhurst, new to the centre court, lost the first set easily. Once confidence came, her ground strokes, well co-ordinated, were sound enough to unsteady and ultimately to beat her opponent.

In the doubles, paired with Miss Boyd, Miss Akhurst reached the semi-final at the expense of Miss Anderson and Miss Jacobs, in spite of a 4/0 lead against her in the third set. In the mixed, partnered by J. Crawford, Miss Akhurst looked to have secured a commanding lead in the final, when her side led 5/3 and 40/15 in the first set. A costly double fault from Crawford, who did not concentrate enough on the vital points, and the chance was lost.

Miss Bickerton, having beaten Mrs. Mallory in the second round, achieved fame on her first apperance on the centre court before a large crowd by carrying Senorita de Alvarez to 9/7 in the first set. She led 4/1 in the second, but then the Spanish girl’s brilliance pierced her steady defence. Hawkes and Miss Boyd held Hunter and Miss Wills in a close three-set match, Miss Boyd showing a steady hand when her side were 0/4 down in the second set.

After Wimbledon, Bournemouth! Meeting England on courts more akin to the hard Australian surface than any previous courts, the team faced their task confidently, albeit the British side, with the exception of Miss Goldsack, had carried off the Wightman Cup a few weeks earlier. Miss Akhurst was again the heroine of her team. She defeated Miss Bennett and Mrs Watson without the loss of a set. The issue was decided when Mrs O’Hara Wood and Miss Bickerton, sounder in combination, defeated Miss Harvey and Miss Goldsack in two sets. Australia eventually won the contest by four matches to three.

The following week saw the start of the long Continental tour, in which the team had a series of victories, culminating with a close win over France at Deauville. At Knocke, against Belgium, the visitors lost only three sets of the twenty-five contested. Mlle Sigart showed most promising form, which should carry her to the front rank of European tennis.

At Cologne on August 4 and 5 the German opposition was more threatening. The slow courts were inimical to the fast play of the Australians, who found, after a few games, that their best policy was to keep the ball in play and wait for their opponent to make the mistake. The art of sliding across the court to conserve energy after a running stroke was also exploited for the first time, so that the visitors were playing under rather novel conditions. Miss Akhurst and Miss Boyd both went down to Frl Aussem, playing on her home courts. The only other German victory was scored by Frau Schomburgh, who beat Miss Bickerton. The only rain encountered during the whole of the European tour fell during this match, which affected the attendance.

Hamburg, for the German championships, was the next place of call. The team was in fine form. Miss Akhurst won the singles championship with victories over Miss Boyd and Frl Aussem, the holder. Miss Akhurst and Miss Boyd won the ladies’ doubles, and, with EF Moon, Miss Akhurst was runner-up in the mixed doubles. Incidentally, the mens doubles championship went to an Australian pair, RO Cummings and EF Moon of Queensland.

Two nights’ travel, via Berlin and Prague, brought the team to Budapest. Here the players were warmly welcomed by the Hungarian officials, who showed them the chief sights of the beautiful city on the banks of the Danube. Here, too, the opposition was weak, the Australians winning every match. Mixed doubles, in which Miss Boyd and Miss Akhurst were partnered respectively by B von Kehrling and Der Peteri, were included in the programme.

Anxious to see Switzerland, some of the players made a slight detour via Vienna, to Lucerne and Interlaken, before rejoining forces at Mayence for the river trip along the Rhine to Cologne. An early start was made the next day for Scheveningen, where the Dutch match was to take place. Continual travelling had weakened the Australian forces, and it was therefore not surprising that Mlle Bouman should defeat Miss Akhurst in two sets. Indeed, the Dutch champion won the first set in a few minutes. The home team scored a further success when Mlle Bouman and Mlle Couquerque defeated Mrs O’Hara Wood and Miss Bickerton after three sets.

A misunderstanding having arisen over the date of the match against France, a hurried departure, involving the team in another day and a half’s travelling, was necessary to keep the appointment at Deauville. However, only two matches were staged, out of courtesy to the visitors, on the first day.

Mme Lafaurie was perhaps the best player of a very even team representing France; her backhand, stroke was especially effective. Miss Akhurst was too accurate for Mme Desloges. France levelled the singles when Mme Bordes beat Mrs O’Hara Wood and Mme Mathieu defeated Miss Bickerton. A close finish was spoiled by the collapse of Mme Lafaurie and Mme Desloges in the final set of their match against Miss Boyd and Miss Akhurst, the French pair failing to win a game.

After victory was already secured, Mrs O’Hara Wood and Miss Bickerton scored a close win over Mme Bordes and Mlle Bourgeois, which brought the Australian total score to five matches to three. The umpiring and lining in some of the matches left much to be desired. On one occasion a small boy, who had scarcely had time to learn the rudiments of the game, occupied an important position on the baseline.

The last match was against Ireland at Dublin, where once again the home team seemed a little overawed by their opponents’ reputation. Of the sixteen sets contested, Australia only lost two. Mrs O’Hara Wood lost a set to Miss M French, and Miss Boyd and Miss Akhurst dropped the first set to Mrs Blair White and Miss Fleming. Here for the third time the Australians scored a victory without the loss of a match.

Their tour concluded, the team left in a very happy frame of mind for their long return journey. The total number of international contests won during the tour amounted to thirteen. Of these 76 matches, 159 sets and 1,159 games went to Australia, against the 16 matches, 46 sets and 691 games of their opponents. The total result of the eight Test matches played, included in the above, was 8 wins, 51 matches, 108 sets and 838 games, against 15 matches, 43 sets and 548 games.

The one regret of the Australians during their varied tour was they were not able to pit their strength against the representatives of the United States who competed in the Wightman Cup contest. The majority of the players were, it is understood, willing to play, but unless the American team was fully representative the Australians felt little honour would be attached to the victory if success had come their way.

The members of the team will long remember the many social functions to which they were invited in London. Chief among these was the International Club’s annual dinner and dance at the Royal Automobile Club, followed on Sunday by the I.C. Oversea Reception at Roehampton, and the dinner given by the Lawn Tennis Association on the concluding Saturday of the Championships at Wimbledon. Nor must we forget the little dinner at the House of Commons, when the Australian team were personally conducted over the two Houses by the Lord Chancellor and other M.P.’s, or the farewell dinner and theatre party, at which Lord D’Abernon was present, on the eve of their departure.”

1934 Australia

Despite a financial loss in 1928 the success of the ladies team in not losing a match should have  encouraged further tours however ALTA support was not forthcoming for another six years. Finally, a UK team was organised to visit Australia in 1934.

The NSW tennis association were largely responsible for this, principally because of three ladies, Mrs Roland Conway, Miss Lloyd and Mrs Warburton,  who uniquely were the only ladies represented on any tennis association in the world.

There was a strong push for the ALTA to hand over responsibility for International Women’s tennis to these three ladies since their male counterparts had a  pre-occupation with men’s tennis.

The agitation may have convinced the ALTA to organise an English team to visit Australia in 1934 which was the first time that the Australian public could witness first grade international ladies tennis.

Miss Joan Hartigan, Miss Louie Bickerton and Emily Westacott were selected for Australia against a strong UK team comprising Wimbledon Champion Dorothy Round, Miss Dearman and Miss Nancy Lyle.  Tennis in Australia was also excited by the visit of UK champion, Fred Perry.  At the same time, tennis fans were also mourning the loss of former team champion and five time Australian Championship winner, Daphne Akhurst (then Mrs Cozens) who died aged 30 in January 1933 whilst under anaesthetic during surgery.

The test match was played in Sydney at the Rushcutter Bay courts generated 400 pound profit to the ALTA.

Results Day 1 November 21st

Miss Westacott defeated E. Dearman  6-3, 10-8

Joan Hartigan defeated N. Lyle 2-6, 6-3, 6-1

Louie Bickerton lost to D Round 4-6, 2-6

Westacott Hartigan defeated Dearman Lyle 6-4, 2-6, 8-6

Australia wins the day 3 rubbers to 1, six sets to four, 52 games to 49 games.

Day 2 November 23rd

Louie Bickerton lost to N Lyle 4-6, 7-5, 1-6

Hartigan lost to Round 2-6, 6-2, 3-6

Westacott defeated Lyle 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

Bickerton Hartigan lost to Round Dearman 6-1, 4-6, 7-9

The net result 4 rubbers each, 11 sets each 108 games Australia 107 games UK,  so Australia won by one game.

Similar to the Australians traveling in the USA in 1928,  the UK team arrived only a few days before the test match and may well have performed better with additional time to acclimatise.

The UK team stayed onto play the NSW Championships a week later and Dorothy Round defeated Westacott in the final while Dearman and Lyle won the doubles over Round and Mrs Hopman.

In early 1935 the ladies played in the Australian Championships at Kooyong and Round defeated Lyle in the final 1-6,6-1, 6-3.  Doubles top seeds Dearman and Lyle defeated Bickerton and Hopman 6-3,6-4 (who had beaten Coyne / Round in the semis).

After this a series of capital city exhibition tours was organised after the Australian championships and an embarrassing incident occurred in Perth.  Having heavily promoted the arrival and exhibition matches would occur on January 31st,  the UK and French contingent actually arrived from Adelaide on the 22nd by ship without any fanfare whatsoever.   One of the players actually rang WA tennis officials to let them know they had turned up unannounced and due to touring schedules the matches had to be hurriedly organised, promoted on radio and played that day.  No doubt many keen tennis enthusiasts missed out.

Out of interest, famous tennis authority A. Wallis Myers travelled with the UK team and was highly supportive of future women’s tours.

1937 Australia

In March, 1937 the now known LTAA  announced it would ban funding of International team events because of the financial cost and risk, yet under pressure they attempted to negotiate a UK team visit formed by players in the Wightman Cup.  Once the UK had provided the proposed team without 2 of the major players, the LTAA broke off the negotiations  due largely to the belief that the quality of competition was likely to result in poor financial outcomes, particularly since they had also offered to fund player expenses.

Ultimately the LTAA did sanction an American team to visit in November.  Even though they were trying to support the women’s game, they resisted any financial assistance from both the newly formed UK & Australian International Tennis Clubs and generous individual funding offers  which were made in 1936 and 1937 in order to get an Australian team overseas. Incidentally, famous tennis writer A Wallis Myers also travelled to Australia for the first time in 1934 to see the UK team play was the Founder & Chairman of the UK club. The ladies couldn’t understand why the LTAA wouldn’t permit a self funded team to go;   losing control, I suppose, the major one.

The original US invitation was made to Alice Marble and two other of the top 4 ladies in the US.  Alice announced she was turning professional to join Helen Wills Moody and the two players who did come were the 8th ranked Miss Dorothy Bundy and 12th ranked Miss Dorothy Workman.  Based on the UK debacle, even this trip had the potential for problems given the mid rankings of both ladies.  Miss Bundy, however was the daughter of the famous US Davis Cup player in Norman Brookes era.

Quickly adopted by Australian crowds they were nicknamed “Do” and “DoDo” given both were named Dorothy.

The first of three tests was commenced at the Queensland Milton courts on Friday 19th November.

Australian players Miss Hardcastle and Mrs Westacott won their singles and lost the doubles.

Miss Hardcastle defeated Miss Workman 6-2,2-6, 6-2

Mrs Westacott defeated Miss Bundy 6-4, 6-3

Hardcastle Westacott lost to Workman Bundy 3-6, 8-10

Day 2 delayed due to rain on 22nd November

Mrs Westacott defeated Miss Workman 6-3,6-3

Miss Hardcastle lost to  Miss Bundy 6-3, 4-6, 6-8 (Hardcastle had 5 match points in the 3rd)

Hardcastle Westacott (unfinished)  Workman Bundy 6-4, 6-8, 5 all (darkness)

Australia won

Off to Sydney for a second test

Miss Thelma Coyne defeated Miss Bundy 5-7, 6-1, 6-3

Miss Nancye Wynne lost to Miss Workman 7-5, 0-6, 10-12

Australians won the doubles 6-2, 6-3

Day 2

Miss Thelma Coyne defeated Miss Workman 6-1, 8-6

Miss Wynne defeated Miss Bundy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

Australia won the doubles 6-4, 4-6, 6-4

Australia won

Last test in Melbourne December 28th

Reports of a very small Kooyong crowd would have disappointed officials.

Dot Stevenson defeated Miss Workman 10-8, 3-6, 8-6

Miss Coyne lost to Miss Bundy 4-6, 5-7

USA won the doubles 6-2, 6-3

Miss Coyne defeated Miss Workman 6-4, 9-7

Dot Stevenson lost to Miss Bundy 6-8, 4-6

Australia won the doubles 6-3, 4-6, 6-0

Equal rubbers the USA won by one set and 3 games.

Dorothy Bundy went on to win the Australian Singles Championships in Adelaide in January 1938 over Dot Stevenson and they ( with Workman) were beaten in the Doubles final by Coyne and Wynne.

1938 Overseas

Ten years after the second tour, the ALTA sanctioned a Women’s tour in 1938.

The team comprised Thelma Coyne Long (alive today Jan 2012), Nancye Wynne, Dorothy Stevenson, Nell Hopman and team manager was Mr W.H.Walker.


1938 womens team hi res


Nell Hopman, Dorothy Stevenson, Thelma Long and Nancye Wynne.

Unlike the 1928 tour, this tour comprised of many more tournaments particularly throughout the UK as a lead up to Wimbledon.

Having arrived by ship in early May  prior to both Wimbledon and the Wightman Cup (UK/USA) the Australians played their first team event against the UK.

It was a very one sided affair played at Manchester June 4th.

Thelma Coyne was defeated by hard hitting Kaye Stammers 2-6, 2-6

Nell Hopman was defeated by Miss James 3-6, 4-6

Hopman/Long defeated Miss Dearman / Miss Ingram 6-2, 5-7, 6-1

Thelma Coyne was defeated by Miss Lumb 4-6, 6-4, 3-6

H0pman/ Stevenson defeated Lumb/ James 6-3, 6-2

Dot Stevenson lost to Miss King 1-6, 3-6

Nancye had to forfeit to Kay Stammers

Dot Stevenson played and exhibition singles and Nancye Wynne could not play due to illness.

June was full of tragedy.  Prior to leaving Dot Stevenson had lost two uncles one to illness before she left Australia and another in a motor accident after leaving and on her Wimbledon debut learned of the death of her brother.

Naynce’s mother passed unexpectedly and her father told the news only at the last, but just prior to Wimbledon. They were a close family and her father expressed that she should stay  since it was a great honour to be spearheading the team.

After the defeat by the UK team they left for the French Championships and would come back for the Wimbeldon tournament the week after.

Even though they were changing from damp grass to hard courts the girls still did well and Nancye made the mixed doubles final with French player B0ussus.

Wimbledon, as usual, was going to be the main test for the girls and with a full strength draw the Australians did not make the quarter final in singles or doubles. The experience of playing top ranked competitors was what the whole trip overseas was about.  In 1938, the key Australian men were in the USA for the Davis Cup.

The best thing to come out of the Wimbledon tournament was, having been asked to stay on tour by her family, Dot Stevenson won the All England Plate which is a tournament comprising all early round losers from the main draw. Mrs Hopman played a sensational games against the champion Helen Moody and although defeated was pleased not to have been slaughtered in front of the expectant Wimbledon crowds.

From Wimbledon the team moved to Europe and played in more key championships.

The girls played in Holland at the Dutch Championships early July.  Here they hit form with Wynne being runner up in the singles (although beaten easily) ,  Wynne and Coyne were runners up in the doubles and Mrs Hopman won the mixed final.

In the German Doubles the final was all Australian. Wynne and Coyne defeating Stevenson and Hopman. Nancye lost another close mixed final playing with Leseur 5-7,5-7.

While not making the singles finals, the newspapers were reporting the girls to be in the best form so far on the tour which was a great lead up to the USA leg.

At their first  US tournament held by the Essex club,  the girls led by Nancye did well although she was defeated by Alice Marble in the final owing to many shots going astray 1-6, 3-6.  Nancye with Dot Stevenson lost to Marble and Fabyan in the doubles final 6-1, 3-6, 2-6 a much closer affair.

Following this event in early September was the US  v Australian Teams event. These matches were held on private (milli0naires clubs) and watched by the very wealthy New Yorkers.

Spectacularly, the Australians won the event 6 rubbers all and by one set up, 15 sets to 14.

Day 1 Meadow Club, Southampton New York

Thelma Coyne defeated Helen Jacobs 6-2, 6-2
Dot Stevenson defeated Dot Bundy 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
Nancye Wynne defeated Mrs Fabyan 7-5, 6-2
Mrs Hopman lost to D Workman 6-4, 4-6, 6-8
Coyne/Wynne won Fabyan /Jacobs 7-5, 6-2
Hopman/Stevenson lost to Bundy/Workman 4-6, 6-8

Day 2 – On heavy court affected by overnight rain and at a different location

Coyne lost to Fabyan 5-7, 5-7
Stevenson lost to Workman 4-6, 7-5, 2-6
Hopman defeated Bundy 8-6, 6-1
Wynne Lost to Jacobs 7-5, 2-6, 0-6
Hopman/Stevenson lost to Bundy/Workman 2-6, 6-8
Wynne/Coyne defeated Jacobs/Fabyan 9-7, 3-6, 6-3

In the following weeks at the US Titles, the US ladies knocked out most of the Australians except for Nancye who made it to the final against Alice Marble who didn’t play in the teams event owing to illness.

The grand final was once a again a one sided affair, Nancye losing 0-6, 3-6, almost a repeat of the match a few weeks earlier. Helen Jacobs who was expected to do well lost in the earlier rounds to Miss Lumb who Nancye had defeated, so Miss Alice Marble seemed the player most likely to win the title.

The summary of the tour was that while not as successful as many had hoped, the girls had played in numerous finals matches but had simply been outclassed by many of the top UK and USA players.

From the total 9 month tour,  in the UK four months was spent playing non stop, tournament after tournament with only 7 days break.  It was considered that this was to much tennis whereas the visiting US players would only appear in the A grade tournaments leading up to Wimbledon. In addition, the constantly changing surfaces was difficult and the girls decided that Kooyong grass should never again be criticised after played on sodden grass courts at some of the B Grade tournaments.

With little prospect of earning money from team event gate fees, the overall tour lost 2000 pounds whereas the men’s Davis Cup team tour had generated a profit of 2300 pounds.


Previous post:

Next post: