Suzanne Lenglen, born on May 24, 1899, was a national hero of France who was regarded as royalty by a generation of followers in Europe and America. From 1919 until 1926, she dominated women’s tennis, capturing six Wimbledon and French singles titles. Lenglen became one of the top female tennis players because of her parents’ strong influence. She was a frail woman who loved tennis and the finer things in life. When she was on the court, Lenglen exuded an exuberant zest for life, yet she deferred to her father’s decisions. Today, we honor her and her achievements.
Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen was born on May 24, 1899, in Compiegne, France. She is of French and Flemish ancestry. Her father, Charles, and mother, Anais, reared Lenglen in a pleasant, middle-class home. Lenglen and her father admired tennis players on the French Riviera for their skill and social status. Her father was engrossed in the players’ strategies and moves. When Lenglen requested a racket, he bought her a cheap one, assuming that her desire was a transitory fancy. He bought a more expensive racket and had a custom backboard made for her to practice against within a month. Her father opted to teach her herself because there were few tennis instructors in the area. He felt it wasn’t fit for his active, eager daughter after watching women of the time play a calm, cautious positioning style of game. He chose to teach his daughter in this manner after watching the men’s more aggressive style of play. Her father’s unforeseen consequence was the revolutionization of women’s tennis. He taught his daughter to play with the strength and speed of a man, but with the grace of a lady, because he didn’t have a female role model. Her father had enough faith in his daughter by the fall of 1910 to seek membership at the exclusive Nice Tennis Club. She was the first youngster to be granted temporary membership.
Her father designed a training program that involved not only repeating the same shot until it was mastered but also physical conditioning exercises like jumping rope, performing wind sprints, and swimming. He also sought out male players with whom she might hit. His techniques frequently left his daughter exhausted. World War I broke out soon after, and most tennis competitions were halted. Despite this, Lenglen was able to play with several male tennis stars in Nice who were recovering from their injuries, and she was able to keep up her stringent practice schedule. Lenglen became a national hero and a role model for women in France. Elizabeth Ryan, an American expatriate residing in England who would go on to win 19 doubles titles at Wimbledon, was her only genuine competition before the final round. Lenglen dominated Wimbledon for the next three years.
From 1927 through 1932, Lenglen was in a long-term relationship with Baldwin Baldwin but they never married. Lenglen published four tennis books. Her first book, “Lawn Tennis for Girls,” featured skills and tactics for beginner tennis players. She died on July 4, 1938, at the age of 39, due to pernicious anemia and was laid to rest in the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen, which is located just outside of Paris.
Her father applies for membership at the prestigious club, where she becomes the first child to be granted provisional membership in the club.
She becomes well-known throughout Europe after winning the Carlton Club Tournament in Nice against a seasoned Wimbledon player.
Lenglen handily defeated Chambers in the Wimbledon finals.
Lenglen becomes the first female athlete to achieve celebrity status outside of athletics.
Why We Love Suzanne Lenglen
She never stopped daring to defy the boundaries throughout her career. She became the symbol of female independence and a spokeswoman for the Women's Liberation movement, thanks to her accomplishments on the court as well as her daring style and personality.
She’s a superb player
From 1919 to her final year as an amateur in 1926, she lost only one match and dropped only two sets. She dominated her opponents with an athletic style based on her childhood ballet and gymnastics training and later lifelong love of dancing.
She promoted the sport she loves
After she retired, Lenglen returned to tennis as a coach in 1933. She also founded her own girls' tennis school at the Tennis Mirabeau in Paris in 1936. The following year, she began teaching adults as well and became the first director of the French National Tennis School in Paris in May 1938.
5 Surprising Facts
She played tennis to gain strength
Lenglen began playing tennis at the age of 10 after overcoming childhood illnesses, such as persistent asthma after her parents believed that playing tennis would help her regain her strength.
She won eight glam titles
She became the most dominant female tennis player in the world after the war ended, winning 250 trophies in her lifetime.
She made women's tennis popular
Lenglen was the first female tennis star, drawing the first-ever tennis fans to women's tennis events.
She has a court named after her
In 1994, she was honored by having a court named after her at Roland Garros, the home of the French Open in Paris.
She was in the Hall of Fame
In 1978, Lenglen was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Suzanne Lenglen FAQs
Who designed for Suzanne Lenglen?
Jean Patou designed most of her outfits.
What does Suzanne Lenglen’s nickname mean?
Her nickname ‘La Divine’ means ‘The Goddess.’
When did Suzanne Lenglen retire?
She retired in 1926.
Suzanne Lenglen’s birthday dates