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Wednesday, 18 January 2017 11:22 AM GMT
From the archive: Louise Brough remembers the career of Louise Brough, the first woman to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon in the same year. READ MORE

Louise Brough, who won 35 Grand Slam titles, holds many claims to fame, but at this stage of the season it is timely to recall that the great American was the first woman in history to win the Australian and Wimbledon titles in the same year.

Dorothy Round, who triumphed at The Championships in 1934 and in Australia in 1935, was the first to claim both titles, but Brough was the first to win them in the same year.

That year was 1950, when Brough, who won her first Grand Slam title in 1942 and her last in 1957, was at the height of her powers. She won six Grand Slam singles titles - the French, where the slow clay courts did not favour her attacking game, was the only Grand Slam singles crown to elude her - and was an even better doubles player. She won 21 Grand Slam doubles titles and eight in mixed doubles.

One of the finest serve-and-volley players in history, Brough had a remarkable record at The Championships. Between 1946 and 1955 she appeared in 21 of the 30 finals played in Ladies’ Singles, Ladies’ Doubles and mixed doubles.

Brough was born in Oklahoma City, but at the age of four she moved with her family to Beverly Hills, where she learned to play tennis on public courts. She won the US 18-and-under title in 1940 and 1941 and reached her first Grand Slam finals at the age of 19 at the 1942 US nationals. She lost to Pauline Betz in the singles final but partnered Margaret Osborne DuPont to victory in the doubles. Brough and DuPont went on to win the US doubles title 10 years in a row.

Softly spoken and calm off the court, Brough was bold and aggressive on it. “I had to attack,” she used to say. “I did not feel very comfortable on defence.”

Nevertheless, Brough suffered from nerves and was prone to lapses in matches, which might have explained why she was more successful in doubles, in which her long-time partner was the dependable DuPont. It was DuPont who helped to persuade Brough to undergo a back operation in 1948 to correct a problem which had been leading her to tire in matches.

Brough’s game was made for a grass, at a time when three of the four Grand Slam tournaments were played on the surface. Her twist serve, struck with heavy top spin, was a particularly potent weapon, especially when directed at her opponent’s backhand.

In 1948 and 1950 Brough won the Ladies’ Singles, Ladies’ Doubles and mixed doubles at The Championships. She would have repeated that feat in 1949 but for a loss in the mixed at the end of an extraordinary day in which she played in three successive finals.

Brough beat DuPont 10-8, 1-6, 10-8 in a closely fought singles final. At 8-8 in the third set Brough recovered to hold serve from 0-40 down and then broke to win the match.

After a short rest Brough and DuPont were back on court as partners in the ladies’ doubles final, in which they beat their fellow Americans, Gussie Moran and Pat Todd, 8-6, 7-5.

Finally, Brough played in the mixed doubles final alongside John Bromwich. It was another marathon match, with Eric Sturgess and Sheila Summers eventually winning 9-7, 9-11, 7-5. By the end of the day Brough had played 117 games and been on court for more than five hours.

Brough dominated despite the challenges of a formidable group of fellow Americans. Maureen Connolly, Althea Gibson, Doris Hart, Shirley Fry, Betz and DuPont were all contemporaries of Brough, who met Americans in all seven of her Wimbledon singles finals. She lost to Betz in 1946, beat Hart in 1948, beat DuPont in 1949 and 1950, lost to Connolly in 1952 and 1954 and beat Beverly Fleitz in 1955.

In1950 the quarter-final line-up in the Ladies’ Singles comprised seven Americans and one Briton, Betty Harrison. Brough beat Fry, Hart and DuPont in her last three matches that year.

The transatlantic domination was such that every Ladies’ Singles final between 1946 and 1955 was contested by two Americans. In Brough’s 11 appearances at The Championships between 1946 and 1957 she only ever lost to Americans in singles.

Brough’s last Wimbledon singles final was arguably her greatest triumph. Fleitz was ambidextrous and played powerful forehands on both flanks. Brough usually attacked the net at every opportunity, but instead she focused on denying Fleitz the angles on which she thrived. Brough won 7-5, 8-6.

Although Americans flocked to Wimbledon, this was a time when most did not travel to Australia. With not many Europeans making the journey either, the Australian championships was the last of the Grand Slam tournaments to crown a champion from overseas.

Until Brough’s triumph Down Under there had been only three overseas Ladies’ Singles champions – Round in 1935, Dorothy Bundy in 1938 and Doris Hart in 1949. Brough’s 1950 visit was her only trip to the tournament and it yielded both the singles and doubles titles.

Brough also won only one US singles title, when she beat DuPont in 1947. For nine years, nevertheless, Brough and DuPont were unbeatable in doubles at their home championships. They won the US title every year between 1942 and 1950 and returned to win it again in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

DuPont and Brough won the Ladies’ Doubles at The Championships five times, in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1954. In keeping with her singles record, Brough only ever lost to American pairs in doubles at the All England Club.

Although she retired from competition after her marriage in 1958 to a dentist, Alan Clapp, Brough continued to play socially into her eighties. She died in 2014 at the age of 90.

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