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Wednesday 1 February 2017 17:01 PM GMT
The greatest women never to reach a Wimbledon final
Following Kim Clijsters' induction into the Tennis Hall of Fame, looks back at the best women that never reached a Wimbledon singles final. READ MORE

Who are the greatest female players never to have appeared in a singles final at The Championships? The question became a subject of discussion last week with the announcement that Kim Clijsters is to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer. 

Clijsters, one of the sport’s most popular figures, won the US Open three times and the Australian Open once, played in four other Grand Slam finals and was world No.1, but never progressed beyond the semi-finals at The Championships.

Until the Second World War there were many outstanding players who never actually played at Wimbledon. Among them were Bertha L Townsend, Mabel Cahill, Elisabeth Moore and Juliette Atkinson, who were all multiple US title winners, and Coral Buttsworth, who won two Australian titles between the wars.

Maud Molesworth, who won the first two Australian championships in 1922 and 1923, would surely have been an even bigger name in the sport had she been born years later. She was 27 when she won the inaugural Australian championships and 39 when she made her only visit to Wimbledon in 1934, when she lost in the first round to the Dutchwoman Rollin Couquerque.

Mary Browne, US champion from 1912 to 1914, also played at The Championships only once, in 1926, when she was 35. She won the doubles with Elizabeth Ryan but had the misfortune to be drawn against Suzanne Lenglen in the first round of the singles.

At least the defeat prepared Browne for what was in store for her. After becoming the United States’ first female professional later that year, Browne played 38 one-night stands against Lenglen across north America the following winter and lost them all.

Marion Jones, US champion in 1899 and 1902, also played at Wimbledon only once, losing in the second round in 1900. Joan Hartigan, three times Australian champion between 1933 and 1936, reached successive semi-finals at The Championships in 1934 and 1935, losing to Helen Jacobs and Helen Moody, while Daphne Akhurst, five times champion of Australia, played at Wimbledon twice and lost to Lili de Alvarez in the 1928 semi-finals.

Nancye Wynne Bolton was another prolific winner of Australian titles who never reached the final at The Championships. She won six Australian titles in singles and 20 in total, which was a record until Margaret Court came along.

They were Wynne Bolton’s only Grand Slam titles, but her career was interrupted by the Second World War. She played at The Championships only three times, at the US Nationals twice and the French championships once.

Wynne Bolton was the first Australian woman to reach the final at the US Nationals, losing to Alice Marble in 1938. Her best run at The Championships was in 1947, when she lost to Louise Brough in the quarter-finals.

Thelma Coyne Long, who won two Australian titles and also finished runner-up on four occasions, played at The Championships seven times. The furthest she went was the 1952 quarter-finals, in which she was beaten by Maureen Connolly. She played her last match at Wimbledon in ladies’ doubles in 1971 at the age of 52.

Peggy Scriven was the first British woman to win the French championships, in 1933 and 1934, but lost in all four of her Wimbledon quarter-finals. Simone Mathieu won the French title in 1938 and 1939, having been runner-up on six previous occasions. She never played in Australia and made only two appearances at the US Nationals, but at The Championships she reached six semi-finals in the 1930s and four quarter-finals.

By the 1960s many more players were travelling regularly to all the Grand Slam events. Nancy Richey and Lesley Turner Bowrey were two who enjoyed singles success around the world without ever reaching the final at The Championships.

Unusually for an American, Richey was at her best on clay. The Texan won the very first French Open in 1968, beating Britain’s Ann Jones in the final, but was also a good performer on grass. She won the Australian title in 1967 and lost in two US finals, to Maria Bueno in 1966 and to Margaret Court in 1969.

Although a perennial contender at The Championships, Richey lost in the quarter-finals six times and in the semi-finals once, to Judy Tegart in 1968. However she did win the ladies’ doubles, alongside Bueno in 1966.

Turner Bowrey won 12 Grand Slam titles, including two in singles at the French championships. She also won doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events. At The Championships in 1964 she won both the ladies’ doubles, alongside Court, and the mixed with Fred Stolle, repeating their triumph in 1961.

In singles Turner Bowrey was seeded in seven of her 10 appearances at The Championships but lost in the quarter-finals five times and in the semi-finals once, to Bueno in 1964.

In more recent times, Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce would all have a case for being considered the best female players never to reach a Wimbledon final.

Capriati won two Australian Opens and one French Open but never went beyond the semi-finals at The Championships. She lost to Gabriela Sabatini in the semi-finals in 1991 when aged just 15, but her biggest chance came 10 years later.

After winning the 2001 titles in Melbourne and Paris there was even talk of Capriati completing a calendar-year Grand Slam. She beat Serena Williams in the quarter-finals at The Championships before losing to Justine Henin in the semi-finals.

Mary Pierce also won the Australian and French Opens – in 1995 and 2000 respectively – but was unable to find the same form at Wimbledon, where she had just two quarter-final appearances to show from her 10 appearances at The Championships. In 1996 she was beaten in three sets by Kimiko Date and in 2005 by Venus Williams.

So, the greatest female player never to reach a Wimbledon final? It is hard to avoid returning to the starting point of this discussion. Clijsters reached the semi-finals at The Championships twice, losing to Venus Williams in 2003 and to her fellow Belgian, Justine Henin, in 2006. Had she gone all the way she would undoubtedly have been one of Wimbledon’s most popular champions.

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