Suzanne Langlen – the pride of France
Susanne Lenglen (05/24/1899 – 07/04/1938) – an outstanding French tennis player, who left a bright mark in the history of sea tennis. She was a two-time Olympic champion in 1920, became the 35 times winner of the Grand Slam tournaments, 12 of them in singles.
The first acquaintance with tennis occurred at 10-year-old Suzanne in Nice, where her family moved to their own villa for the summer. Her father, a wealthy industrialist, being an entrepreneurial man, decided to make a champion of his daughter. Looking ahead, it should be said that he succeeded. He was a good coach, but a year later he gave Suzanne to train at the Nice Lawn Tennis Club in Nice, where he was secretary. He was very demanding of his daughter in everything related to tennis. For ten years, Monsieur Lenglen made her train hard and play for hours against the wall. Of course, many hours of working with the ball to death bothered Suzanne, but if Charles Langlen had not been so adamant, she would never have achieved such stability in the game, such confidence in the execution of shots.
Suzanne did not surpass her rivals by the force of blows, but mainly by their stability and amazing accuracy. At the same time, a deep understanding of the game allowed her to quickly put opponents in a critical position. She controlled the ball extremely skillfully and really could direct it exactly where she wanted to. She was one of the first women to brilliantly master smash. No woman could compare with Susanne in the speed of movement on the court.
1914 … A 15-year-old girl in a skirt above her knees and with a huge knot of hair on her head is a triumph of the World Championship on the ground in Paris in singles and doubles and a finalist in the mixed doubles, as well as a finalist in the French Championship.
Then there was the First World War and official tournaments were not held, but the young Langlen worked hard in Nice, where her parents went during the war.
In 1919, Suzanne was still far from the peak of her skill and first played on the grass courts of Wimbledon. However, she managed to win with a score of 10: 8; 4: 6; 9: 7 Englishwoman Katherine Lambert Chambers, the best tennis player in the world, seven-time champion of the Wimbledon tournament. Characterized by great tenacity, Lambert-Chambers, who is 21 years older than her offender, decided in 1920 to take revenge and again took part in Wimbledon. She again managed to make it to the finals, but she was again defeated by Suzanne. Score 6: 3; 6-0 speaks for itself. For those who closely followed Suzanne’s ascent, this was not a surprise.
Rene Lacoste claimed that Suzanne Langlen belongs to the discovery of a peculiar tactics of fighting: alternating long and shortened strokes, she ensured that her rivals quickly lost strength: after all, moving from the back line to the net and from the net to the back line is much more difficult and tiring than moving only along the back line! None of her counterparts could unravel this secret, they, without the slightest fiction, continued to send uniform punches to the right and left into the depths of the site. Such a primitive manner of playing had no chance of defeating Susanne’s tactics. Lacoste also assured that it was Langlen who taught him how to play long balls.
So, if the first success in the World Cup in 1914 was shown only by Suzanne’s giftedness, then in Wimbledon she also showed her willpower: her match against Lambert-Chambers was one of the most beautiful and dramatic. The first set with a score of 10: 8 was won by Langlen, although her opponent was more than once ahead. Without losing her presence of spirit, the Englishwoman wins the second set – 6: 4. In the third set, Susanne again is 4-1, but the experienced Lambert-Chambers, playing with enviable courage, first compares the score, and then comes forward (6: 5) and has 40:15 – two match-balls. Already at the first match, everyone thought that the game was over, because Lambert-Chambers hit Susanne on the top court in a very uncomfortable position. But Suzanne miraculously managed to reach the ball in a jump, and he, touching the net, crossed over to the opposite side. The second ball match was won by a brilliant left-handed shot along the line – “dead ball!” And finally, the last effort brought Susanne victory.
This match, which made Suzanne unusually popular on the other side of the English Channel, began, as the British called it, “Era Langlen.”
Suzanne’s success was enthusiastically received by the English public, old Wimbledon was visited by huge crowds of spectators, and the stands could not accommodate everyone. It was decided to build a new Wimbledon with a Central court, accommodating 18 thousand spectators. However, no one was sure whether the construction costs would pay off. But soon all doubts were dispelled: tickets to the stands of the new Wimbledon were immediately sold out for all 15 days of competition. After all, it was Suzanne who, in 1919, first entered the Wimbledon court in a short sleeveless dress and a headband instead of a white hat. Thus enthralled all the men.