Tennis great Helen Wills Moody, 92, who won eight Wimbledon titles and was one of the premier figures in the United States' golden era of sports in the 1920s and '30s, died Jan. 1 at Carmel Convalescent Hospital. The cause of death was unreported.
Ms. Moody, known as "Little Miss Poker Face" and "Queen Helen," won 31 major titles -- including seven at Forest Hills and four in Paris. She was known for hitting the ball harder than any woman she faced, and her trademark white eyeshade became an enduring tennis fad.
Ms. Moody won her first U.S. women's tournament in 1923 and retired after winning Wimbledon in 1938. She was 18-2 in singles matches at the Wightman Cup, a women's team event between Britain and the United States.
Her game attracted many admirers, including Charlie Chaplin, who, when asked to name the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, said: "The movement of Helen Wills playing tennis."
Ms. Moody played a power game, slamming both forehand and backhand shots the full length of the court. Her serious demeanor led to her "poker face" nickname.
"She never showed any expression on the court. Nobody knew what she was thinking," said Margaret Osborne duPont, an International Tennis Hall of Famer and Wimbledon singles winner in 1947.
Ms. Moody, a surgeon's daughter born in Centerville, Calif., learned the game without ever taking a lesson, picking it up from watching players at the Berkeley Tennis Club.
"Children are great imitators," she said in a 1984 interview with the Monterey (Calif.) Herald. "I watched the seniors play and the visiting Australian champions."
One year after she started playing at age 14, she won the first of her two girls national titles. She was just 17 in 1923, when she won the U.S. women's singles championship -- the youngest champion at the time.
She won an Olympic gold medal in Paris in 1924, the last time tennis was an Olympic sport until it returned at the 1988 Seoul Games. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1959 and was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1935.
Off the court and after she retired, she led a reclusive life, causing tennis great Alice Marble to dub her the "Greta Garbo of tennis."
She wrote three books, including her autobiography "15-30: The Story of a Tennis Player," published in 1937. In the 1920s, she also wrote a tennis instruction book and a mystery, "Death Serves an Ace."
Last year, she donated all her trophies and memorabilia to the University of California at Berkeley, her alma mater.
She was an accomplished artist, with her drawings and paintings exhibited in the United States and abroad.
She divorced her first husband, Frederick Moody, in 1937 and two years later married Irish polo player Aiden Roark and took the name Helen Wills Moody Roark.
There are no survivors. CAPTION: Helen Wills Moody (1932 file photo)