Doris Hart, a tennis star of the 1940s and 1950s who won each Grand Slam tournament at least one time and who won three Wimbledon titles in a single day, died May 29 at her home in Coral Gables, Fla. She was 89.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame confirmed her death to the Associated Press, citing close friends. The cause was not disclosed.
Miss Hart was known for her intelligent play, crisp groundstrokes and drop-shot mastery. She won titles in 1954 and 1955 at the U.S. national championships, which later became the U.S. Open.
She won the French Open twice and Wimbledon and the Australian Open once each. She also won 29 major doubles titles and was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1951.
That year, Miss Hart had her finest tournament at Wimbledon, when she won three titles. She defeated her friend Shirley Fry in the singles championship before they joined forces to win the women’s doubles. She then teamed with Frank Sedgman to win the mixed doubles.
All three matches were on the same day because of rain delays.
“That, I think, is unique in itself,” said her friend Jacqueline Mulloy. “I think she should be remembered as a unique and wonderful player. She had plenty of guts.”
Miss Hart was in the world Top 10 for a decade starting in 1946. She retired in 1955 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
Success didn’t come without adversity.
Miss Hart suffered an infection as a child that was serious enough for doctors to consider amputating her right leg. She began to play tennis at age 6 and went on to win 35 professional titles.
“Everybody thought she had polio, because she was a little bowlegged,” Fry told the Associated Press in 2004. “For her to do what she did was special because she couldn’t run as well as other people. And yet she had the smarts.”
Doris Hart was born June 20, 1925, in St. Louis and grew up in Coral Gables. She attended the University of Miami.
As a player, her best weapon was the drop shot, which she practiced endlessly as a youngster. She would hit it even from behind the baseline, floating winners just over the net.
“I’d be criticized,” she told the Associated Press in 2004. “I can remember losing matches, and people would come up to me and say, ‘Girl, do you know how many times you missed that drop shot? If you hadn’t done that, blah blah blah.’ And I’d say, ‘Thank you.’ But I knew I had to do it. That’s what would win for me.”
After she retired, she worked as a teaching pro for 28 years at a club in Pompano Beach, Fla., but neck trouble forced her to give up tennis in 1993.
Later in life, she shunned the pro tennis scene, though she watched matches on television. She never married. In January 2010, she told the Associated Press that she had lost most of her vision.
In 2004, watching the U.S. Open in her apartment, Miss Hart cringed at Serena Williams’ clothing ensemble, marveled at the smooth shot-making of Roger Federer and said she disliked the way most players try to hit everything so hard.
“There’s really not much strategy involved,” she said. “It’s not that appealing to watch, I don’t think.”