Gardnar Mulloy, an outspoken Hall of Fame tennis player who won more than 100 national titles during more than 70 years of competition, and who in 1957 became the oldest player ever to win a championship at Wimbledon, died Nov. 14 at his home in Miami. He was 102.
The cause was complications from a stroke, said his wife, Jacqueline Mayer Mulloy.
Mr. Mulloy was a colorful player whose brash manner often rankled other competitors and tennis officials. Decades before John McEnroe’s on-court tirades, Mr. Mulloy was known to berate officials for bad calls, and he once hurled his racket at a linesman.
Another time, to protest playing in twilight at Wimbledon, he came to the court wearing a miner’s helmet with a lamp.
Yet, for all his antics, Mr. Mulloy was an outstanding player for decades, competing at the highest levels of tennis from the 1930s to the 1960s. He was among the country’s top 10 men’s players from 1939 and 1954 and was ranked No. 1 in 1952. He last competed in the men’s singles competition at Wimbledon’s All England Tournament when he was 49.
He won five Grand Slam championships in men’s doubles, including four with his longtime playing partner Billy Talbert at what is now the U.S. Open. As early as 1949, Mr. Mulloy was called the “grand old man” of his sport — eight years before he won his Wimbledon title at 43, playing alongside Budge Patty.
“There have been better tennis players than Gardnar Mulloy,” Sports Illustrated journalist Gilbert Rogin wrote in 1964, “but no man has ever played better longer.”
Mr. Mulloy continued his tennis career in the senior ranks, competing in tournaments into his 90s. He won 129 national championships in various categories and, in 1972, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
On the court, the 6-foot-1 Mr. Mulloy had a smooth, gliding style, with a powerful forehand. Even as he edged past 50, he was still fleet afoot and could beat top players half his age.
During his heyday, major tournaments were restricted to amateur players, and he made his living as a lawyer, businessman, Navy officer, writer and coach. An early fitness advocate, he did not smoke or drink — not even coffee or tea — and was known for his spartan vegetarian diet.
Mr. Mulloy also had a well-earned reputation for pugnacity and once appeared at an august Wimbledon gathering wearing a jacket with the inscription “If You Can’t Beat Me You Need Lessons.” Another time, he stalked off the court shouting, “Your officiating stinks!”
“Gardnar has no special gift for silence,” sports columnist Red Smith once wrote. A British sports writer dubbed Mr. Mulloy the “Miami Mouthpiece” and said he “should throw his racquet over a cliff and forget to let go.”
Mr. Mulloy filed suit for libel but he later withdrew the claim.
Gardnar Putnam Mulloy was born Nov. 22, 1913, in Washington. He grew up in Miami, where his father had several businesses, including a lumber company and car dealership.
His father was also an amateur tennis player who taught the sport to his son. Together, they won three national father-and-son championships.
Mr. Mulloy received a football scholarship to the University of Miami and also was an outstanding diver and boxer. He founded the university’s tennis team as an undergraduate and helped lead it to a national title. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1936 and a law degree in 1938.
During World War II, while commanding an amphibious landing ship in the Mediterranean, Mr. Mulloy was asked to transport a British general and his chief of staff to a port in Italy. On the way, the British officers repeatedly made disparaging comments about Americans.
“I’m sorry, General,” Mr. Mulloy said, “but if you refuse to keep quiet, I shall confine you to your quarters.”
The British officers didn’t let up until Mr. Mulloy ordered them locked in their cabins.
After the war, Mr. Mulloy resumed his tennis career. He finished second in the 1952 U.S. Open singles championship and was on seven U.S. Davis Cup international teams. For a time in the 1950s, his mixed-doubles partner was Althea Gibson, a two-time Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles champion. They were among the first mixed-race partners in international tennis.
Mr. Mulloy wrote widely about tennis and published a memoir, “The Will to Win,” in 1952. He was critical of much of modern tennis, saying the sport had degenerated into a boring contest of baseline slugging. He was also baffled by the grunting and gloating of some of today’s players, which he called “an insult to an opponent.”
His first wife, Madeline Cheney Mulloy, died in 1993 after 55 years of marriage.
Survivors include his wife of eight years, Jacqueline Mayer Mulloy of Miami; two daughters from his first marriage, Diane Mulloy Mazzone of Glenview, Ill., and Janice Poindexter of Dallas; one sister; four grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Mr. Mulloy met Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at a social gathering when she was still a princess and gently chided her for not attending matches at Wimbledon.
“I thought perhaps you weren’t able to get tickets, which I would be happy to provide,” he said.
When Elizabeth presented the championship trophy to Mr. Mulloy in 1957, he asked if she remembered him.
“Yes, Mr. Mulloy,’’ she replied. “I remember you quite well. As a matter of fact, I had difficulty getting in today as you forgot to leave me tickets.”