It is reaching the European Grand Slams and a long list of names occupies our mind. Some will think of Roger Federer, others of Rafa Nadal, perhaps Serena Williams, Steffi Graf or Bjorn Borg. But if there is someone who dominated summer tournaments like no one else, that was Suzanne Lenglen. A tennis pioneer who dominated discipline in the happy 1920s with an iron hand, winning the title six times in Roland Garros and another six times that of Wimbledon. Clay or grass, he did not care, the French was so superior to the rest that she did not notice the change in surface, reaching 181 consecutive victories (she lost seven games in a period of fourteen years). Taking advantage of these weeks of pause and longing for the old stories, today we will remember one that left the Parisian tennis player forever marked. The day he left the Queen of England planted.
Just in case there is someone out of place in the room, especially the younger ones, we will use this second paragraph to put a little in context and analyze the weight that this woman had in the evolution of tennis. Lenglen was born in the late 19th century (1899), at the age of 13 her father gave her a racket and two years later she was already playing her first grand final on the circuit. He did so by governing the French championship, an event that would eventually become what we know today as Roland Garros. World War I stopped its irruption and it was not until 1919 when it regained its prominence on the slopes, devastating practically every tournament it played. They called him ‘The divine‘because of his fluid way of running and hitting, as well as the aura that he gave off with each triumph, this was how he became the first great champion of women’s tennis, ending up giving name in 1997 to the second most important track of the French Grand Slam.
But she was not only a leader because of her results, but also because of her way of dressing and her demands for women’s rights. As a lover of fashion and aesthetics, Suzanne left everyone present speechless when in 1921 she became the first woman to jump onto a tennis court without corset, with bare arms and a skirt that reached a span below the knees. Tired of competing in the classic long dress, the time for change had come. With it all began, a long list of female references that over the years have continued to fight for equality and women’s freedoms.
He also went down in history for his peculiar turbans, his incredible volleys and for a curious ‘mania’ that he had in the middle of games: drink cognac. That’s how he did it: between sets, he asked his father to bring him the bottle and thus extract the necessary vitamins to finish off his games. Those who saw her assure that after these occasional drinks she played even better, several finals were sentenced as a result of some big crash. People adored or hated her, there was no middle ground, but everyone stood in line to see her. She was delighted, also to help women’s tennis to cover several covers that, at that time, used to be occupied by other racket geniuses such as René Lacoste, Jean Borotra or Bill Tilden. Almost nothing to the device. Her star grew so much that even the character ended up darkening the person, flashes of diva that left us with chapters like the one we remember today.
Wimbledon 1926. A tournament that had already seen him win six times out of the seven he had played. There he would lift his first Grand Slam and there he had to defend the crown a year after his sixth title, but this time the outcome would be completely different. There are many voices and debates that have arisen from what happened that afternoon, especially regarding the reasons, but what is undeniable is that Suzanne Lenglen left the Queen of England planted in the middle of the tournament. How could something like this happen?
It was the first round of the painting, with the track full and Queen Mary along with her husband Jorge V present in the stands. Where was the champion? Where was Suzanne? She did not show up. The Frenchwoman would later plead that no one informed her of the schedules, although her wardrobe rivals warned that the delay was due to the fact that the night before had been busy. Lenglen, who always asked to play in the afternoon because of how bad it was to get up early, won thousands of criticisms for her performance.
That individual match was only the first of the two that Lenglen had to play that afternoon, since later he had a doubles. Both the player and her circle got tired of repeating that they were only informed of the second of them. They went to look for her dressing room, they tried to convince her, but she did not want to listen. Meanwhile, the Queen of England was still in her box, waiting for the Divine. Jean Borotra tried to mediate with his compatriotBut what he ended up doing was apologizing to the Queen for the events. Suzanne got away with it and that meeting ended up being disputed days later, although that edition of Wimbledon would end up reducing the mental strength of our protagonist.
His journey only reached until the third round, but that was not the worst. The few games he played were on minor courts, with empty stands and a very hostile environment. It seemed that no one remembered who had been the queen on the London lawn in recent years. Lenglen was so affected by this that the following year, in 1927, he would close his stage as amateur and would go on to professionalism. That adventure would only last a season, since his tennis career would end in 1928, when he decided to retire. Ten years later, without even turning 40, a leukemia took her forever. Those were the last pages of one of the greatest legends of our sport.