Queen Mother Of Tennis


Was she mad?

I guess so. She wasn’t the kind that thought. She eliminated everything that bothered her in the game.

When was the second time that you beat her?

Once [ten years later] when we were playing, we got to be set all, and then I remember very well the third set. I was getting tired, but one of the gentlemen said, “If any of you ladies have spikes, you ought to wear them. The grass is very damp out there.” I said I had some spikes, and he said, “I suggest you put them on then,” and May said to me, “I don’t need spikes.” I remember that remark. I ran quickly and got the spikes and put them on. Therefore I didn’t slip as much as she did. My head said she wasn’t going to slip unless you run her, so I ran her and kept the ball in play more, and I won. When I won, she started to walk off the court just the way she had ten years before. Then as I walked up to the stadium she said something like “Stinkpot tennis!” She was describing the game I had played. It meant nothing to me especially, except I remembered it.

Maybe it did mean something if you remember it all these years.

I remember it because usually when you win something, the person congratulates you. May married Tom Bundy, a great friend of mine. He said two different times when I played her, he said, “Hazel, I hope you win today. You deserve to win. You’re an awfully good player, and May needs a lesson.” There was no question that the things she did were anything but sportsmanlike. Later I became very fond of her daughter [Dorothy Bundy]. She was one of my pets.

Was she a good tennis player?

Yes, she was good. Not as great as her mother, though. Not as outstanding.

Mrs. Wightman, what did you wear for playing tennis back early in your career—in 1905, 1910, say?

My mother made me dimity dresses—you don’t remember dimity; dimity was a thin material—my mother sewed dresses for me with short sleeves, and they were nice-looking dresses.

Tennis dresses?

They were what I played in. They had a round neck or something. It was a full dress, a feminine dress. It would have looked much better on somebody who was more feminine-looking. Here I was, square like a horse, see.

How long were the dresses?

They had to be four inches from the floor.

What did you wear with those dresses?

I think I wore corsets. I can’t imagine. But I think I wore corsets, because how else would I have kept my stockings up? I wouldn’t have known any better. And we wore high shoes, high sneakers. Hideous-looking things!

Did you wear a hat?

Well, on an awfully hot day I think somebody put a hat on me. I don’t remember playing in a hat very often. Of course, I had a little longer head of hair then—though I always had poor hair—but I wore a bun, and in order to keep the bun from sliding down my neck I tied a ribbon around it. And if I was wearing a ribbon, I thought I better put a bow on it, so I’d put a bow on it. Silly; looked horrible.

What did you play in later when it became proper to wear the skirts a little shorter?

Well, later I played in anything I could find that would fit me, because I wasn’t a regular size. It wasn’t as if I wore a 16 or 18 or something like that. I was either nursing a baby or I’d just had a baby, so my figure was never what I’d call a nice little ladylike kind of figure. I remember I had sort of a two-piece thing one time, say in Helen Wills’s time, but I was never a fashion plate. Helen Wills wore a middy blouse, and the reason she wore a middy blouse was because of the sun on her back. She roasted if she had to stay out playing tennis for two hours, so she found a middy blouse with the collar was a great help and very respectable.

And the skirt?

It had a full skirt, always a little below her knees. There was no showing the waistband when you served. It was a very satisfactory dress for her, but to me I was an old married lady then, and I didn’t want to wear middy blouses. Now most of the women when I played in the East, all played in the middy blouse or some blouse with long sleeves to keep the sun off their arms. But I needed a short sleeve because the sleeve bothered me for overheads. Isn’t it strange? And yet if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had the freedom of the arm, I never would have perfected the volley.

Did you ever wear your tennis skirts really short?

I did get them a little shorter, but, oh, I wouldn’t wear them the way they are today. I’m almost embarrassed when I see a girl’s pants.

Why is that? Does it seem immodest?