Google Doodle today marks the 117th birthday of a Wimbledon champion, who was nicknamed by the media as “the Jewish tennis queen”.
Suzanne Lenglen was a French tennis player who won 31 championship titles between 1914 and 1926, the first aged just 15.
Such was her prowess on the court that Lenglen won Wimbledon every year between 1919 and 1925 (except 1924 due to health problems) – as well as every French Open between 1920 and 1926.
Lenglen’s performance on the court was not the only reason she became well-known – unlike many of her contemporaries, she wore tennis dresses that revealed bare forearms and cut just about the calf.
She was also known for casually sipping brandy between sets.
Lenglen, who was described by the Canadian Jewish Review in 1926 as “the Jewish tennis queen”, was widely criticised after turning professional, but it was a decision she called “an escape from bondage and slavery”.
In the tour programme, she attacked the system, which meant only wealthy individuals were able to maintain their amateur status.
“Under these absurd and antiquated amateur rulings, only a wealthy person can compete, and the fact of the matter is that only wealthy people do compete.
“Is that fair? Does it advance the sport? Does it make tennis more popular – or does it tend to suppress and hinder an enormous amount of tennis talent lying dormant in the bodies of young men and women whose names are not in the social register?” she wrote.
Her comments were among the first made on the issue and eventually tennis was opened up to all, changing the face of the sport forever.
In June 1938, Lenglen was diagnosed with leukemia. Just weeks later she died, aged 39, and is buried in Paris.