Tennis player ("Little Mo")
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Date Posted: Friday, June 21, 04:42:19pm
Maureen Connolly, Tennis Star, Dies
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
DALLAS, June 21 (AP)--Maureen Connolly Brinker, who ruled the woman's tennis world from 1951 to 1954 before a horseback riding accident ended her career, died today of cancer. She was 34 years old.
She had suffered from the disease since 1966 but still was active in teaching young people the fundamentals of the game.
"Little Mo," as she was known, was married to Norman Brinker, a businessman, in 1955. They had two children--Cindy and Brenda.
Won Grand Slam in 1953
The stock blond prodigy, whose intense and powerful game won her three United States and Wimbledon crowns, became, in 1953, the first woman to achieve the grand slam of tennis--the national championships of the United States, Britain, France and Australia. The feat has never been duplicated.
Little Mo's meteoric record of court successes began in 1951 when she won the United States national title at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens, shortly before her 17th birthday.
She defended her United States crown successfully two more times and won the women's singles championship at Wimbledon three times before the horseback-riding accident cut short her career in July, 1954, when she was 19 years old.
Riding a thoroughbred colt named Colonel Merryboy, which had been given to her by her neighbors in San Diego after a triumphant 1952 tour of Europe, Miss Connolly approached a concrete mixer truck.
Her mount reared and slammed against the truck, crushing her right leg. She suffered a broken leg and deeply gashed muscles and tendons.
Retired in 1955
Although she had hoped to resume her tennis career upon recovery--probably as a professional--the injury proved more serious than was originally thought and she announced her retirement in February, 1955.
Later that year she was married to Mr. Brinker, a former member of the United States Olympic equestrian team.
Until her death, Mrs. Brinker had devoted herself to teaching the game to youngsters.
Named the female athlete of the year three times by The Associated Press, she had been active in recent years with the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation for the advancement of tennis achievement among junior players in Texas.
In explaining her inability to play tournament tennis, although she was able to instruct children, she said:
"I can teach adequately enough. I can hit the ball to my pupils and, if it comes back to me, I can hit it. My strokes are as good as ever. But, if the ball is out of reach, I have to let it go."
At the time that her tournament play earned her comparisons with the great woman players of the country, there were few balls she could not reach, and most of them that she stroked did not recross the net.
Her game was marked by swiftness, powerful strokes and a great competitive spirit.
Allison Danzig, the former tennis writer of the New York Times, said of her: "Maureen, with her perfect timing, fluency, balance and confidence, has developed the most overpowering stroke of its kind the game has known."
Maureen Connolly, the daughter of Martin and Jessamine Connolly, was born Sept. 17, 1934, in San Diego. She started playing tennis at the age of 10 when her mother bought her a racket and sent her to Eleanor Tennant for lessons. She won her first major title, the national outdoor junior championship, at 14 and proceeded to national and international fame.
Harry Hopman, the captain of the Australian Davis Cup team, became one of her advisers and stressed to her the importance of physical condition.
The regimen she followed as a teen-age champion was difficult. She once said:
"Tennis can be a grind and there is always the danger of going stale if you think about it too much. You can get embittered if you train too hard and have nothing else on your mind. You have to be able to relax between matches and between tournaments."
Off the court, Maureen was a bubbling young girl, full of gaiety and friendliness for everyone, fond of hamburgers, baseball games, dancing and music of every kind.
The tennis world was saddened at her retirement, but she accepted her fate philosophically.
"Tennis is a wonderful game and I leave it with no regrets," she said. "I've had a full life with lots of travel and I've met lots of wonderful people. Now I'm going to be a little housewife. It's a new career and I'm awfully happy with it."
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