Doris Hart, an extraordinary American tennis champion who won 35 major tournament titles in the 1940s and 1950s, passed away at home in Coral Gables, Florida on May 29. She was 89 years old.
In recognition of her outstanding tennis accomplishments, Hart was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
Hart was the first player in the history of the sport to have won a career boxed set, meaning she won every title possible over the course of her career - singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at all four major tournaments. To this day, Margaret Court Smith and Martina Navratilova are the only other players to have achieved this feat.
Her 35 major titles were comprised of six in singles, 14 in women's doubles, and 15 in mixed doubles. She is ranked fifth in the sport's history for most major titles.
At the 1951 Wimbledon Championships Hart won all three titles - singles, doubles, and mixed doubles - dropping just one set in the entire tournament. Making the feat even more extraordinary was the fact that she played all three matches on the same day due to rain delays.
She would go on to sweep a major tournament twice more. In 1952, she won all three titles at the French Championships, and in 1954, she won all three titles at the U.S. Championships.
In addition to her success at the major tournaments, Hart amassed 325 tournament titles over her illustrious career. She was ranked in the world Top-10 for ten straight years (1946-1955), ascending to No. 1 in 1951. She was not ranked lower than world No. 4 during that 10-year stretch.
Hart's immense level of accomplishment was achieved despite suffering from osteomyelitis, a bone infection in her right leg that resulted in a permanent impairment. While she may not have been able to move around the court with as much ease as others, she made up for this with strategy and impeccable racquet control.
Hall of Famer Shirley Fry-Irvin, with whom Hart won 11 major titles, remembered her friend today.
"Doris and I first played doubles together in 1949 when her brother Bud decided I would be a good partner for Doris because I could run down the lobs. Turns out Bud was right, Doris and I had a pretty good doubles career. More importantly, we became best friends and traveling companions, and shared many hilarious adventures along the way. I will miss my friend Doris, but I know she is finally at peace and probably chasing down balls on two good legs now," reflected Fry-Irvin.
Included in Hart and Fry-Irvin's 11 titles were a record four straight victories at Roland Garros (1950-1953), during which time they dropped just one set. They also won three Wimbledon and four U.S. Championships together. Hart's 15 major titles in mixed doubles were a result of two successful partnerships. Eight of the titles were won alongside Australian Frank Sedgman and seven were won with fellow American Vic Seixas.
Being a member of the United States Wightman Cup Team was immensely important to Hart and she was an integral team member from 1946 to 1955. She compiled a 14-0 record in singles and an 8-1 record in doubles.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Hart grew up in Coral Gables, Florida. She had a successful junior tennis career and she played for the University of Miami from 1947-1949.
After retiring from her competitive playing career, she spent time as a teaching professional and she was the author of the book, Tennis with Hart, published in 1955.