Class of 1985
After Ann Haydon Jones retired from tennis in 1970, she joined the British Broadcast Company as a guest analyst. It was the perfect transition for the outspoken player who wasn’t shy about sharing her opinions with the media. Her hard-driving left-handed game led her to become the first southpaw to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship in 1969, but her losses to rival Billie Jean King at both the 1967 Wimbledon and U.S. National finals didn’t sit particularly well with Jones. “In 1967 at Wimbledon and the US Open I lost the final to Billie Jean King when I should have beaten her,” Jones told the UK’s Daily and Sunday Express in 2013. “I soon realized Billie Jean wasn’t any better than I was – I had to stand up to her physically and mentally.”
That statement was a bold proclamation for Jones, but she had the guts to defend those words. As a 30-year-old and playing in her 14th consecutive Wimbledon, she knocked off top seed Margaret Court, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals and then as the No. 4 seed rallied from a set down to defeat No. 2 King in the 1969 championship, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, her third major singles title. Following the victory, the BBC named her its Sports Personality of the Year. Jones retired shortly after that triumph to start a family and launch a career working with the Women’s Tennis Association. “I knew winning Wimbledon at 30 years old was the pinnacle of my career,” Jones told the Express. “I began to think, ‘what else is there?’ I wanted to start a family so I reduced my schedule from 1970. I don’t think the Wimbledon organizers were pleased when I didn’t defend my title.”
Jones didn’t jump into retirement. She logged 13 years ranked in the World Top 10 and won 113 singles titles starting in 1956 and ending in 1969, though she played a few doubles events until 1977. She nabbed the Italian Open Singles title with a nifty 8-6, 6-1 victory over South African Annette Van Zyl in 1966. Jones was a mainstay at all of the major events except the Australian Nationals, where she only played twice – in 1965 and 1969 – reaching the semifinals in both singles and doubles in 1969, and sharing the mixed doubles title that same year. She was brilliant at the French Championships, though, winning the 1961 and 1966 championships. The 1961 French saw Jones slip past Court, 7-5, 12-10, in the quarterfinals and require three sets to dispense Hungarian Zsuzsi Kormoczy, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, in the semifinals. Feeling confident and strong, Jones serve-and-volleyed, chipped and charged and whipped Mexican Yola Ramirez, 6-2, 6-1, for her first major title. The 1966 French was similar. Jones needed a three set victory to reach the finals, outlasting the great Brazilian Maria Bueno, 4-6, 8-6, 6-2 in the semifinals before dismantling American Nancy Richey in the finals, 6-3, 6-1. Jones was finalist three times at Roland Garros (1963, 1968, 1969) and went 44-8 in singles action.
On her home court at Wimbledon, Jones was even better, despite only winning one title. She compiled at 57-13 record, advancing to the fourth round or better in 12 of her 14 appearances and earning a semifinal appearance seven times. At the U.S. Nationals, Jones went 17-8 and advanced to the 1961 finals (6-3, 6-4 loss to American Darlene Hard) and 1967 finals, an 11-9, 6-4 loss to King. She played at Forest Hills 10 times and advanced to the third round or better each year.
In addition to her three major singles titles, Jones tacked on five more in doubles, three coming in women’s doubles. The French was her personal bastion of comfort, appearing in four finals and winning three. She teamed with South African Renee Schuurman to defeat Court and Robyn Ebbern in 1963, 7-5, 6-4. In 1968 she found harmony with Francoise Dürr in a rousing 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory over King and Rosie Casals. She and Dürr won the 1969 French, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 over Court and Richey. Her mixed doubles title at Wimbledon was earned with partner Fred Stolle in 1969, a swift 6-2, 6-3 victory over Aussies Judy Tegart and Tony Roche.
Jones was a mainstay on British Fed Cup and Wightman Cup teams, competing from 1957 until 1975. She was lured into professional tennis in 1968, joining such luminaries as King, Casals, and Dürr. She played on the Virginia Slims circuit in 1971.
For many years, Jones was chairwoman for the International Women’s Tennis Council. In June, 2014 Jones was joined by Virginia Wade and Angela Mortimer Barrett to be presented with the prestigious Freedom of the Borough of Merton award prior to the Wimbledon Championships.
*The 1969 Australian Open mixed doubles title was not played due to weather and was shared between the finalists