Class of 2013
Grand Slam Results
5-time major champion at Wimbledon
First place in Women’s Singles at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games
First place in Mixed Doubles at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games
Take a look at Charlotte Cooper’s photo. There stands a tall, slender and angular tennis player. She played in ankle length tennis dresses, the appropriate Victorian attire for the time period. Cooper won five Ladies Singles Wimbledon Championships and reached eight consecutive finals from 1895-1902. Cooper’s last title came in 1908, when she was 37 years old, making her the oldest female champion in history. Her record-string of eight trips to center stage lasted 90 years until Martina Navratilova earned her ninth finals appearance in a row (1982-1990).
What’s increasingly more remarkable about Cooper is that at age 26 she lost her hearing and became totally deaf. In a sport where the sound of a ball coming off the strings are such an integral part of playing, Cooper captured all but one of her titles without the benefit of sound, paramount in recognizing the pace of an opponent shot.
If you were a tennis player in Cooper’s era, Wimbledon was the grandest stage to play on. The talented player from nearby Ealing was said to have ridden her bike to the All England Club, her tennis racquet strapped to the bracket in the front fork of the bicycle. It’s been chronicled that Cooper only used two wooden racquets: an old one for matches in the rain and a good one for matches when it was dry outside.
Cooper groomed her game at the Ealing Lawn Tennis Club and had several coaches that not only worked on her physical game, but also her mental disposition as well. Cooper was composed, steady, and consistent on court. That focus helped her win her first Wimbledon title in 1895 over Helen Jackson Atkins, 7-5, 8-6. She employed an attacking net game, a rare, but burgeoning strategy at the time for women, and was just one of a few female players that served overhand.
When Cooper won her fifth and final Wimbledon singles title in 1908, she had snatched back the trophy after a seven-year hiatus, and along the way, defeated the immortal seven-time Wimbledon champion Dorothea Lambert Chambers in the quarterfinals. It was sweet redemption for Cooper, who was crushed by Chambers in the 1904 final, 6-0, 6-3.
All of Cooper’s five Wimbledon titles came over a different opponent. Four of her eleven trips to the finals came against Blanche Bingley Hillyard (1897, 1899, 1900, 1901), but managed only one victory, a 6-2, 6-2 triumph in 1901. According to John Barrett’s Official Guide to the Wimbledon Championships, Cooper’s 1902 Challenge Round match against Muriel Robb was halted on the first day of play due to rainfall at 6–4, 11–13. The match was replayed in its entirety the next day and Robb won 7–5, 6–1, playing a total of 53 games which was then a record for the longest women's singles final.
Though the competition was not given full-championship status until 1913, Cooper ruled the Wimbledon’s mixed doubles competition from 1894-1898, teaming with Harold Mahony to win five straight titles. She won a sixth with Laurence Doherty in 1900. In all-women’s competition, Cooper advanced to the 1913 Wimbledon Ladies Doubles final with partner Chambers.
In 1900, at the Summer Olympic Games in Paris, Cooper became the first woman in history to win a First Place Prize in tennis (medals were not given out until 1904), drubbing France’s Hélène Prévost, 6-1, 7-5. She added a second First Place Prize when she landed the mixed doubles title teaming with Reggie Doherty, 6-2, 6-4, over Great Britain’s Harold Mahony and Prévost.
Cooper had victories in locations other than Wimbledon. She won the Irish Lawn Championship in 1895 and 1898, a prestigious tournament at the time.
In her 1910 book Lawn Tennis for Ladies, Chambers included this passage from Cooper who described winning her first championship at the Ealing Club: "Winning my first championship of the Ealing Lawn Tennis Club at the age of 14 was a very important moment in my life. How well I remember, bedecked by my proud mother in my best clothes, running off to the Club on the Saturday afternoon to play in the final without a vestige of nerve (would that I had none now!), and winning—that was the first really important match of my life."
Cooper was the second – and one of only four women – to win the ladies’ singles titles at Wimbledon after becoming mothers. She joined Hillyard (the first in 1897). Chambers and Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1980) later joined the elite group.
Wimbledon: W 1895, 1896, 1898, 1901, 1908
Wimbledon: F 1913