Class of 1973
World No. 2 (1957)
Grand Slam Results
21-time major champion, 15-time finalist
Member of the 1963 U.S. Championship Federation Cup Team
Overall Record 6-1
Singles Record 3-1
Doubles Record 3-0
Member of the U.S. Wightman Cup Team 1957, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963
Memeber of the winning team, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1963
Darlene Hard was groomed on Southern California public courts by her mother Ruth, who instilled an aggressive serve-and-volley game with her daughter. The women’s game was in the midst of transitioning from long baseline rallies to an all-court style, and the approach worked well for the powerful-hitting Hard. She was the last of the great amateur players, getting only a tiny sip of the professional game competing in the 1969 US Open women’s doubles, and her resume boasts an impressive array of accomplishments: 21 major titles, 13 in women’s doubles, five in mixed doubles and three in singles.
Hard’s 18 major doubles championships were a testament to her precise volleying game and technical aptitude in smacking home a winner on first chance, but her acumen as a hard-charging player wasn’t only reserved for the wider court. Hard appeared in seven major singles finals, winning three; she was victorious at the French Championships and U.S. Nationals in 1960, and defended her title at the 1961 U.S. Nationals. Those victories made her one of the era’s premier players.
Hard’s first singles major at the French Championships in 1960 was on a surface that didn’t especially fit her attacking style. However, Hard pounded Mexican Yola Ramirez Ochoa, 6-3, 6-4, rising from the No. 6 seed spot. She had a fortuitous draw as three of the top four seeds, including No. 1 Zsuzi Komoczy of Hungary, didn’t last past the second round. Still, Hard had to defeat doubles partner and No. 2 seed Brazilian Maria Bueno in the semifinals, which she did easily, 6-3, 6-2, to face Ramirez.
That victory spearheaded a prosperous summer trip to New York. On her eighth try, and after being a semifinalist twice (1954, 1957), Hard defeated Bueno to win her first U.S. National Women’s Singles Championship, 6-4, 10-12, 6-4. At age 25, she was starting to be viewed as an elder stateswoman in the game. It was a strong statement to beat Bueno in back-to-back majors, avenging a loss to the Brazilian in the 1959 Wimbledon Ladies’s Championship. The following year in Forest Hills, Hard successfully defended her title, defeating Ann Haydon, 6-3, 6-4. There would be a no three-peat in 1962, however: Margaret Smith thwarted Hard’s run in the championship match, 9-7, 6-4.
Hard made her first final at Wimbledon in 1957, but there was no dodging Althea Gibson, falling 6-3, 6-2. She became part of history, albeit in a losing effort, as Gibson became the first African American to win a championship at the All England Club. In a much tougher match at the 1958 U.S. Nationals, Gibson defeated Hard in the final, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Hard earned her 13 women’s doubles titles with eight different partners, and a scorecard is needed to keep track of the many changes. One year into the Open Era, Hard teamed with replacement Françoise Dürr at the 1969 US Open to win her last title. The duo sailed through the field and into the final against a formidable obstacle, in Court and Virginia Wade. Hard and Dürr dropped the first set 6-0 and were down 0-2 in the second set before they broke through. They then won four straight games, took the second set 6-4 and followed with a 6-4 victory in the third completing the amazing comeback.
While Hard never found herself in such a severe deficit in any of her previous championships, she did require three-set efforts in six of her 13 women’s doubles championships. Playing in New York brought out the best in Hard and her four different partners, winning six times and – and five straight – at the U.S. event (1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1969), including finalist appearances in 1957 and 1963. She won the 1958 and 1959 titles with Jeanne Arth, 1960, 1962, and 1963 with Bueno and partnered with Lesley Turner in 1961. Four additional major doubles titles were won at Wimbledon (1957, 1959, 1960, 1963), the first alongside Gibson following their memorable singles final, one with Arth in 1958 and the last two with Bueno. Three French Championships were linked to Beverly Baker in 1955, Shirley Bloomer in 1957, and Bueno in 1960.
On the mixed doubles ledger, Hard won five titles and was a finalist four other times. She won Wimbledon in 1957 alongside Mervyn Rose, and 1959 and 1960 with Rod Laver. Two French trophies were captured in 1955 and 1961 respectively, with Gordon Forbes and Laver.
Between 1954 and 1963, Hard was ranked in the U.S. Top 10 every year, and rose to No. 1 four times from 1960-63. In world rankings, she was among the Top 10 nine times and No. 2 globally in 1960 and 1961. She was a standout on the Wightman Cup team, earning championships in 1957, 1959, 1962 and 1963. Hard played for the U.S. Fed Cup team in 1963, helping the Americans claim the title. She won a singles Bronze Medal and a doubles Gold Medal at the 1963 Pan American Games held at Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Hard played collegiately at Pomona College in 1957, playing in the first intercollegiate championship in 1958 and winning the national title. She was the first woman elected into the Pomona College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974. She was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1997.
Australian Championships: QF 1962
French Championships: W 1960
Wimbledon: F 1957, 1959
U.S. Nationals: W 1960, 1961
Australian Championships: F 1962
French Championships: W 1955, 1957, 1960
Wimbledon: W 1957, 1959, 1960, 1963
U.S. Nationals/US Open: W 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1969
Australian Championships: F 1962
French Championships: W 1955, 1961
Wimbledon: W 1957, 1959, 1960
U.S. Nationals: F 1956, 1957, 1961