Class of 1969
World No. 1 (1951)
Grand Slam Results
35-time major champion, 32-time finalist
Member of the winning United States Wightman Cup Team 1946-1955
Overall Record 22-1
Singles Record 14-0
Doubles Record 8-1
A “Did You Know” factoid on the illustrious career of Doris Hart would reveal some amazing details that even the most ardent tennis fans would find fascinating.
Hart’s 35 major championships ranks fifth in history (tied with Louise Brough) and behind a red carpet ensemble of players: Margaret Court (62), Martina Navratilova (59), Billie Jean King (39) and Margaret Osborne duPont (37) are the only players in history who won more.
Hart was the first player in tennis history to win a career Grand Slam in all events, known as a “boxed set.” Only Court and Navratilova have accomplished this in women’s tennis history and no male player has earned this.
Hart reached at least the quarterfinals of 32 of the 34 major singles events she played and in 18 trips to the final won six.
In 1951 Hart won all three Wimbledon championships in the same day. “It’s the greatest feat, I think, in women’s tennis,” said Gardnar Mulloy. “Because of rain delays, she had to play all three matches in one day, and she won them all.”
Hart’s mountain of accomplishment was achieved despite suffering from osteomyelitis, a bone infection in her right leg that is most often caused by bacteria, and results in a permanent impairment. Many thought that Hart had polio, which leads to paralysis, and at one time there was serious consideration that she’d need to have her leg amputated. “Everyone thought she had polio because she was a little bowlegged,” longtime doubles partner and best friend Shirley Fry told the Taipei Times in 2004. “For her to do what she did was special because she couldn’t run as well as other people. And yet she had the smarts.”
Doris Hart may likely be the finest athlete across all sports that only the truly knowledgeable recognized. She didn’t blast her way into celebrity, in fact her game was based more on finesse than power. Her racquet control was impeccable and it helped her develop an arsenal of shots that left her opponents off balance and reeling. Six of Hart’s titles were won in singles, 14 in women’s doubles and 15 in mixed doubles. Hart advanced to 18 major finals in singles, 30 in women’s doubles and 18 in mixed doubles, a hefty 66 times playing for the most coveted titles in tennis. She won 11 total titles at the U.S. Nationals, 10 at both Wimbledon and the French Championships, and four at the Australian. In 1952 she swept all events at the French Championships and repeated that extremely rare feat at the U.S. Nationals in 1954. That 1954 season was magical, as Hart earned her career Grand Slam, becoming the second woman in history behind Connolly to achieve that feat.
Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Hart grew up in Coral Gables, Florida. Hart’s prowess on the courts led her to win the U.S. Girls’ singles championship in 1942 and 1943 and doubles titles in 1940 and 1943. She played her intercollegiate tennis at the University of Miami from 1947 to 1949 and was inducted into the school’s inaugural Hall of Fame Class in 1967.
Hart’s career blossomed as she aged. She began playing major tournaments in 1940 at 15 years old and won her first major in 1947, teaming with Patricia Todd to win the Wimbledon Ladies Doubles Championship. From 1949 to 1955, Hart’s career exploded, winning 33 major titles in 46 opportunities, a remarkable 72 percent winning clip. While still toting schoolbooks around campus, Hart won her first major singles championship at the 1949 Australian Championships, outwitting Nancye Wynne Bolton, 6-3, 6-4.
In her singles championships, Hart was workmanlike. She captured the 1950 French over Pat Canning Todd, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. At Wimbledon in 1951, she handed her longtime doubles partner Fry one of the biggest drubbings in history, winning 6-1, 6-0. She defeated Fry for her second French Championship in 1952, 6-4, 6-4 and closed out the singles portion of her career by winning back-to-back U.S. National Championships in 1954 and 1955. The 1954 victory was a hallmark triumph, 6–8, 6–1, 8–6 over Brough, and the title defense came at the expense of Brit Patricia Ward, 6-4, 6-2.
In her slew of memorable seasons on tour, 1951 saw Hart win seven major titles – the triple at Wimbledon was extremely impressive given that she lost only one set throughout the fortnight. “I wasn’t tired,” Hart told the Taipei Times in 2004. “I was on cloud nine.”
Though Hart earned two major titles over her partner Fry, the duo were harmonious on court, winning 11 major titles. Historically, they rank only behind Brough-duPont (20), Navratilova-Shriver (20) and Zvereva-Fernández (14). They adored the red clay at Roland Garros, winning in Paris a record four straight times (1950-53), dropping only one set along the way. The U.S. Nationals were won four straight times (1951-54) and Wimbledon three straight (1951-53). An accomplished mixed doubles player who complimented her male partner perfectly, Hart won 15 major titles with two partners, Aussie Frank Sedgman (8) and American Vic Seixas (7). In both 1951 and 1952, the Hart-Sedgman combination won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. majors. From 1953 to 1955, Hart and Seixas won Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals.
While Hart owned the major tournament circuit, she dominated tennis as few in history had ever done. She amassed 325 titles, including winning the U.S. Clay Court Singles Championship in 1950 and in her specialty doubles in 1944, 1945, 1950 and 1954. She captured the U.S. Indoor Championship in doubles and mixed doubles in 1947 and 1948. Hart was ranked in the world Top 10 for ten straight years (1946-1955), ascending to No. 1 in 1951. She never ranked lower than No. 4 during that 10-year stretch. Hart didn’t disappoint as a stalwart member of the United States Wightman Cup Team from 1946 to 1955. She compiled a 14-0 record in singles, an 8-1 mark in doubles and the U.S. didn’t come close to losing a tie against Britain.
Hart was inducted into the inaugural class at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women’s Collegiate Hall of Fame in 1985, joined by such luminaries as Fry, King and Althea Gibson, to name a few. She wrote Tennis with Hart in 1955. Although Hart never publicly sought the spotlight, in some cases it found her. In her era, sporting goods manufacturer Spalding developed a line of racquets honoring the game’s prominent players. Hart had her own Signature racquet made of white ash with a turquoise handle. One model featured a silhouette of a female player and Hart’s signature on both sides; another version depicted a simple heart and an autograph. Additionally, Hart was featured in the September 9, 1944 issue of Collier's magazine.
Upon Hart’s death in 2015, her partner Fry (now Fry-Irvin) said of her friend, “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…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.”
Australian Championships: W 1949
French Championships: W 1950, 1952
Wimbledon: W 1951
U.S. Nationals: W 1954, 1955
Australian Championships: W 1950
French Championships: W 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953
Wimbledon: W 1947, 1951, 1952, 1953
U.S. Nationals: W 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954
Australian Championships: W 1949, 1950
French Championships: W 1951, 1952, 1953
Wimbledon: W 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955
U.S. Nationals: W 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955