Class of 1971
Grand Slam Results
8-time U.S. Nationals champion, 9-time finalist at the same event
Elisabeth “Bessie” Moore learned to play the game at age 12, and in 1892 at age 16 and 3 months, she became the youngest woman to have ever appeared in the final of the U.S. National Championships – a record she held until Pam Shriver reached the finals in 1978 at a slightly younger 16 years of age.
Moore, the daughter of affluent cotton broker George Edward Moore, was a familiar face at the U.S. Nationals. From 1892 to 1905, she appeared in eight-U.S. National singles finals, winning four titles. She added two U.S. National championships in women’s doubles (1896, 1903) and two additional trophies in mixed doubles (1902, 1904). Her eight trips to the singles finals stood as a U.S. record until it was broken by Molla Mallory’s ten.
Moore was a precocious competitor, and few women players were as successful as her at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Moore was neither hard hitting nor particularly fast on the court. She played a slow paced game, covered the court well and used anticipation, accuracy, and judgment on her shots. Her forehand and backhand were indistinguishable from one another and often times she would play both right and left handed, though when competing in tournaments, preferred to play as a righty. Interestingly, she alternated her finalist and championship appearances, never winning two in a row. In her first final in 1892, Mabel Cahill defeated her in five sets (5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2), the first five set match played by women. For the next ten years all of Moore’s opponents were Americans, and the pattern of losing in the finals and then winning in the championship the following year continued. She traded victories and losses against Juliette Atkinson, earning her first title in 1896, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, and subsequently lost to Atkinson the next year in five sets. The same was true against Marion Jones in 1902 and 1903. Her longevity in between finals (1892 to 1905) is a U.S. Nationals record.
In the 1901 U.S. Nationals, Moore became the only woman in history to play two consecutive five-set matches totaling 105 games, defeating Jones in the All Comer’s round and Myrtle McAteer in the Challenge Round (6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2). To Moore and other female players’ disappointment, those five-set matches led the male-dominated leadership of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association to adopt a best-of-three-sets format for the women’s championships. In the book Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Woman, Moore, who was schooled and raised in Ridgewood, New Jersey said, “I do not think any such change should be made without first canvassing the wishes of the women players … Lawn tennis is a game not alone of skill but of endurance as well, and I fail to see why such a radical change should be made to satisfy a few players who do not take the time or have the inclination to get themselves in proper condition for playing.”
Moore won two U.S. women’s doubles titles, one in 1896 with Atkinson and one in 1903 with Carrie B. Neely. Her two mixed doubles titles came in 1902 and 1904, both with Wylie Cameron Grant.
Moore became the first prominent U.S. female tennis player to compete overseas, playing in the Irish Championships in Dublin in 1898. Moore won the inaugural U.S. Indoor Women’s Singles Championship in 1907 and the first U.S. Indoor Doubles title with Helena Pouch in 1908.
U.S. Nationals: W 1896, 1901, 1903, 1905
U.S. Nationals: W 1896, 1903
U.S. Nationals: W 1902, 1904