Elizabeth Ryan

Elizabeth Ryan

Class of 1972

Master Player

Career Achievements

Top Ranking     
World No. 3 (1927)

Grand Slam Results
26-time major champion, 1 Challenge Round appearance, 11-time finalist

Wightman Cup
Member of the winning 1926 United States Wightman Cup Team

 

Citizenship: USA Born: February 5, 1892 in Anaheim, California Died: July 6, 1979 Played: Left-handed

Throughout her career, those who played doubles with Elizabeth Ryan won championships. Ryan won a lot of them, and she graciously shared the wealth with a myriad of women’s doubles and mixed doubles partners.

Wimbledon was her personal domain, winning a record 19 doubles titles. But Ryan was an equal opportunity champion, tacking on four at the French Championships and three at the U.S. Championships, rounding out to a tidy 26 major titles. Only the crème de la crème of the women’s game – Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court, Louise Brough Clapp, and Margaret Osborne duPont have won more cumulative major doubles championships than Ryan. 

Ryan, who was born in Anaheim, California, spent most of her adult life in Great Britain and died at age 87 in her adopted home of Wimbledon, England. At 5-foot-5, Ryan was a tenacious and feisty competitor with a game ready-made for doubles success. Her approach shots were low and deep, precisely angled in a position where her sharp volleying could take over a match. Her serve put her team in position to attack and Ryan possessed the foot speed and agility necessary to be a devastating finisher. 

Ryan’s success at Wimbledon was not only majestic in terms of accomplishment, but impressive for its longevity and record setting performances.  She holds the record for length of time between championships – 20 years. She won her first Wimbledon women's doubles title in 1914 and her last in 1934. She won a record 12 Wimbledon women’s doubles titles in 17 trips and added another record in winning seven mixed doubles in 15 opportunities. Five of her women’s titles were alongside Suzanne Lenglen (another Wimbledon record) from 1919-23, and another in 1925. What that duo accomplished in winning those titles was astonishing – they compiled an impeccable 31-0 record. In her 12 championships, Ryan dropped just two sets, one in 1919 and 1933. According to Wimbledon’s historical records, only Navratilova (293) and King (224) won more matches on the grass at Wimbledon than Ryan (190).

Ryan won the 1914 championship with Agatha Morton, then had her dominating run with Lenglen (1919-23, 1925), captured 1926 with Mary Browne, 1927 and 1930 with Helen Wills, and the last two in 1933 and 1934 with Simone Mathieu. The mixed doubles titles were more democratic; Ryan won her seven titles (1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1932) with five different partners, the first three coming with Randolph Lycett. In those championships, Ryan and partner never dropped a set.

The French Championships yielded four women’s doubles championships (1930, 1932, 1933, 1934). Ryan partnered with Moody for the first two and with Mathieu for the last pair. The 1926 U.S. National Women’s Doubles Championships was garnered with Eleanor Goss in the most competitive match Ryan had in her major tournament run, 3-6, 6-4, 12-10 over Americans Browne and Charlotte Chapin. The 1926 U.S. Mixed Doubles title reverted to normal, a straight sets victory with Jean Borotra. The great Ellsworth Vines accompanied Ryan at the winner’s celebration at the 1933 U.S. Championships.

Ryan never competed at the Australian Championships in singles or doubles. Her doubles expertise led her to being ranked in the World Top 10 five times between 1925 and 1930, reaching No. 3 in 1927. 

Ryan took her singles game to the French, Wimbledon, and U.S. Championships a combined 26 times and had all the skills necessary to win a major title, but it eluded her. She reached four major finals (three at Wimbledon in 1914, 1920, and 1930) and one the 1926 U.S. National Championships. She reached the Challenge Round at Wimbledon in 1921 by beating the entire field with the exception of the defending champion, Lenglen, who she then played and lost to in the Challenge Round. At the U.S. Championships in 1926, Ryan led Molla Bjurstedt Mallory 4-0 in the third set and had match point, but suffered a devastating 4-6, 6-4, 9-7 loss.

As the years passed, Ryan became exceedingly protective of her Wimbledon doubles record, one that King was destined to surpass. She collapsed on the grounds of her beloved Wimbledon on June 6, 1979, the day before King broke her record with her 20th women’s doubles title, playing alongside Navratilova.

Grand Slam

Grand Slam Best Results

Titles

17 Doubles | 9 Mixed Doubles

Singles
Wimbledon: F 1914, 1920, 1921*, 1930
U.S. Nationals: F 1926

Doubles
French Championships: W 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934
Wimbledon: W 1914, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1930, 1933, 1934
U.S. Nationals: W 1926

Mixed Doubles
Wimbledon: W 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1932
U.S. Nationals: W 1926, 1933

*From 1886-1921, the defending Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Champions did not have to compete until the Challenge Round. Every other player would play through the draw until the Challenge Round opponent was determined. In 1921, Ryan made it to the Challenge Round, but lost to Suzanne Lenglen, who was the defending champion. In her 1914 and 1920 Finals appearances, Ryan lost her chance to play in the Challenge Round.