Class of 1983
Grand Slam Results
Five-time Wimbledon champion
Charlotte “Lottie” Dod was born in the small town of Lower Bebington, England, tucked away in the North West corner of the United Kingdom, five miles from Liverpool, home of the Beatles. The All England Club in London is diagonally south east, 220 miles away in London. Dod was an English tennis prodigy. Her look, skills, and youth made her a curious entrant at the 1887 Wimbledon’s Ladies Singles Championship.
First off, her tennis attire was eye-catching: Because she was only 15 years, 285 days old, she was allowed to wear clothing that looked like her school uniform. The ensemble consisted of black stockings and shoes, a white flannel cricket cap atop her black hair, and a calf-length dress. She was unencumbered by the eras more confining layered outfits and full length dresses that restricted movements, giving Dod a considerable advantage. She could swiftly run around the court; her lateral and horizontal movements provided mobility her opponents lacked. Tennis historian Elizabeth Wilson, interviewed by The Canberra Times, said that “Dod always spoke up in favor of the right of women to dress in a manner that did not impede their tennis.”
Was it Dod’s trimmed down outfit that earned her the championship on her first attempt, making her the youngest Wimbledon Ladies titlist in history? Perhaps. But more likely, it was her advanced game. At 5-foot-6 she was tall for the time period. She hit a hard forehand, was the first woman to volley, “smash,” and served underhand, which was a confounding tactic for opponents not skilled in handling such a maneuver. It was not a lady-like game, but Dod made no excuses. “As a rule, ladies are too lazy at tennis,” she once said. “They should learn to run and run their hardest, too, not merely stride. They would find, if they tried, that many a ball, seemingly out of reach, could be returned with ease; but instead of running hard they go a few steps and exclaim, ‘Oh, I can’t’ and stop.”
In 1887, she defeated defending champion Blanche Bingley (Hillyard), 23, in a rout, 6-2, 6-0, winning the final 10 straight games and a second set that lasted 10 minutes. An account of her achievement appeared in the July 14, 1887 Sheffield Independent: “About the ladies’ singles there is little to be said – only five entered as against eight last year. Miss Lottie Dod simply ‘cantered’ through the two rounds in which she had to play. In the final round she met Mrs. C.J. Cole, formerly, as Miss Coleridge, well known as a tennis player. In the challenge round she easily vanquished Miss Bingley, who only got two games in the two sets.”
Nicknamed “The Little Wonder,” Dod won four more championships in 1888, 1891, 1892, and 1893 – all against Hillyard – and lost only one set in the five championships. In the 1893 finale, then 21-year-old Dod lost the first set 8-6, took stock in that rare occurrence, and won the next two, 6-1, 6-4. In her four previous victories, Dod lost just 13 games.
In 1887, she won the Irish Nationals Singles Championship, defeating Maud Watson 6-4, 6-3.
Dod was an extraordinary athlete who was accomplished in skiing, archery, field hockey, and golf. She forsook tennis to play golf and in 1904 became the British National Golf champion. Her eye-hand coordination made her skill in archery, earning a place on the 1908 Olympic Archery team where she won the Silver Medal.
Her story, Lottie Dod: Champion of Champions – The Story of an Athlete, was published in 1989.
Wimbledon: W 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1893