Margaret Osborne duPont

Margaret Osborne duPont

Class of 1967

Recent Player

Career Achievements

Top Ranking     
World No. 1 (1947)

Grand Slam Results
37-time major champion, 14-time finalist

Wightman Cup
Member of the winning U.S. Wightman Cup teams 1946-1950, 1954-1955, 1957, 1961-1962

Citizenship: USA Born: March 4, 1918 in Joseph, Oregon Died: October 24, 2012 Played: Right-handed

In a 2011 newspaper story in the El Paso Times, Margaret Osborne duPont was asked to talk above her love of tennis. The unabashed mega-star who won 37 major championships, fourth best in history, had no clear-cut reply, saying, “It was just tennis, tennis, tennis,” duPont, then 93-years-old, modestly answered. “I am not sure why I loved the game so much. But I just did. I just did. And I always had.”

Tennis had a love affair with Margaret Osborne duPont, too. Beside the 62 major championships won by Margaret Court, 59 by Martina Navratilova and 39 by Billie Jean King and to-date, Serena Williams, no one in tennis annals has been more successful and dominant than duPont, who holds 37 titles. She was especially successful in doubles, where she owned the deuce side and won 31 of her 37 major titles in women’s and mixed doubles competition.

DuPont’s collected tennis championships like kids collect seashells on a beach – easily, effortlessly, and joyfully. She played with cerebral grace and poise, as humble an athlete as the sporting world has ever seen, but those who were fooled by duPont’s sunshine smile and usually ended up on the losing end. She was competitive, focused and driven. “I always loved to win,” duPont told the El Paso Times. “If you are not going to play to win, why play? Somebody’s got to win.” Her records are a testament to winning: 

  • Winning 25 major titles at the U.S. Nationals, an all-time record. Navratilova is the closest on the women’s side with 16 across all categories and Bill Tilden ranks first in men’s history with 16.
  • Alongside Louise Brough, she won 20 major women’s titles, later tied by Navratilova and Pam Shriver.
  • She won 13 U.S. National Women’s Doubles Championships (1941-50, 1955, 1956-57) (12 with Brough, which far exceeds Navratilova-Shiver, Doris Hart-Shirley Fry and Sarah Palfrey-Alice Marble with four each). DuPont’s first of 13 titles came with Palfrey 1941. By comparison, Navratilova ranks second with nine.
  • DuPont and Brough won 12 of the 14 U.S. Championships they entered and 58 of 60 matches.
  • Ten of her U.S. women’s doubles titles came consecutively (1941-50); no other team achieved half that amount consecutively.
  • She teamed with Neale Fraser to win her last Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Championship in 1962 at age 44, making her the oldest woman in history until Navratilova won a mixed title in 2003 at age 46.
  • DuPont won six major singles titles (French in 1946 and 1948; Wimbledon in 1947 and three consecutive U.S. Nationals from 1948-50). Her 1948 victory at Forest Hills over doubles comrade Brough lasted 48 games (4-6, 6-4, 15-13), the longest female final in history.
  • She was a finalist at the U.S. Nationals in 1944 and 1947 and Wimbledon in 1949 and 1950, losing to Brough three of the four times (1947, 1949, 1950).
  • She set a U.S. female longevity record for rankings, first breaking in at No. 7 in 1938 and extending her tenure 20 years (until 1958 when she was 40 years old), rising to No. 5. She was the world No. 1 ranked player from 1947 until 1950.

DuPont was born in Oregon, a child of ranch living who rode to school on horseback and gravitated toward playing baseball with her brother. At age 9, she began playing tennis when the family moved to Spokane, Washington. Two years later the family settled in San Francisco, and duPont gravitated to the Golden Gates public tennis courts, located just a block from her home. She graduated from the High School of Commerce in 1936, and during her scholastic years won the U.S. Girls’ 18 Singles Hard Court Championship in 1935 and doubles from 1933-34. She was the U.S. Girls’ 18 Singles and Doubles champion in 1936.  

DuPont’s longevity as a top ten ranked player for two decades was match by her poise, tenacity and attacking all-court game. In two of her major singles championships – the 1946 French Open title match against Pauline Betz and the 1948 U.S. Nationals versus Brough – duPont refused to quit facing match point each time. She defeated Betz by winning the last two sets (1-6, 8-6, 7-5) and Brough (4-6, 6-4, 15-13). Three of her singles titles were at the expense of Hart (1947 Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals in 1949 and 1950), and a second French trophy over Nelly Adamson-Laundry.

The U.S. Nationals was the place duPont felt most comfortable and her sensational volleying techniques shined the brightest. In 1947 she married William duPont, heir to the famous chemical company fortune, which interrupted her tennis career, as did the birth of her son Bill in 1952. She capably juggled motherhood with tennis; the family lived in a Delaware estate called Bellevue Hall, where she could practice on nine tennis courts encompassing all surfaces. Margaret’s husband was inflicted with breathing and health problems and preferred to vacation in California during the Australian Championships, so he forbid Margaret from making the long excursion to Melbourne. She played the French Championships from 1946 to 1951 and her nine trips to Wimbledon were sporadic over 20 years, enough though, that she won doubles championships five times (1946, 1948-50, 1954).

DuPont was a leading player on the Wightman Cup team, competing nearly every year from 1946 to 1958, unbeaten in 10 singles and nine doubles matches, never losing a team match during that span and captaining the team to eight victories.

Following her career, duPont relocated to El Paso, Texas, residing adjacent to the El Pasto Country Club tennis courts. For her longtime contributions to tennis as a volunteer, teacher and writer, duPont was honored with both the USTA’s Service Bowl and the Education Merit Award. She was inducted into the ITA Hall of Fame in 1996.

Upon her death, Billie Jean King issued this statement, “Margaret duPont was a giant in tennis and had a huge impact in my career. She was one of my she-roes and was a great influence in my life both on and off the court. I hope today’s players and any boy and girl who dreams of a career in tennis will go to the history books and read about Margaret, because her career wasn’t just about winning matches. It was about mentoring others.”

Grand Slam

Grand Slam Best Results

Titles

6 Singles | 21 Doubles | 10 Mixed Doubles

Singles                                  
French Championships:  W 1946, 1949
Wimbledon: W 1947
U.S. Nationals:  W 1948, 1949, 1950 

Doubles                                             
French Championships:  W 1946, 1947, 1949
Wimbledon:  W 1946, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1954
U.S. Nationals: W 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1957

Mixed Doubles
French Championships: SF 1951
Wimbledon:  W 1962
U.S. Nationals: W 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1950, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960