Shirley Fry

Shirley Fry

Class of 1970

Master Player

Career Achievements

Top Ranking     
World No. 1 (1956)

Grand Slam Results
17-time major champion, 15-time finalist

Wightman Cup
Played for the United States in Wightman Cup 1949, 1951-1956
The U.S. team won the Cup every year in which Fry competed.

 

Citizenship: USA Born: June 30, 1927 in Akron, Ohio Played: Right-handed

When you place Shirley Fry’s name alongside Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Doris Hart, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams, there may be a slight disconnect. Fry doesn’t have the same recognition as the aforementioned players, media coverage wasn’t as extensive in her playing days, but she accomplished something similar: Fry is one of ten female players in history to win at least one of each of the majors in singles. Along with Court, Hart, Navratilova, and Serena and Venus Williams, Fry is one of only six players in history to also win a women’s doubles title at each major tournament.

The 1950s was a wonderful decade for tennis, and Fry was amongst the best around. From 1951 to 1957 she won singles championships in Australia, Paris, London, and New York, and won on another 13 major championships in both doubles and mixed doubles. She was a singles finalist on four occasions and a doubles and mixed doubles finalist eleven more times.  

Fry’s four major singles victories couldn’t have been packaged better. She lost just one set and defeated the game’s best. The 1951 French Championship came over American Hart, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. She then won the last three majors she played in, taking the 1956 Wimbledon Ladies Singles title over Brit Angela Buxton, 6-3, 6-1. Triumphs at the U.S. National Women’s Singles Championships in 1956 and the Australian Championships in 1957 were stunning: Both came over the phenomenal Althea Gibson by identical 6-3, 6-4 scores. Following the Australian title, Fry retired as few athletes can – as a reigning champion. She had a nagging elbow injury and by her own admission, “was tired of living out of a suitcase.”

The 5-foot-5 Fry was noted for her proficient baseline game and speed on the court, considered one of the fastest of her generation. The Akron, Ohio native was the U.S. Girls’ 18 Singles Champion in 1944 and 1945 and toured the amateur circuit from 1941 to 1957, a jam-packed 16 years. As a 14-year-old in 1941 she became the youngest female player to compete at the U.S. National Championships. She never missed a Forest Hills tournament and in just her second trip there, was a quarterfinalist. It took her 11 years to reach her first semifinal (1951) and 16 years to win a championship, but the record books list her as a champion without qualification. Fry had a shot at the 1951 title, taking the hard-to-defeat Connolly to three sets in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 loss.

From 1941 to 1956, Fry never competed at the Australian Championships. In 1957, her last year playing the major tournaments, she finally traveled there, and the trip was enormously successful. As the No. 1 seed she had a masterful tournament in sweeping each of her five matches to win the championship over No. 2 seed Gibson, 6-3, 6-4. In victory, Fry lost only 27 games in five rounds. She went a perfect 2-for-2 at the Australian, winning the women’s doubles title alongside Gibson over Aussies Mary Bevis Hawton and Fay Muller, 6-2, 6-1.

Fry was unsuccessful in defending her French title in 1951, falling to Hart, 6-4, 6-4. Hart proved to be a pesky adversary for Fry, defeating her in the 1951 Wimbledon Ladies Singles final, 6-1, 6-0.  

In doubles competition, Fry and Hart found common ground. The combo shared an impressive 11 women’s doubles titles, four U.S. (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954), four French (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953) and three Wimbledon (1951, 1952, 1953) championships. In those 11 major doubles victories, the tandem dropped just two sets (1950 French, 1953 U.S.). In 1956 she teamed with Vic Seixas to win the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title over Gibson and Gardnar Mulloy, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Fry was ranked in the world Top 10 nine times (1946-1956), including the No. 1 position in 1956. She was among America’s Top 10 players 13 straight years 1944-1956. Off the major tournament circuit, Fry was the Italian Nationals doubles champion in 1951 and a mixed doubles finalist that same year. Fry played for the United States in Wightman Cup 1949, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956, compiling a 10-2 career record.

Upon her retirement, Fry moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, ostensibly to bask in warmer climates. She worked in the advertising department of the St. Petersburg Times.

Grand Slam

Grand Slam Best Results

Titles

4 Singles | 12 Doubles | 1 Mixed Doubles

Singles
Australian Championships: W 1957
French Championships: W 1951
Wimbledon: W 1956
U.S. Nationals: W 1956

Doubles
Australian Championships: W 1957                     
French Championships: W 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953
Wimbledon: W 1951, 1952, 1953
U.S. Championships: W 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954

Mixed Doubles
Australian Championships: QF 1957                                         
French Championships: F 1952
Wimbledon: W 1956
U.S. Championships: F 1951, 1955