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Maureen Connolly

Maureen Catherine Connolly (Little Mo) was a professional tennis player born on September 17, 1934, in San Diego, California, United States.

As a child, an athletic Maureen Connolly loved horseback riding but her mother was unable to pay the cost for riding lessons and as such she took up the game of tennis. A natural, with tremendous power and accuracy from the baseline, at age 14 she won 56 straight matches and the following year became the youngest ever to win the United States national championship for girls eighteen and under.

In 1951 she entered her first US Open at Forest Hills, New York and in the finals, the sixteen-year-old Connolly defeated Shirley Fry, again becoming the youngest ever to win America's most prestigious tennis tournament. Her achievements made her the darling of the media, and one of the most popular personalities in the United States. She was named "Woman Athlete of the Year" by the Associated Press for three straight years from 1951 through 1953.

Connolly successfully defended her U.S. title in 1952 and won the Wimbledon championship. For the 1953 season she hired a new coach, the Australian Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman. Entered in all four of the Grand Slam tournaments for the first time, she defeated Julia Sampson in the Australian Open final and Doris Hart three consecutive times in the finals of the French Open, the Wimbledon championships, and the U.S. Open to become the first woman, and only the second person, to ever win the world's four major titles in the same year.

In 1954 she did not defend her Australian Open title but successfully defended her French Open and Wimbledon championships. On July 20, 1954, just two weeks after she won her third straight Wimbledon title, she was out horseback riding when an accident with a truck crushed her right leg, ending her brilliant tennis career at age 19.

Maureen Connolly, accomplished more in her short career than most achieve in a lifetime. She was able to compete in nine Grand Slam tournaments, and won them all. As a result of her incredible accomplishments, she was elected to both the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.

Grand Slam in tennis results for Maureen Connolly's nine appearances:

  1. Australian Open - 1 time: Winner 1953
  2. French Open - 2 times: Winner 1953, 1954
  3. Wimbledon championships - 3 times: Winner 1952, 1953, 1954
  4. US Open - 3 times: Winner 1951, 1952, 1953

In June of 1955, Maureen Connolly married Norman Brinker, a member of the 1952 United States Olympic equestrian team who was able to share her love of horses. They had two children while she remained partially involved in tennis, acting as a correspondent for some U.S. and British newspapers at major U.S. tennis tournaments and as a coach for the British Wightman Cup team during its visits to the United States. In Texas, where the couple lived, she and her husband established the "Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation" to promote junior tennis.

Tragedy struck again in 1966 when she was diagnosed with cancer. After a long battle with the disease, Maureen Connolly Brinker passed away at age 34 in Dallas, Texas on June 21, 1969 and was interred in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park cemetery in Dallas.