Sutton, May (1887–1975)

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Sutton, May (1887–1975)

American tennis champion who was the youngest national champion in history before Mo Connolly, and Wimbledon's first foreign champion. Name variations: May Sutton Bundy. Born May Godfray Sutton in Plymouth, England, on September 25, 1887 (some sources wrongly cite 1886); died on October 4, 1975, in Santa Monica, California; youngest of seven children of Adolphus Sutton (a British naval officer); sister of tennis players Ethel Sutton, Adele Sutton, Florence Sutton, and Violet Sutton; married Thomas Bundy (a tennis star), in 1912; children: four, three sons and daughter Dorothy Bundy Cheney (also a tennis player).

Won U.S. singles championship (1904 and 1907); won Wimbledon championship (1905 and 1907).

Once referred to as the grand dowager of tennis, May Sutton was born in 1887 in Plymouth, England, and came to the United States on her father's sailboat when she was six. She grew up in Pasadena, California, on a ten-acre ranch. Her other sisters—Ethel, Adele, Florence , and Violet Sutton —were all avid tennis players, battling each other daily on the family's clay court, prompting the later comment, "It takes a Sutton to beat a Sutton." Between 1899 and 1915, every singles title in the Southern California championships was claimed by a Sutton sister. Adele and Florence would play well into advanced age.

In 1900, at age 13, May won the Southern California Women's championship. Four years later, she won the Women's Singles at the U.S. National championships, without losing a set. At 17, she would hold the record as the youngest national champion in history until Maureen Connolly began her reign at age 16 in 1951. In 1905, Sutton became the first American to win Wimbledon, beating the ever-graceful British champion Dorothea Lambert Chambers on Centre Court. In 1906, in a repeat matchup, Chambers took the title. The following year, Sutton beat Chambers once more for another Wimbledon championship.

The intense, square-jawed Sutton was an aggressive opponent with a topspin forehand, writes Billie Jean King in You Have Come a Long Way: "May did not look like the former champions and she did not play like them, either. Instead of slicing the ball on her forehand side with an open racket face, May pounded it…. Unlike her eastern counterparts, [she] dressed for the game, not the show. Her dresses hung just above her ankles, and the sleeves of her oversize shirts (some thought they belonged to her father) were pushed up to the elbows to allow her freedom of movement. Although most women were wearing only loose-fitting corsets at that time, it is questionable whether May, at 160 pounds, wore any kind of corset at all."

In 1912, Sutton married National Men's Doubles champion Thomas Bundy. Their daughter Dorothy Bundy Cheney would become the first American woman to win the Australian championship (1938). After time off to raise a family, May Sutton returned to the game in 1921, still ranked 4th in the country. At age 41, she once again played at Wimbledon and made it to the singles semifinals before losing. Sutton turned professional in 1930 and devoted the next 34 years to teaching.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

Cheney, Dorothy Bundy (1917—)

American tennis player. Name variations: Dodo. Born in 1917; daughter of May Sutton (1887–1975) and Thomas Bundy (both tennis players).

Ranked sixth in the world in 1946, Dorothy Cheney won 11 straight Women's Hard Court Singles titles between 1957 and 1967 and has won over 170 national senior championships. At age 80, she received the Southern California Tennis Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

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