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Louise Brough

tennis player
Full name: Althea Louise Brough
Alias: Mrs A.T.Clapp
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Class of HOF
Bio Soft-spoken, understated yet unmistakably proud, Louise Brough was one of the foremost achievers in women’s tennis across the first half of the twentieth century. With an extraordinary gift for the volley and a natural inclination to attack, during her career between 1939 and 1959, she won six Grand Slam singles titles as well as numerous doubles and mixed doubles titles. At the end of the 1955 tennis season, Lance Tingay of the London Daily Telegraph ranked her world No. 1 for the year.

Her partnership with Margaret Osborne duPont was among the most successful in the history of the women’s game. They secured 20 Grand Slam championships, winning an astonishing nine in a row at the U.S. Championships.

Her family moved to Beverly Hills, California when she was four years old. She learned to play tennis on the public courts at Roxbury Park and was coached by Dick Skeen. In 1940 and 1941, she won the U.S. Girls' Championships.

In women's doubles, Brough never failed to reach the quarterfinals at the 32 Grand Slam tournaments she played during her career. She reached the semifinals 29 times and the final 28 times. She usually teamed with her longtime friend Margaret Osborne duPont. They won their first U. S. doubles title as a team at the 1942 U.S. National Championships. That was the first of nine consecutive doubles titles at the U. S. national tournament. This was the longest championship run in history in any event at any Grand Slam tournament. Their attempt at a tenth consecutive title was unsuccessful because Osborne duPont was injured and unable to play the 1951 U.S. Nationals. Osborne duPont also did not play there in 1952. In 1953, their winning streak as a team at the U.S. Nationals reached 42 before they lost to Doris Hart and Shirley Fry in the final, 6–2, 7–9, 9–7. Their career record as a team at the U.S. National Championships was 58–2, winning twelve of the 14 times they entered the tournament and losing only 12 sets in those 60 matches. They played Wimbledon as a team seven times, winning five titles and compiling a 33–2 record. At the French International Championships, they won three titles and had a 14–1 record. Combining their record at these three Grand Slam tournaments, they had a win-loss record of 105–5, 95.45 percent and won 20 titles out of 25 attempts.

In singles, Brough won the U.S. title in 1947 after being the runner-up in 1942 and 1943. Although she appeared in three more singles finals, this would remain her only U.S. singles title. In 1948, she had a match point at 6–5 in the third set against duPont. She also had three match points in the 1954 final against Doris Hart, the first at 5–4 in the third set and two more at 6–5 in that set.

At Wimbledon, Brough won three consecutive singles titles from 1948 through 1950, with her fourth and last title coming in 1955. From 1946 through 1955, she appeared in seven Wimbledon singles finals. She also appeared in 21 of the 30 finals contested at Wimbledon in singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles during those ten years. In 1948 and 1950, she won the rare "triple" at Wimbledon, sweeping the singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles titles. Alongside duPont, she won five doubles titles there. She also won four mixed doubles titles there with partners Tom Brown, John Bromwich, and Eric Sturgess.

Brough entered the Australian National Championships only once, in 1950, when she won the singles and women's doubles titles. She played the French International Championships four times between 1946 and 1950, with her best result in singles being the semifinals. The slow clay courts in Paris were not suitable for her attacking style of play. However, she won women's doubles titles there in 1946, 1947, and 1949.

Brough came very close in 1950 to win a calendar-year Grand Slam in women's doubles. She had already won the title at the Australian Championships with Doris Hart. And she would go on to win the titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships, both with Osborne duPont. At the French International Championships, Brough and Osborne duPont reached the final and were heavy favourites to defeat Hart and Shirley Fry. But the underdogs prevailed, 1–6, 7–5, 6–2. This was Brough's first defeat in a Grand Slam women's doubles match since the 1947 Wimbledon final.

In summary, Brough won 13 titles at Wimbledon, 17 titles at the U.S. National Championships, three titles at the French International Championships, and two titles at the Australian National Championships. Her 35 Grand Slam titles ties her with Doris Hart for fifth on the all-time list, behind only Margaret Smith Court, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, and Margaret Osborne duPont.

According to John Olliff and Lance Tingay of the London Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Brough was ranked in the world top 10 from 1946 through 1957 (no rankings issued from 1940 through 1945), reaching a career-high of world No. 1 in 1955. She was included in the year-end top 10 rankings issued by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) from 1941 through 1950 and from 1952 through 1957. She was the top-ranked US player in 1947. Her 16 years in the USLTA top 10 put her behind only Billie Jean King (18 years) and Chris Evert (19 years).

Bud Collins regarded her as one of the great volleyers in history. He wrote, "A willowy blonde, 5-foot-71/2, she was quiet but the killer in the left court when at play alongside duPont." Beside her aggressive volleys, her strengths were her backhand and a paralysing American twist serve with a high kick. Alice Marble wrote about Brough's serve, "She gets an enormously high bounce on this serve, and women are notoriously feeble in their effort to return it, especially on the backhand."

Brough married Pasadena dentist Dr Alan Clapp on August 9, 1958, and retired from tennis competitions one year later. She taught juniors in California for the following 20 years. She was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967. Occasionally she played in local tournaments in California and senior tournaments, winning the doubles title at the U.S. Hard Court Senior Championships alongside Barbara Green Weigandt in 1971 and 1975. Her husband died in 1999. She died at her home in Vista, California, on February 3, 2014, at the age of 90 and left no children.
Tournament AO RG W US Win-Loss
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