Obituary: Louise Brough Clapp / Tennis champion in the 1940s and 1950s

March 11, 1923 - Feb. 3, 2014

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Louise Brough Clapp, whose powerful serve-and-volley game propelled her to 35 championships in Grand Slam tennis tournaments of the 1940s and '50s and made her one of the most brilliant doubles players in women's tennis, died Monday in Vista, Calif. She was 90.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., announced her death.

A former teenage star in Southern California, Louise Brough, as she was known for most of her career, was ranked among America's top 10 women's tennis players 16 times by the U.S. Tennis Association and achieved the No. 1 national ranking in 1947. She was No. 1 in the world in 1955.

She won six singles titles, including four at Wimbledon, as well as 21 doubles championships and eight mixed-doubles titles in Grand Slam events, tying her with Doris Hart at No. 5 on the overall career list for both women and men.

In doubles play, Ms. Brough usually teamed with Margaret Osborne duPont, a longtime friend, and they were virtually unbeatable. Ms. Brough and duPont, who died in 2012, captured 12 women's doubles championships in the U.S. Nationals, the forerunner of the U.S. Open, winning every year at Forest Hills, in the New York City borough of Queens, from 1942 to 1950 and again from 1955 to 1957.

They also won five Wimbledon doubles titles and another three at the French championships. Ms. Brough's only Grand Slam women's doubles title without duPont came when she teamed with Ms. Hart at the 1950 Australian championships.

But in the quest for women's tennis supremacy, duPont was also a rival, as were Ms. Hart, Maureen Connolly, Althea Gibson, Shirley Fry and Pauline Betz.

Ms. Brough defeated duPont for the 1947 Nationals title in singles play, then lost to her in the 1948 final in a match that went to 28 games in the last set. Ms. Brough bested duPont twice in the Wimbledon singles final.

One of Ms. Brough's most memorable matches came in the second round of the Nationals in 1950, when she faced Gibson, who that year became the first black player allowed to enter the tournament. Gibson, who died in 2003, was ahead, 7-6, in the third set when a thunderstorm suspended play. Ms. Brough won the next day by taking three consecutive games, but that match marked the beginning of Gibson's rise to stardom.

Grand Slam champion Alice Marble marveled at Ms. Brough's twist serve, whose topspin overwhelmed her opponents.

Ms. Brough "streamlined it to match that of many of our men," Marble, who died in 1990, once wrote. "She gets an enormously high bounce on this serve, and women are notoriously feeble in their effort to return it, especially on the backhand."

Althea Louise Brough was born in Oklahoma City on March 11, 1923. Her family moved to Beverly Hills, Calif., when she was a child, and she learned to play on public courts. She vied with Gussie Moran (who would be best known for creating a sensation at Wimbledon in 1949 with her lace-trimmed panties) as the best teenage player of their era in Southern California and won the girls' national junior championships in 1940 and 1941.

Ms. Brough's Wimbledon singles titles came in 1948, 1949 and 1950 and again in 1955. Besides winning the U.S. singles title in 1947, she was runner-up five times.


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