SI Vault
Walter Bingham
May 14, 1984
They didn't seem special at the time, but as the years pass I realize that indeed they were. I'm referring to two weeks of my life in September, 1950 when I came to know Maureen Connolly, whom many consider the greatest woman tennis player in history, and how I happened to beat her in a one-set match.
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May 14, 1984

Once, Long Ago In The Land Of Coop And Kelly, Little Mo Met Her Match

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Maureen won the junior portion of the tournament. There was a brief break before the senior event began and she suggested a rematch. She'd gotten permission to use a private court anytime she chose. It was right across the street and belonged to my old friend Coop.

Copper, it turned out, was away. His place was magnificent. It took several minutes of wandering through gardens and stands of citrus trees to reach the court. We laughed a lot on the way. Everything I said seemed funny to her.

Until we began to play. I tried to rekindle the humor as I went down the tubes. But she was all business, beating me 6-4, 6-3. Those passing shots were now an inch in. My serve was no longer a mystery to her. The minute it was over she was laughing again; she had held it in until then. Which, I suppose, is how it is with champions.

Three years later, in 1953, she had won those titles, including the Grand Slam. Four years later, while riding her horse at home in San Diego, she suffered a leg injury that ended her career. Ten years later she was living in Scottsdale, Ariz., having married Norman Brinker and given birth to two children. Nineteen years later, in 1969, she was dead of cancer.

One March when she was in Scottsdale, I was there, too, covering spring training. I phoned my sister and she gave me Maureen's number, but I never got around to calling. What a shame.

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