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Just as Pyle had planned, the hype produced an opening night crowd of 13,000 well-heeled New Yorkers attired in black tie and evening gowns, including Governor Al Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, golfers Walter Hagen and Glenna Collett, assorted Astors, Pells and Vanderbilts, even Bill Tilden, who was introduced in the manner of a former champion at a prize fight. It was probably, though not provably, the largest crowd ever to watch tennis in the U.S. up to that time and the first to attend a professional tennis exhibition anywhere.
The preliminary, so to speak, was Richards vs. Feret. Richards won 6-3, 6-4. Then Lenglen entered the arena as a spotlight played on her and the band struck up the Marseillaise. While the crowd did not sit on its hands, neither did it give her a standing ovation. After all, New York's last sight of Lenglen had been of a coughing, sobbing quitter being led off the court at Forest Hills. But this night, as she beat Browne 6-1, 6-1 in 39 minutes, Lenglen won them over.
The second night at the Garden, 6,000 fans watched Lenglen beat Browne 6-2, 6-2, and Ring Lardner wrote, "It is obvious to everyone, even the experts, that Miss Wills would never beat Miss Lenglen if they were ever to meet in years to come."
Late that night the troupe, 14 people in all, including two baseball clowns, Al Schacht and Nick Altrock, who enlivened the intervals between matches with their buffoonery, set off for Toronto by train. In the baggage car was a 2,000-pound collapsible tennis court made of cork and rubber and covered with green painted canvas, which would be laid down in arenas, armories and auditoriums in 40 cities in the next four months.
As long as the tour remained in the Northeast, the audiences, which ranged from 8,000 in Cleveland to 1,500 in Buffalo, were made up, for the most part, of those who had at least a nodding acquaintance with tennis.
"It was a strenuous tour," says Ann Kinsolving Brown. "We always traveled by train, often at night. There were no proper sleeping cars in the European style, only Pullman berths, each separated from the next by tightly drawn curtains. There was only one real compartment at the end of the carriage with proper washing facilities. This was reserved for Suzanne. She suffered from insomnia. One night she decided to switch all the pairs of shoes that had been put outside the couchettes for cleaning. Next morning there was pandemonium."
In Toronto, Lenglen's visit was a social extravaganza. Her every waking moment was taken up with wining, dining and tea dancing. Her skin was compared in print to Eleanora Duse's, her mouth to Pola Negri's, her personality to Sarah Bernhardt's, her artistry to Fritz Kreisler's, her greatness to—get this—Edmund Burke's!
In Baltimore 5,000 people were at the Fifth Regiment Armory to watch Lenglen wipe the floor with Browne, 6-0, 6-0. Billy Jacobs, now 71, who was the head ball boy for the matches, recalls, "It was very cold. In those days they didn't have too much in the way of proper heat, and she came out on the court with a white fur coat and she asked me to help her off with it.... It was a nice crowd. Any people who were interested in tennis at the time would be very happy to brave any bad weather to see it." However, Felix Morley, writing in the Baltimore Sun, saw things in a different light: "There is nothing monotonous about Suzanne but there will soon be distinct monotony to her massacres of Mary Browne.... Suzanne is far too good for her, or any other woman player."
Browne, who died in 1971, once told a reporter, "Time after time I have run games up to 4-0, but try as I would, I never could get the set over. She would just run me ragged while I was accumulating that lead and then, when I no longer had the stamina for court covering, her deadly accuracy in placing the ball finally began to tell and the points began to mount up for her."
Meanwhile, Lenglen was charming the socks off the press wherever she went. Her interviews were frequently conducted over breakfast in her hotel suite, where her costume ranged from black silk pajamas to a white satin negligee.