Judy Looks Back
Published January 18, 2011 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - The early Virginia Slims days produced an array of colorful anecdotes. Judy Dalton, one of two Australian members of the Original Nine and a regular from the start of the first circuit in 1971, recalls three of her favorite memories of those heady days:
"We flew from Los Angeles, where the temperature was something like 100 degrees, into Milwaukee, where the temperature that night was minus 30 degrees. Some of the girls had only on light dresses on the flight, and you can imagine what a shock it was to go out into the air at the airport at Milwaukee - heavens, don't think I have ever been so cold. Frankie Durr and I stayed with these wonderful people, but we had to be dug out the next day and only just managed to get to the courts. I remained friends with them until they died but still am in touch with their daughter, which is lovely.
"From playing in Milwaukee we had a contact in Newport, and discovered that this person was the Countess Szapary - maiden name Vanderbilt - and that we would be staying at the Breakers mansion during the tournament. The house that was used for the film High Society starring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, and Frankie and I had a room where we could practice our serves, it was so big! We attended a ball there and it was so grand... when we walked down the staircase in our long dresses we felt like royalty. And they were the nicest people you could meet. I went and had tea with Jackie Kennedy's mother and her friends, which was a very interesting experience. Frankie and I even played a match with 'Breakers' on the back of our windbreakers.
"In Fort Lauderdale I stayed with a specialist and his nurse wife. They had a boat, so one day when we weren't playing tennis they took us across to a little island on the key about half an hour from their place. It was covered with coconut trees, and the husband said, "I'll look for a good coconut that we can eat." Wonderful, I thought. But when he opened it with a small machete, a putrid, rancid, phlegm-like liquid spurted all over me. It took me four days to get my hair really clean of the foul-smelling liquid and I had to throw my clothes out… I didn't mind coconut up to that point, but never again! The tournament was very good for me, though, and it was a very nice venue. I am hoping this year I may be able to visit the wife after something like 25 years."
Dalton (née Tegart) was 32 when she was runner-up to Rosie Casals at the Virginia Slims Invitation in Houston in 1970. During her career she won nine Grand Slam doubles titles, achieving the 'Career Grand Slam'. In singles, she reached the Wimbledon final in 1968, falling to Billie Jean King, 97 75. From Wimbledon in 1967 until her retirement (aged 40) after the 1977 Australian Open, Dalton reached at least the quarters in 10 of the 20 Slams played. She also built an 18-4 record in Federation Cup, and was a member of two victorious squads. Today she is president of Australia's Fed Cup Foundation.