Shirley Fry Irvin, Tennis Star of the ’40s and ’50s, Is Dead at 94

Shirley Fry Irvin, a tennis participant who in the pre-Open period swept the singles and doubles titles in the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, died on Tuesday at her residence in Naples, Fla. She was 94.

Her loss of life was introduced by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the place she was inducted in 1970.

At a time when the gamers had been amateurs, the rackets had been made of wooden and the championship surfaces had been largely grass, Irvin (who was identified in her enjoying days as Shirley Fry) gained the French title (on clay) in 1951, the Wimbledon and United States titles in 1956 and the Australian title in 1957. She then retired from tennis to boost a household.

She was one of solely 10 ladies to win the singles titles at all 4 of these championships.

She additionally gained 12 ladies’s doubles championships in these 4 tournaments, the first 11 partnered with Doris Hart and the 12th with Althea Gibson. In the annual Wightman Cup competitors between the United States and Britain, she performed six years, successful 10 of her 12 matches. At 5-foot-5 and 125 kilos, she was the quickest participant of her day. But she apparently didn’t assume a lot of her abilities.

“Billie Jean King said I was her idol,” she advised The Orlando Sentinel in 2000. “That flatters me, because I really wasn’t that good of a player. I wasn’t a natural. I had athletic ability, I could run and I could concentrate. I excelled in running and concentration. I had no serve.”

Hart, her frequent doubles associate, admired Irvin’s tenacity. “Shirley was one of the best runners I ever saw play,” she stated in 2000. “She ran everything down.”

Shirley June Fry was born on June 30, 1927, in Akron, Ohio. She was an athletic baby, making an attempt hockey, badminton, baseball, archery, ice skating, swimming and operating in addition to tennis. In 1999, she advised The Akron Beacon Journal, “I wanted to play football, but once we got into junior high school it became the boys and the girls.”

Irvin waves her hat in 2004 as 50 Hall of Famers are launched throughout ceremonies celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. She was inducted in 1970.Credit…Victoria Arocho/Associated Press

Tennis gained out. At a Hall of Fame occasion in Newport, R.I., in 2004, she advised the broadcaster and columnist Bud Collins that she had begun touring alone to tournaments throughout the nation when she was 10.

“My parents would put me on a bus in Akron and off I’d go,” she stated. “Usually, someone met me at the other end, but I would go to Travelers Aid if there was a problem. It built self-reliance, and it was fun.”

When she was 11, she advised The New York Times, “I traveled by train to a tournament in Philadelphia, and then, at my father’s suggestion, went on to New York. I took a train to Penn Station and then the subway to Forest Hills, where he had made a reservation for me at the Forest Hills Inn. Then I walked all the way to the New York World’s Fair.”

In 1941, at 14, she performed in the United States novice championship, the youngest individual to compete there till Kathy Horvath (who was a month youthful) in 1979. In 1942, she turned the youngest United States novice quarterfinalist. For 13 consecutive years (1944-56), she ranked in the United States Top 10. She was No. 1 in 1956.

She discovered time to earn a level in human relations from Rollins College in Florida in 1949. After the 1954 season, she retired from tennis as a result of of a nagging elbow damage and bought a job as a clerk at The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, the place she made about 75 cents an hour. As that newspaper recalled in 1989, “One of her first duties as copy girl was sending the story of her own retirement down to the composing room.”

After a couple of months of leisure tennis, she entered two Florida tournaments in 1955 and gained each, in a single of which she beat Hart in the ultimate. That summer time, she stop her job and returned to full-time tennis.

The subsequent 12 months offered her crowning glory at Wimbledon, the place she beat Gibson in the quarterfinals, Louise Brough in the semifinals and Angela Buxton of England in a 50-minute ultimate.

“I play better when it doesn’t matter if I win or lose,” she advised The New York Times about her victory at Wimbledon, which got here on her ninth attempt. “After eight attempts at Wimbledon, I didn’t think I was going to win.” Her subsequent United States championship was her first at Forest Hills in 16 tries.

Shirley Fry in 1951 in a semifinal match in opposition to Louise Brough at Wimbledon. She gained, however misplaced in the finals to Doris Hart.Credit…Central Press/Hulton Archive, by way of Getty Images

She gained the Australian title in 1957 and then retired once more. That 12 months she married Karl Irvin, an American promoting government whom she had met when he was working in Australia and served as an umpire for some of her matches there.

“During one match,” she advised The Times, “I became furious over several of his calls and asked that he be removed and that he not work any more of my matches. Shortly after that, we were married and had four children within the space of five years.”

Her husband died in 1976. She is survived by their kids, Mark, Scott, Lori and Karen, and 12 grandchildren.

Irvin lived in West Hartford, Conn., for 35 years earlier than transferring to Florida. She taught tennis for 3 many years, performed in senior tournaments and, at 58, gained the United States clay-court championship for ladies 55 and older. When her knees gave out at 62, she stopped enjoying tennis in favor of golf, which had develop into her favourite sport.

She beloved golf, however she was not that good at it, typically taking pictures larger than 100.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” she stated in 2000. “You say, ‘She won the Wimbledon tennis tournament?’ Then you see me playing golf and say, ‘How could she?’”

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. Peter Keepnews contributed reporting.