Wimbledon champion visits Blind Veterans UK

29 June 2017 08:00

Wimbledon begins next week and we remember a visit from a tennis superstar of the past. France’s Suzanne Lenglen came to see us, at the height of her fame, in 1921.

Black and white photo of former Wimbledon champion Suzanne Lenglen with 2 blind veterans inspecting tennis netting made by blind veterans

Suzanne is pictured here with two of our blind veterans and a tennis net they had made. Netting was one of the activities which was popular with the men, enjoyed both as a hobby and as an opportunity for them to produce items which could be sold in order to help support themselves.

The report of Suzanne’s visit in our magazine, the Review, says that she promised to do her best to encourage sales of the nets in France. The lively and cheerful company of the blind veterans obviously made an impression on her as she is quoted as saying: 

"I am very impressed with the happiness of the men. It would, you think, make you so sad to be without sight, and is it not wonderful that although the sight is not there the intelligence shines still more brightly?"

Suzanne was presented with a tray, made by the men earlier that day, as a memento of her visit to us.

With her short skirts, fur coats, bob haircut and trademark bandana, the flamboyant Suzanne was the darling of French society. Tennis had never known anyone quite like Suzanne Lenglen who transformed the women's game from a gentle housewives' pastime into a sport where the men, begrudgingly, had to take a back seat.

1920 was a very good year for Suzanne with a clean sweep in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.  In 1925 she dropped just 5 games in 5 matches.  Her record was astonishing winning 15 titles, 6 singles, 6 doubles and 3 mixed doubles.  She won 91 of her 94 matches.

In 1926 Queen Mary was attending Wimbledon and Suzanne arrived late, due to a mix up in the scheduling.  Next day she was booed on court and promptly withdrew, never playing at Wimbledon again.

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page for our #ThrowbackThursdays.