On this day in 1953, Californian tennis star Maureen Connolly defeats Doris Hart of Florida to win the U.S. Open 6-2, 6-4 and becomes the first woman ever to win the “Grand Slam” of tennis, capturing all four major championships in the same year.
The 1953 U.S. Open final was a rematch of the previous year’s final, in which the then 17-year-old Connolly had defeated Hart, who was 28, 6-3, 7-5. The young star’s game continued to improve, and she started the 1953 season off with a win in the Australian Open over Julie Sampson (6-3, 6-2). Connolly and Hart then met in the 1953 French Open final, in which Connolly again took the match, 6-2, 6-4. On the notoriously fast grass surface at that year’s Wimbledon, Connolly’s quickness paid off in another hard-fought match against Hart and she prevailed 8-6, 7-5.
When she reached the finals at the 1953 U.S. Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, Connolly showed a focus beyond her years and her trademark speed on the court was complemented by more powerful strokes than she’d had in her arsenal the previous year. Hart tried every shot at her disposal, but Connolly was able to power back Hart’s long forehands and catch up to her spin shots and drop shots with her outstanding foot speed. Connolly easily took the first set 6-2 and was up 5-2 in the second before faltering as she served on match point. Hart battled back to make the set 5-4 before Connolly was finally able to close it out. The match took just 43 minutes.
Connolly was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for three consecutive years, 1951 to 1953. Her tennis career was tragically ended when her right leg was crushed in a horse-riding accident when she was just 19 years old.