Wednesday 24 September 2014

Birthday Girl

Today we should remember England's greatest-ever all-round sportswoman, Charlotte 'Lottie' Dod, born on this day in 1871. A product of that late Victorian golden age when families who had made a pile in industry or commerce could devote acres of their time purely to leisure pursuits, Lottie, who never had to work in her life, never married and lived for many years with her equally sporty brother, was a sporting natural. She achieved a high standard in golf (British amateur champion), field hockey (English national team), archery (Olympic silver), skating, toboggan (Cresta Run) and mountaineering. But her main sport was lawn tennis (formerly known as Sphairistike), in which she won the Wimbledon Ladies' Singles five times, the first time at the age of 15 (she remains the youngest-ever women's singles winner). On that occasion she defeated the defending champion Blanche Bingley 6-2, 6-0, the second set reportedly lasting just ten minutes - and yet, like many female players of her time, she served underhand and rarely employed such fiendish devices as spin. How do you serve an ace underhand and unspun? It's hard to imagine...
 Lottie worked for the Red Cross in the Great War, but to her chagrin was not allowed to travel to the front because of sciatica (her Wimbledon days were long over). She lived a long and happy life, attending Wimbledon every year, and died in a nursing home in Hampshire at the age of 88 - while in bed listening to the tennis on the radio.

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