Doris Hart dies at 89; tennis great won 3 Wimbledon titles in 1 day

Doris Hart dies at 89; tennis great won 3 Wimbledon titles in 1 day
Doris Hart competesin a singles tennis match at Wimbledon in London in June 1951, when she won three Wimbledon titles in a single day. Hart, who won each Grand Slam tournament at least once, died Friday, May 29, 2015, at her Miami area home. (Leslie Priest / AP)

Tennis great Doris Hart, who won each Grand Slam tournament at least once, and once won three Wimbledon titles in a single day, died Friday at her home in Coral Gables, Fla. She was 89.

Her death was announced by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A cause was not disclosed.


Hart, known for her drop shot mastery, won titles in 1954-55 at the U.S. Championships, which later became the U.S. Open.

She won the French Open twice and Wimbledon and the Australian Open once each. She also totaled 29 major doubles titles and ranked No. 1 in the world in 1951.

That year, Hart had her finest tournament at Wimbledon, when she won three titles. She defeated friend Shirley Fry in singles before they joined forces to win women's doubles. She then teamed with Frank Sedgman to win mixed doubles.

All three matches were on the same day because of rain delays.

Success didn't come without adversity.

Hart suffered an infection as a child that was serious enough for doctors to consider amputating her right leg. However, she started playing tennis at 6 and won 35 professional titles.

"Everybody thought she had polio, because she was a little bowlegged," Fry told the Associated Press in 2004. "For her to do what she did was special because she couldn't run as well as other people. And yet she had the smarts."

Hart was born June 20, 1925, in St. Louis and grew up in Coral Gables. She attended the University of Miami, a few miles from where she lived in recent years.

As a player, her best weapon was the drop shot, which she practiced endlessly as a youngster. She would hit it even from behind the baseline, floating winners just over the net.

"I'd be criticized," she told The Associated Press in 2004. "I can remember losing matches, and people would come up to me and say, `Girl, do you know how many times you missed that drop shot? If you hadn't done that, blah blah blah.' And I'd say, `Thank you.' But I knew I had to do it. That's what would win for me."

After she retired in 1955, she worked as a teaching pro for 28 years at a club in Pompano Beach, but neck trouble forced her to give up tennis in 1993.

Later in life, she shunned the pro tennis scene, though she did watch matches on television. In 2004, watching the U.S. Open in her apartment, Hart cringed at Serena Williams' clothing ensemble, marveled at the smooth shot-making of Roger Federer and said she disliked the way most players try to hit everything so hard.

"There's really not much strategy involved," she says. "It's not that appealing to watch, I don't think."

Wine writes for the Associated Press.