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Margaret Osborne duPont dies at 94; Grand Slam tennis champion

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Tennis champion Margaret Osborne duPont, the winner of 37 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles from the 1940s into the 1960s, has died in Texas. She was 94.

DuPont died Wednesday in El Paso while in hospice care, Mary Skinner of VNA Hospice said. The cause was not given.

An Oregon native who grew up in San Francisco learning to play tennis on the public courts of Golden Gate Park, duPont won 31 doubles and mixed doubles titles at Grand Slam tournaments from 1941 to 1962. She also won the singles title at Wimbledon in 1947, the U.S. National Championship (now the U.S. Open) singles title from 1948 to 1950 and the French singles title in 1946 and 1949.

She might have won more Grand Slam tournament titles if World War II had not interrupted competition in Europe and if she had played in the Australian Open, the fourth major. Her husband, chemical company heir William duPont Jr., persuaded her to bypass the Australian event held annually in January, because he preferred to spend his winters vacationing in California.

The right-handed duPont played an aggressive game, serving and volleying, that suited her well for doubles. She paired particularly well with Louise Brough, winning 20 major doubles titles together.

DuPont won more titles at what is now the U.S. Open in singles, doubles and mixed doubles — 25 — than anyone else in history.

In 1967, five years after winning her last Grand Slam title, duPont was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

Tennis great Billie Jean King said in a statement that duPont had a "huge impact" on her career.

"She was one of my she-roes and was a great influence on my life both on and off the court," King said. "I hope today's players and any boy or girl who dreams of a career in tennis will go to the history books and read about Margaret because her career wasn't just about winning matches, it was also about mentoring others."

In a story last year in the El Paso Times, duPont spoke about her love of the sport.

"It was always just tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis," she said. "I'm not sure why I loved the game so much. But I did. I just did. And I always have."

Margaret Evelyn Osborne was born March 4, 1918, in Joseph, Ore., where her parents had a ranch. When the family moved to San Francisco, she played her first tennis at Golden Gate Park. Before long she was playing tennis on the national amateur circuit. During World War II, she worked in a shipbuilding plant in Sausalito.

She married in 1947 and the couple's son, William III, was born in 1952. But having a child didn't slow down her tennis competition. Her last Grand Slam title, mixed doubles at Wimbledon, came in 1962, when she was 44.

The couple divorced in 1964. Her former husband died a year later, then duPont moved to El Paso in 1966 and became involved in the horse racing business with her longtime friend and business partner Margaret Bloss. Her survivors include Bloss, her son and four grandchildren.

DuPont followed the modern game, but she remarked in the 2011 El Paso Times interview how much the game had changed.

"You hit the ball as hard as you can and, every once in a while, come to the net," she said. "Not too much thought involved. And, of course, the racket technology makes it just an entirely different sport."

news.obits@latimes.com

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