Ted Tinling, the English tennis couturier who once shocked the Establishment with his racy designs and later earned notoriety as the pre-eminent historian of women’s tennis, has died in his sleep in Cambridge, England. He was 79.
Tinling was in poor health for several months because of respiratory problems and left his home in Philadelphia to see his English physician. His death during the night was announced Wednesday morning. Tinling was to have been honored at Wimbledon on June 23, which would have been his 80th birthday.
“Ted was such an integral part of the tennis community, it’s hard to imagine it without him,” Martina Navratilova said. “He was one of a kind, and he will be missed. Wimbledon will not be the same without him.”
It was at Wimbledon that Tinling had his greatest impact. The former personal umpire of the legendary French star, Suzanne Lenglen, in the 1920s, Tinling was hired by the All England Club in 1929 to escort players on and off Centre Court and Court One.
Tinling coupled his love of tennis with fashion when he formed his own couture business in London in 1931. When Gertrude (Gussy) Moran wore lace tennis panties of Tinling’s design at Wimbledon in 1949, the All England Club banned him. Eventually, Tinling and Wimbledon made up.
In 1970, the first year of the women’s professional tour, Tinling was asked to serve as the name designer for the newly formed Virginia Slims series. He designed more than 1,000 individual outfits for players on the tour, including one of sequins and rhinestones that Billie Jean King wore in her “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs in 1973.
Tinling acted as liaison for both the Virginia Slims and the Women’s International Tennis Assn., and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1986. There will be a memorial service at Wimbledon. He is survived by a godson, Ted Tinling Jr.
“Ted has been everything in the sport of tennis,” King said. “He lived through so much history, he was a walking encyclopedia. He was always on the cutting edge.”