Darlene Hard, a tough and determined California athlete with a game of power who has won 21 Grand Slam tennis championships as one of the last stars of the amateur era, has died on December 2 in Los Angeles. She is 85 years old.
Anne Marie McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, which initiated Hard in 1973, confirmed the death but did not give a cause.
Hard flourished in the late 1950s and early 60s, when competitive tennis was the domain of amateurs. Along with her, the game for girls features stars like Althea Gibson and a young Billie Jean King, Maria Bueno of Brazil and Margaret Court of Australia, all future Hall of Fame.
Among the Grand Slams, Hard has won the US amateur title 1960 and ’61 and the French title in 1960. She reached the US finals in 1958 and 1962 and reached the Wimbledon finals in 1957 and 1959. She also won 13 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles with eight opponents. various collaborations and five mixed doubles championships, often paired with Rod Laver.
She was ranked number 1 in the United States from 1960 to 1963, and number 2 in the world in 1960 and 61.
Gibson played with more power than many women before or since, and Bueno was noted for her grace, but Hard’s game was fierce – big serve, strong header and volley punishment – made her a winner. Standing 5 feet 5½ inches tall and weighing 140 pounds, her main success has been on the grass, where three of the four Grand Slam tournaments have taken place. (The Open Solution was and still is on clay).
Hard was unusually outspoken at a time when most top players lacked the assertiveness that some display today. She once said of dominating Australian tennis officials: “They see you not as a tennis player but as a puppet. Between tournaments, I wasn’t asked to play in the exhibits – I was asked to play in those tournaments. It’s not ‘Miss Hard, do you mind playing?’ It was “Miss Hard, you will play.”
Hard belonged to the four winners of the Wightman Cup, the annual competition between British and American tennis players. After that, she also showed her independent thinking, much to the annoyance of the captain of the American team, Margaret Osborne duPont.
DuPont called Hard a “disruptive factor” in an official 1962 report. “She was determined to train her way instead of following the wishes of the captain and other team members,” duPont speak.
Hard entered a match that made tennis history on July 6, 1957, losing in the final that made Gibson First African American woman to win Wimbledon (equal to the score of 6-3, 6-2). Before the match, it was customary for both players to bow before the young Queen Elizabeth II. Then the queen talked to them for a few minutes. After that, Gibson, according to protocol, withdrew. However, an overly infatuated Hard, in one raised eyebrows in violation of etiquette, turned his back on the queen and skipped the dressing room.
Darlene Ruth Hard was born on January 6, 1936 in Los Angeles and raised in nearby Montebello, California. Her father introduced her to football, basketball, baseball, and softball. Her mother, a skilled amateur tennis player, taught her to play tennis on public courts.
After graduating from high school, Hard spent four years in tennis. She then said, “I decided I didn’t want tennis for the rest of my life, so I went to college. I want to be in pediatrics. I guess I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.”
She attended Pomona College in California and in 1958 won her first women’s intercollegiate tennis championship. She graduated in 1961.
While at Pomona, Hard had a meeting with a 13-year-old player who showed some promise: Billie Jean King.
“Darlene Hard has had a huge influence on my career, as an athlete, teammate and friend,” said King. was quoted saying on the Hall of Fame website. The two went on to play doubles together at the first League Cup, in 1963, the premier international women’s team tennis competition. King – for whom the trophy is now named – recalls how they overcame two point games to win the match, a highlight of both of their careers, she said.
Hard returned to tennis after graduating and worked as a waiter between tournaments. In 1964, with just $400 in the bank, she turned pro and played on a tour of South Africa with Bueno. She soon began attending tennis school in the Los Angeles area, dropping out of tournament play.
But in 1969, a year after professional tennis players were accepted into major tournaments, She briefly returned to the international competition, teamed up with Françoise Dürr to hit doubles at the US Open. Losing 0-6, 0-2 in the final, they rose to claim the title, 0–6, 6–3, 6–4.
Hard returned to teaching tennis and owned two tennis stores. One of her tennis students, the director of student publishing at the University of Southern California, offered her a job in the office in 1981. Hard remained there for nearly 40 years.
Information about her survivors was not immediately available.
In “We Have a Long Way: The Story of Women’s Tennis” (1988), which King wrote with Cynthia Starr, Hard described her dedication to the sport.
“I don’t do it for the money,” she said. “I am the last of the amateurs. I won Forest Hills and I have a plane ticket from New York to Los Angeles. Oh wow. ” She continued: “But we still go for our title. We went for glory. I was happy. I love it. I love tennis. “
Frank Litsky, a longtime sports journalist for The Times, passed away in 2018. Daniel J. Wakin and Jordan Allen contributed reporting.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/08/sports/tennis/darlene-hard-dead.html Darlene The tough, passionate tennis star before the pro era, dies at 85