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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alice Marble (b. September 28, 1913 in Beckwourth, California – d. December 13, 1990 in Palm Springs, California) was a World No. 1 American tennis player who won 18 Grand Slam championships from 1936 through 1940. Five of those championships were in singles, six were in women's doubles, and seven were in mixed doubles.


Early life

Born in the small town of Beckwourth, Marble moved with her family at the age of five to San Francisco. A tomboy, she excelled in many sports such as baseball, but her brother persuaded her to try a more lady-like sport, tennis, which she quickly honed while playing in Golden Gate Park. She suffered a setback at age fifteen when she was raped by a stranger, but she overcame the trauma and won several California junior tournaments.

Tennis career

The first lady to serve and volley, the right-handed Marble was again challenged in 1934 after collapsing during a match at the French Championships. Doctors diagnosed her with pleurisy and tuberculosis. She took an extended rest.

At the U.S. Championships, Marble won the singles title in 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1940. She won the women's doubles title with Sarah Palfrey Cooke in 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1940. And she won the mixed doubles title in 1936 (with Gene Mako), 1938 (with Don Budge), 1939 (with Harry Hopman), and 1940 (with Bobby Riggs).

At Wimbledon, Marble won the singles title in 1939. She won the women's doubles title with Cooke in 1938 and 1939. And she won the mixed doubles title in 1937 (with Budge), 1938 (with Budge), and 1939 (with Riggs).

In Wightman Cup competition, Marble lost only one singles and one doubles match during the years she competed (1933 and 1937 through 1940).

According to Wallis Myers and John Olliff of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Marble was ranked in the world top ten from 1936 through 1939 (no rankings issued from 1940 through 1945), reaching a career high in those rankings of World No. 1 in 1939.[1] Marble was included in the year-end top ten rankings issued by the United States Lawn Tennis Association in 1932, 1933, and from 1936 through 1940. She was the top-ranked U.S. player from 1936 through 1940.[2]

Marble was the Associated Press Athlete of the Year in 1939 and 1940.

After capping a stellar amateur career in 1940, Marble turned professional and earned a great sum of money travelling around playing exhibition tournaments.

Through illness and victory, Marble had the support of her coach and mentor, Eleanor "Teach" Tennant, who changed her technique and influenced her life.


For a brief time after retirement, she worked on the editorial advisory board of DC Comics and was credited as an associate editor on Wonder Woman. She created the "Wonder Women of History" feature for the comics, which told the stories of prominent women of history in comic form.

During World War II, Marble was married to Joe Crowley, a pilot, who was killed in action over Germany. Only days before his death, she miscarried their child following a car accident. After an attempt to kill herself, she recuperated and in 1945 agreed to spy for U.S. intelligence. Her mission involved renewing contact with a former lover, a Swiss banker, and obtaining Nazi financial data. The operation ended when a Nazi agent shot her in the back. She was extracted and recovered from her injury. Few details of the operation ever emerged because of her silence. The story was told only after her death when Courting Danger ISBN 0-312-92813-0, a second autobiography, was published.

Marble greatly contributed to the desegregation of American tennis by writing an editorial in support of Althea Gibson for the July 1, 1950 issue of American Lawn Tennis Magazine. The article read, in part, "Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it's also time we acted a little more like gentle-people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites.... If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it's only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts." Marble said that if Gibson were not given the opportunity to compete, "then there is an ineradicable mark against a game to which I have devoted most of my life, and I would be bitterly ashamed." Gibson, age 23, was given entry into the 1950 U.S. Championships, becoming the first African-American player, man or woman, to compete in a Grand Slam event.

In 1964, Marble was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Weakened by pernicious anaemia, Marble died at a hospital in Palm Springs, California.

Alice Marble Tennis Courts, providing a breathtaking view of the Pacific ocean and the Golden Gate bridge from the top of Russian Hill in San Francisco, is named in honor of her.

Grand Slam singles finals


Wins (5)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1936 U.S. Championships Flag of the United States.svg Helen Hull Jacobs 4–6, 6–3, 6–2
1938 U.S. Championships (2) Flag of Australia.svg Nancye Wynne Bolton 6–0, 6–3
1939 Wimbledon Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Kay Stammers Bullitt 6–2, 6–0
1939 U.S. Championships (3) Flag of the United States.svg Helen Hull Jacobs 6–0, 8-10, 6–4
1940 U.S. Championships (4) Flag of the United States.svg Helen Hull Jacobs 6–2, 6–3

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline

Tournament 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 Career SR
Australia A A A A A A A A A A 0 / 0
France A A A 2R A A A A A NH 0 / 1
Wimbledon A A A A A A SF SF W NH 1 / 3
United States 1R 3R QF A A W QF W W W 4 / 8
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 0 1 / 1 0 / 2 1 / 2 2 / 2 1 / 1 5 / 12

NH = tournament not held.

A = did not participate in the tournament.

SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.

See also


  1. ^ Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York, N.Y: New Chapter Press. pp. 695, 702. ISBN 0-942257-41-3.  
  2. ^ United States Tennis Association (1988). 1988 Official USTA Tennis Yearbook. Lynn, Massachusetts: H.O. Zimman, Inc.. p. 260.  


  • Leary, Kevin. (December 14, 1990). "Ex-Tennis Champ Alice Marble". San Francisco Chronicle, p. B7.
  • Marble, Alice with Dale Leatherman. Courting Danger. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1991.
  • Rogers, Thomas. (December 14, 1990). "Alice Marble, 77, Top U.S. Tennis Star of 1930s". New York Times, p. D23.
  • Yardley, Jonathan. (June 12, 1991). "Sizzling Serves" Washington Post, p. F2.


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