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France

31 October 2020

Suzanne Lenglen Birth Centenary

France: Suzanne Lenglen Birth Centenary, 31 October 2020. Images from Phil-Ouest.

Technical Specifications:

Issued on Saturday, October 31, 2020
Illustrated obliteration 1st day PARIS (75) at Carré d’Encre, from 10am to 5pm, 13 bis rue des Mathurins, 75009 PARIS.
General sale on Monday, November 2, 2020
Face value: €1.16
Postage of priority letter up to 20g for France, Monaco, Andorra and postal sectors (army)
Stamp sheet – Serration : 13
Total dimensions: 60×25 mm
Color In: ochre-red
Printed in heliography 12 stamps per sheet
Issued to 500,000 copies

Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen (24 May 1899 – 4 July 1938) was a French tennis player. She was one of tennis’s biggest stars in the 1920s, building her popularity on her status as the youngest major champion in tennis history as well as her elegant style of play and exuberant personality. Often playing in front of sell-out crowds and appearing on the front pages of newspapers for her biggest matches, she is often regarded as the first female athlete to become a global sport celebrity. Lenglen was ranked No. 1 in the world from 1921 through 1926, winning 8 Grand Slam singles titles and 21 in total. She also won 10 World Championship titles across all disciplines. Dissatisfied with her lack of income, she forfeited her amateur status and became the first women’s tennis player to turn professional. Lenglen has been ranked by the Tennis Channel as the greatest women’s tennis player from the amateur era.

Born to wealthy parents in Paris, Lenglen began playing tennis at 11 years old. Coached primarily by her father Charles throughout her career, she quickly emerged as a child prodigy. She won her first major title at the 1914 World Hard Court Championships at the age of 15 with just four years of experience playing the sport. After World War I delayed her career for four years, Lenglen returned to competitive tennis in 1919 and won her Wimbledon debut in a classic final that finished as the second-longest in history by games played. Following the war, she was relatively unchallenged, only losing one match and ending her amateur career on a 179-match winning streak. She often won her matches by lopsided scores and never lost more than three games in a set in any of her 12 major singles finals apart from her first final at Wimbledon.

Overall, Lenglen won six Wimbledon singles titles, including five in a row from 1919 through 1923, and also won triple crowns at the first two open French Championships in 1925 and 1926. Her only post-war loss came in a retirement against Molla Mallory in her only amateur match in the United States. Lenglen also had prolific careers in doubles and mixed doubles. She was undefeated with her regular doubles partner Elizabeth Ryan, highlighted by another six titles at Wimbledon. One of Lenglen’s highest-profile matches towards the end of her career was her victory over Helen Wills in the Match of the Century, their only career meeting. Following a misunderstanding at Wimbledon in 1926, Lenglen abruptly retired from amateur tennis, signing to headline a five-month professional tour in the United States beginning later that year.

Lenglen was referred to by the French press as notre Suzanne, or “our Suzanne”, and was universally called La Divine, or “The Goddess”. She died in 1938 at the age of 39. Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second show court at the site of the French Open, is named in her honour. Lenglen was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978.

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