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Maureen Connolly

Maureen Connolly
File:Maureen Connolly 1953.jpg
Maureen Connolly in 1953
Full name Maureen Catherine Connolly Brinker
Country 23x15px United States
Born (1934-09-17)September 17, 1934
San Diego, California, U.S.
Died June 21, 1969(1969-06-21) (aged 34)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Height Script error: No such module "convert".[1]
Turned pro amateur
Retired February 1955 (age 20)[2]
Plays Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
College Southern Methodist University
Int. Tennis HoF 1968 (member page)
Official website
Career record {{#property:P564}}
Highest ranking No. 1 (1952)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (1953)
French Open W (1953, 1954)
Wimbledon W (1952, 1953, 1954)
US Open W (1951, 1952, 1953)
Career record {{#property:P555}}
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open W (1953)
French Open W (1954)
Wimbledon F (1952, 1953)
US Open F (1952)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
Australian Open F (1953)
French Open W (1954)
Wimbledon SF (1954)
Team competitions
Wightman Cup (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954)

Maureen Catherine Connolly Brinker (September 17, 1934 – June 21, 1969) known as "Little Mo", was an American tennis player, the winner of nine Grand Slam singles titles in the early 1950s. In 1953, she became the first woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments during the same calendar year. The following year, a horseback riding accident injured her right leg and ended her competitive tennis career at age 19.

Early years

Maureen was born in San Diego, California on September 17, 1934, the first child of Martin and Jessamine Connolly.[3] Her parents divorced when she was three years old and she was raised by her mother and an aunt.[4] She loved horseback riding as a child, but her mother was unable to pay the cost of riding lessons. So, she took up the game of tennis. Connolly's tennis career began at the age of 10 on the municipal courts of San Diego. Her first coach, Wilbur Folsom, encouraged her to switch from a left-handed grip to right and she soon became a baseline specialist with tremendous power, accuracy, and a strong backhand. When she was eleven, Maureen was dubbed “Little Mo” by San Diego sportswriter Nelson Fisher who compared the power of her forehand and backhand to the firepower of the USS Missouri, known colloquially as “Big Mo”.[3][5] In 1948 Folsom was replaced as her coach by Eleanor Tennant who had previously coached Alice Marble and Bobby Riggs, both Wimbledon and U.S. singles champion.[3] At age 14, she won 56 consecutive matches and the following year became the youngest ever to win the U.S. national championship for girls 18 and under.

Playing career

At the 1951 U.S. Championships, the 16-year-old Connolly defeated Shirley Fry to become, at that time, the youngest ever to win America's most prestigious tennis tournament.[1][6] Her coach at the time was Eleanor Tennant.[7]

Connolly won Wimbledon and successfully defended her U.S. title in 1952.[8] For the 1953 season, she hired a new coach, the Australian Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman, and entered all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time. She defeated Julie Sampson Haywood in the Australian Championships final and Doris Hart in the finals of the French Championships, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Championships to become the first woman, and only the second tennis player after Don Budge, to win the world's four major titles in the same year, commonly known as a "Grand Slam".[9] She lost only one set in those four tournaments.[10]

In 1954, Connolly did not defend her title at the Australian Championships but successfully defended her French and Wimbledon championships. Two weeks after she won her third straight Wimbledon title, she was horseback riding in San Diego on July 20. A passing cement mixer truck frightened her horse, Colonel Merryboy, which pinned Connolly between the horse and truck. She was thrown off and suffered a compound fracture to her right fibula, which ultimately ended her tennis career at age 19.[11] She had intended to become professional after the 1954 U.S. National Championships.[12] She officially retired from tennis in February 1955.[2][5]

Connolly won the last nine Grand Slam singles tournaments she played, including 50 consecutive singles matches. During her Wightman Cup career from 1951 through 1954, she won all seven of her singles matches. Connolly's achievements made her the darling of the media and one of the most popular personalities in the U.S.; she was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press for three straight years, from 1951 through 1953.[13] However, Connolly recognized the downside of her tennis career, saying, “I have always believed greatness on a tennis court was my destiny, a dark destiny, at times, where the court became my secret jungle and I a lonely, fear-stricken hunter. I was a strange little girl armed with hate, fear, and a Golden Racket.”[14]

In 1957 she published an autobiography titled Forehand Drive.[15]


In June 1955, Connolly married Norman Brinker, a member of the 1952 Olympic equestrian team for the United States, who shared her love of horses.[16] They had two daughters, Cindy and Brenda,[11] and she remained partially involved in tennis, acting as a correspondent for some U.S. and British newspapers at major U.S. tennis tournaments. Connolly was a coach for the British Wightman Cup team during its visits to the U.S. In Texas, where the couple lived, and established the "Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation" to promote junior tennis.[11]


In 1966, Connolly Brinker was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.[17] On June 4, 1969, she underwent a third operation for a stomach tumor at Baylor Hospital in Dallas.[11] She died several weeks later on June 21 and was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.[18]


According to John Olliff and Lance Tingay of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Connolly Brinker was ranked in the world top ten from 1951 through 1954, reaching a career high of World No. 1 in those rankings from 1952 through 1954.[19] Connolly was included in the year-end top ten rankings issued by the United States Lawn Tennis Association from 1950 through 1953. She was the top ranked U.S. player from 1951 through 1953.[20]

Connolly Brinker was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969 and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1956, she was also inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honoring San Diego's finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.[21] Since 1973 the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy is played, a yearly competition between the best female tennis players age 18 and younger from the United States and Great Britain.[22][23]

Brinker Elementary School in Plano, Texas is named in honor of her. The school was dedicated on November 20, 1988.[24]

Connolly Brinker was portrayed by Glynnis O'Connor in Little Mo, a made-for-television biographical film which first aired on September 5, 1978 on NBC.[25][26]

A few decades later Monica Seles (who started her career as an enfant prodige, not having yet reached her full height) was also nicknamed "Little Mo" (Serbian: Mala Mo), possibly as a reference to Maureen Connolly. [27]

Grand Slam finals

Singles: 9 (9 titles, 0 runners-up)

Result Year Tournament Opponent in final Score
Winner 1951 U.S. Championships 23x15px Shirley Fry 6–3, 1–6, 6–4
Winner 1952 Wimbledon 23x15px Louise Brough 6–4, 6–3
Winner 1952 U.S. Championships (2) 23x15px Doris Hart 6–3, 7–5
Winner 1953 Australian Championships 23x15px Julia Sampson 6–3, 6–2
Winner 1953 French Championships 23x15px Doris Hart 6–2, 6–4
Winner 1953 Wimbledon (2) 23x15px Doris Hart 8–6, 7–5
Winner 1953 U.S. Championships (3) 23x15px Doris Hart 6–2, 6–4
Winner 1954 French Championships (2) 23x15px Ginette Bucaille 6–4, 6–1
Winner 1954 Wimbledon (3) 25px Louise Brough 6–2, 7–5

Doubles: 6 (2 titles, 4 runners-up)

Result Year Tournament Partner Opponents in final Score
Runner-up 1952 Wimbledon 23x15px Louise Brough Clapp 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Shirley Fry
6–8, 3–6
Runner-up 1952 U.S. Championships 23x15px Louise Brough Clapp 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Shirley Fry
8–10, 4–6
Winner 1953 Australian Championships 23x15px Julia Sampson 23x15px Beryl Penrose
23x15px Mary Bevis Hawton
6–4, 6–2
Runner-up 1953 French Championships 23x15px Julia Sampson 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Shirley Fry
4–6, 3–6
Runner-up 1953 Wimbledon 23x15px Julia Sampson 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Shirley Fry
0–6, 0–6
Winner 1954 French Championships 23x15px Nell Hall Hopman 23x15px Maude Galtier
23x15px Suzanne Schmitt
7–5, 4–6, 6–0

Mixed doubles: 3 (1 title, 2 runners-up)

Result Year Tournament Partner Opponents in final Score
Runner-up 1953 Australian Championships 23x15px Hamilton Richardson 23x15px Julia Sampson
23x15px Rex Hartwig
4–6, 3–6
Runner-up 1953 French Championships 23x15px Mervyn Rose 23x15px Doris Hart
23x15px Vic Seixas
6–4, 4–6, 0–6
Winner 1954 French Championships 23x15px Lew Hoad 23x15px Jacqueline Patorni
23x15px Rex Hartwig
6–4, 6–3

Grand Slam singles tournament timelines

Tournament 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 Career
Australian Championships A A A A W A 1 / 1 5–0
French Championships A A A A W W 2 / 2 10–0
Wimbledon A A A W W W 3 / 3 18–0
U.S. Championships 2R 2R W W W A 3 / 5 20–2
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 1 / 1 2 / 2 4 / 4 2 / 2 9 / 11 53–2

NH = tournament not held.
R = tournament restricted to French nationals and held under German occupation.
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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Maureen Connolly wins amateur tennis crown". Wilmington (NC) Morning Star. United Press. September 6, 1951. p. 9. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Maureen Connolly to wed; gives up tennis comeback". The Day (New London, CT). Associated Press. February 23, 1955. p. 17. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Joey Seymour (Spring 2008). "San Diego’s Sweetheart: Maureen Connolly" (PDF). The Journal of San Diego History 54 (2). 
  4. King, Billie Jean; Starr, Cynthia (1988). We Have Come a Long Way : The Story of Women's Tennis. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 83. ISBN 978-0070346253. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "1955: American Tennis Star 'Little Mo' to Quit". BBC. 
  6. "Maureen Connolly youngest net champ in history". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. September 6, 1951. p. 49. 
  7. Snider, Steve (September 7, 1951). "Maureen Connolly planning to be 'real tennis player'". News and Courier (Charleston, SC). United Press. p. 2B. 
  8. Chandler, John (January 11, 1953). "Maureen Connolly named female athlete of the year". News and Courier (Charleston, SC). Associated Press. p. 4D. 
  9. "Maureen Connolly, tennis star, dies". New York Times. June 22, 1969. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 
  10. Norcross, Dan (September 2, 2013). "Little Mo's magic year". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Tennis great Mo Connolly dies in Texas". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. June 22, 1969. p. 4-sports. 
  12. "Connolly v. Pre-Mixed Concrete Co.". 
  13. "Little Mo named top female athlete 3rd time". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. January 8, 1954. p. 30. 
  14. Fein, Paul (2003). Tennis Confidential : Today's Greatest Players, Matches, and Controversies. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. p. 242. ISBN 978-1574885262. 
  15. "Forehand Drive". WorldCat. 
  16. Bell, Norman (June 11, 1955). "Maureen Connolly, tennis queen, becomes a bride". The Day (New London, CT). Associated Press. p. 15. 
  17. G. Brinker, Nancy (2010). Promise Me : How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer (1st pbk. ed. ed.). New York: Three Rivers Pr. p. 169. ISBN 978-0307718136. 
  18. "Cancer beats 'Little Mo'". The Age (Melbourne, Australia). June 22, 1969. p. 34. 
  19. Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York, NY: New Chapter Press. pp. 695, 702. ISBN 0-942257-41-3. 
  20. United States Tennis Association (1988). 1988 Official USTA Tennis Yearbook. Lynn, Massachusetts: H.O. Zimman, Inc. p. 261. 
  21. Maureen Connolly. San Diego Hall of Champions
  22. "U.S., Britain to compete in 2012 Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy". USTA. August 21, 2012. 
  23. "The Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy". Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation. 
  24. Brinker Elementary School website
  25. Bowden, Robert (September 5, 1978). "Glynnis O'Connor pours self into portrayal of 'Little Mo'". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1D. 
  26. Little Mo,; accessed January 2, 2014.
  27. "Kad je Mala Mo bila stvarno mala (Serb: "When Little Mo Was Really Little")". SPORTSKA KUPUSARA. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 

External links

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