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Margaret duPont, U.S. tennis great, dies at 94

October 25, 2012 09:41 PM
Margaret DuPont (second from left) died on Oct. 24 at age 94. Also pictured (l to r): Shirley Bloomer, Althea Gibson and Mary Halford at the Wightman Cup in 1958.

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Margaret Osborne duPont, the winner of more than 30 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles spanning three decades, has died, She was 94.

DuPont died late Wednesday in El Paso while in hospice care, Mary Skinner of VNA Hospice said Thursday. Other details were not released.

DuPont won singles titles at Wimbledon in 1947, the U.S. National Championships (now the US Open) from 1948-50 and the French in 1946 and 1948.

She won 31 doubles and mixed doubles titles at three Grand Slam tournaments between 1941 and 1962. DuPont never played the Grand Slam event in Australia.

In 1967, five years after winning her last Grand Slam title, DuPont was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

In a story last year in the El Paso Times, duPont spoke about her love of the game.

"It was always just tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis,'' she said. "I'm not sure why I loved the game so much. But I did. I just did. And I always have.''

DuPont played an aggressive game, serving and volleying, that suited her well for doubles. Her contemporaries included Pauline Betz, Doris Hart, Althea Gibson, Maria Bueno and Maureen Connolly.

DuPont won more titles at what is now the US Open in singles, doubles, mixed doubles - 25 - than anyone else in history. She was recognized for the accomplishment in recent years with a gold ring from the governing body for U.S. tennis.

The El Paso paper, pointing to the website BleacherReport, wrote that duPont had spent 156 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world, tied with Connolly.

Born in Joseph, Ore., on March 4, 1918, duPont grew up on a ranch there. When the family moved to San Francisco, duPont played her first tennis on public courts in Golden Gate Park. Before long she was traveling the country.

Longtime friend and business partner Margaret Bloss, who lived with duPont in El Paso, said through her son that duPont's talent was spectacular.

"She was a super player, a super sport and a super friend,'' Leigh Bloss said.

During World War II, duPont worked in a plant in Sausalito, Calif., where marine ships were made and even shared a ride to work with Bing Crosby, the El Paso paper reported.

In the early 1940s, she met William duPont Jr., of the famous and prominent American family. The two married in 1947, and son Bill was born in 1952.

Having a child didn't slow down her tennis competition. Her last Grand Slam title, mixed doubles at Wimbledon, came in 1962.

The couple divorced in 1964, and duPont moved to El Paso in 1966, where she became involved in the horse-racing business with Bloss.

Billie Jean King said in a statement that duPont had a "huge impact'' on her career.

"She was one of my she-roes and was a great influence on my life, both on and off the court,'' King said. "I hope today's players and any boy or girl who dreams of a career in tennis will go to the history books and read about Margaret because her career wasn't just about winning matches, it was also about mentoring others.''

DuPont followed the modern game, particularly Andy Murray, this year's US Open men's singles champion. But she told the El Paso paper the game has changed so much.

"You hit the ball as hard as you can and, every once in a while, come to the net,'' she said. "Not too much thought involved. And, of course, the racket technology makes it just an entirely different sport.''



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