The tragedy of Daphne Akhurst

There was precious little money in tennis in Daphne Akhurst‘s day, or else she might have become an early version of a whizkid, an Antipodean Graf or Hingis.
In 1917, when Akhurst was 14, she won the New South Wales schoolgirls’ singles title against older girls. She defended it over the next three years. She subsequently won the Australian women’s title in 1925-1926 and again from 1928-30. She was equally successful in doubles.

Arkhurst, a music teacher, never received tennis coaching. She taught herself to play because she thought tennis fun, and had natural flair. Elegantly attired, and often sporting a red headband, she had a free-hitting style and a strong will to win. The crowds loved her, making her the first Australian woman to achieve top drawcard status.

In 1930, after marrying Royston Cozens, she decided she’d no longer play competitive singles. Her fans were devastated, but much worse news followed, in Januray 1933, Daphne died aged 29 of an ectopic pregnancy, leaving her husband to care for their six-month old son. Two years later, Roysten married Louie Bickerton, one of Daphne’s best friends and frequent doubles partner.

The trophy presented each year to the winner of the women’s singles at the Australian Open is named the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in her honour.

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