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Multiple Years / Helen Wills - Tennis Champion
Tennis player Helen Wills (later Helen Wills Moody), a California girl, captured the U.S. National Championship at Forest Hills at age 17 in 1923--the second-youngest female to manage the feat at that time. In an era when male sportswriters believed that being a female sports champion and being a beauty were incompatible, Wills proved them wrong. Wills' natural good looks turned heads wherever she played and won. She won often. The fact that Wills captured 19 Grand Slam singles tiles between 1923 and 1938 also enhanced her popularity. One writer said of Wills that "every male between the age of six and 60 was a little bit in love with her." In a six-year period from 1927 to 1933, Wills won every singles match she played without dropping a set! Standing about 5'7" with a muscular frame, Wills rarely showed emotion on the court and was dubbed Miss Poker Face. The nickname was coined by a New York sports journalist named Ed Sullivan. (Yes--that Ed Sullivan!) Charlie Chaplin, an avid tennis fan and a fan of attractive women, said the most beautiful thing on Earth was watching Helen Wills play tennis. Wills struck the ball with great power from an irregular stance: Her body faced forward rather than to the side when she made contact with the ball. Late in her life, Wills was asked if the modern, larger-faced racquets would have improved her game, she said, "No, I always struck the ball in the middle of my racquet, so I don't think a larger size racquet would have made any difference." Wills lived to be 92 years old, passing away on New Year's Day 1998.