© Susan Mullane
- Age: 100 (22.11.1913)
- Birthplace: Miami, FL, USA
- Residence: Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
- Height: 6'1" (185 cm)
- Plays: Right-handed
As of 09.12.2013
*Singles & Doubles combined
*Singles & Doubles combined
Gardnar Mulloy became the first International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee to pass the 100-year milestone on 22 November 2013.
Mulloy was 11 when his father, Robin, built a tennis court in the backyard of the family home in Spring Garden, Miami. "I played [American] football and baseball in the city, before my father got me into tennis," Mulloy told ATPWorldTour.com. "Eventually, we won the U.S. National Father & Sons’ title three times. I enjoyed competing, but when I grew up it was considered a ‘sissy’ sport in the United States."
During his top-flight tennis career, the lithe and athletic Mulloy maintained an interested following at every appearance. His nonchalant attitude and biting humour always caused great interest among the galleries. He was particularly strong in striking decisive volleys, dipping service returns and well-placed smashes. But his career could well have ended with the outbreak of war in Europe, which closed down world tennis. In 1939, he was 26 years old and a graduate manager at the University of Miami.
"When I hit the big time, World War II began, right at the peak of my age and ability," said Mulloy, who, at the time, had recently completed a law degree to appease his father. "People often forget my war service. I wanted to get into the Air Force, but they weren't taking anyone over the age of 25. I got a break on a U.S. Naval course as a ’90-day wonder’, meaning a four-year programme was crammed into three months of training. I ended up becoming a tennis instructor, but I wanted to go to sea."
Through sheer persistence and hard work, Mulloy ended up as a Lieutenant and a Commanding Office of a Landing Ship Tank: the U.S.S. LST 32, leading a crew of 13 officers and 154 men. "It took three or four years away from me, but I was proud to serve my country at four different battles – landing in harm’s way," said Mulloy. Launched on 12 July 1943, Mulloy led the California-built ship into action at beachheads in Anzio, Salerno, southern France and northern Africa. For one particular act of heroism he earned the U.S. Navy Medal of Commendation.
By the start of 1945, Mulloy's taste for tennis had returned, when the U.S. Navy Department posted him on a tour of Eastern seaboard hospitals with 52-year-old Tilden. He started to organise his own exhibitions with Alice Marble, Vincent Richards, Bill Tilden and others. Only then did he consider staging a comeback on the international amateur circuit. "I recall people thought I was mad, but I wanted to play Davis Cup," said Mulloy. "I dedicated myself to getting back on the circus." He was 32 and married to his high school sweetheart, Madeleine – "the kindest most beautiful girl in the world" – with whom he raised two daughters, Diane and Janice. Sadly, Madeleine passed away in 1993, after 55 years of marriage. He married his second wife, Jacqueline, in 2008.
Mulloy was one of the world’s best doubles players of the 1940s and 1950s, compiling a 5-9 record in Grand Slam championships finals that included four titles at the US Nationals with Bill Talbert. As a 43 year old, nicknamed 'The Grand Old Man Of Tennis', he picked up the 1957 Wimbledon title with Budge Patty. To put that feat in perspective, Leander Paes won his third US Open title at the age of 40 this year, in tandem with Radek Stepanek.
Mulloy was also a singles runner-up to Frank Sedgman at the US Nationals in 1952, the year he was judged to be ranked World No. 7. He also lifted the Davis Cup trophy on three occasions. He continued to play at Grand Slam championships until 1971, when he was 57, and at tour-level events until 1976, when he fully devoted himself to senior competition.
Bio: James Buddell
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