Darlene Onerous, Sturdy-Willed Tennis Star Earlier than Professional Period, Dies at 85

Darlene Onerous, a sturdy and strong-willed Californian with an influence recreation who received 21 Grand Slam tennis championships as one of many final stars of the novice period, died on Dec. 2 in Los Angeles. She was 85.

Anne Marie McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame in Newport, R.I., which inducted Onerous in 1973, confirmed the demise however didn’t give a trigger.

Onerous flourished within the late Nineteen Fifties and early ’60s, when event tennis was the area of amateurs. Alongside along with her, the ladies’s recreation featured stars akin to Althea Gibson, Maria Bueno of Brazil, Margaret Court docket of Australia and a younger Billie Jean King, all future Corridor of Famers.

Of the Grand Slam tournaments, Onerous received america novice titles in 1960 and 61 and the French title in 1960. She reached america finals in 1958 and 1962 and the Wimbledon finals in 1957 and 1959. She additionally received 13 Grand Slam championships in girls’s doubles with eight totally different companions, and 5 in combined doubles, typically paired with Rod Laver.

She was ranked No. 1 in america from 1960 by way of 1963, and No. 2 on the earth in 1960 and 61.

Gibson performed with extra energy than many ladies earlier than or since, and Bueno was famous for her grace. However Onerous’s aggressive recreation — large serve, robust overhead and punishing volley — made her a winner. At 5 ft 5½ inches and 140 kilos, she discovered her most important success on grass courts, the place three of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments had been performed. (The French Open was, and nonetheless is, performed on a clay floor).

Onerous was unusually outspoken at a time when most prime gamers lacked the assertiveness that some show as we speak. She as soon as mentioned of dominating Australian tennis officers: “They deal with you not as a participant however a puppet. Between tournaments, I used to be not requested to play in exhibitions — I used to be ordered to play in them. It was not ‘Miss Onerous, would you thoughts enjoying?’ It was ‘Miss Onerous, you’ll play.’”

Onerous belonged to 4 victorious groups within the Wightman Cup, the annual competitors between British and American tennis gamers. She confirmed her independent-mindedness then, too, incomes the irritation of the American group’s captain, Margaret Osborne duPont.

In an official 1962 report, duPont known as Onerous a “disrupting component” and wrote,“She insisted on practising her manner as an alternative of complying with the captain’s needs and people of the opposite group members.”

Onerous took half in a match that made tennis historical past on July 6, 1957, when she misplaced in the final that made Gibson the first African American woman to win Wimbledon (by a 6-3, 6-2 rating). Earlier than the match, as is customary, each gamers curtsied to a younger Queen Elizabeth II. Afterward, the queen spoke to them for a couple of minutes. Then Gibson, following protocol, backed away. An excessively enthused Onerous, nevertheless, in an eyebrow-raising breach of etiquette, turned her again to the queen and skipped towards the locker room.

Darlene Ruth Onerous was born on Jan. 6, 1936, in Los Angeles and grew up in close by Montebello, Calif. Her father launched her to soccer, basketball, baseball and softball. Her mom, an excellent novice participant, taught her tennis on public courts.

After highschool, Onerous spent 4 years on the tennis circuit. Then, she later mentioned, “I made a decision I didn’t need tennis for a life, so I went to varsity. I needed to be in pediatrics. I suppose I all the time needed to be a health care provider.”

She went to Pomona Faculty in California and in 1958 received the primary intercollegiate tennis championship for girls. She graduated in 1961.

Whereas at Pomona, Onerous had a hitting session with a 13-year-old participant who had demonstrated some promise: Billie Jean King.

“Darlene Onerous had a serious affect on my profession, as an athlete, teammate and pal,” King was quoted as saying on the Corridor of Fame web site.

The 2 went on to play doubles collectively in 1963 within the first Federation Cup, the premier worldwide girls’s group tennis competitors. King — for whom the cup is now named — recalled how they’d overcome two match factors to win the ultimate, which she known as a spotlight of each of their careers.

Onerous returned to tennis after graduating and labored as a waitress between tournaments. In 1964, with solely $400 within the financial institution, she turned skilled and performed on a South African tour with Bueno. She quickly began giving tennis classes within the Los Angeles space, leaving event play behind.

However in 1969, the 12 months after professionals had been accepted into main tournaments, she returned briefly to international competition, teaming with Françoise Dürr to play doubles on the U.S. Open. Down 0-6, 0-2 within the remaining, they rallied to seize the title, 0–6, 6–3, 6–4.

Onerous went again to educating tennis and owned two tennis retailers. One among her tennis college students, the director of scholar publications on the College of Southern California, supplied her a job within the workplace in 1981. She took the job and remained there for almost 40 years.

Data on her survivors was not instantly accessible.

In “We Have Come a Lengthy Means: The Story of Girls’s Tennis” (1988), which King wrote with Cynthia Starr, Onerous described her dedication to the game.

“I didn’t do it for cash,” she mentioned. “I used to be the final of the amateurs. I received Forest Hills and I received my airfare from New York to Los Angeles. Whoopee.” She continued: “However we nonetheless went for our titles. We went for the glory. I used to be comfortable. I cherished it. I cherished tennis.”

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Instances, died in 2018. Daniel J. Wakin and Jordan Allen contributed reporting.

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