Shirley Fry Irvin was an Akron tennis legend. As the world’s top rated-ranked feminine player in the mid-1950s, her identify applied to be a house term.
A 1970 inductee of the Global Tennis Corridor of Fame, she was just one of only 10 feminine players to seize singles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments: Wimbledon and nationwide championships in the United States, France and Australia. She was a person of only 6 gamers to also get doubles titles at each individual of the main tournaments.
Not lousy for a participant who barely took lessons.
She died at age 94 on July 16 in hospice treatment in Naples, Florida, a person 7 days after the 65th anniversary of her victory at Wimbledon.
Born June 30, 1927, in Akron, Shirley was the youngest little one of Lester and Ida Fry, and grew up with her siblings Byron, Robert and Evelyn in a household at 794 E. Trade St. With a father who ran track and a mother who played tennis, the youngsters had been organic athletes.
Shirley enjoyed swimming, badminton, managing, baseball, archery and skating. She picked up a tennis racket at age 8 as a pupil at Mason Elementary University and played her initially game titles at the University Club, honing her techniques with tiny official coaching.
Fleet on her ft, she experienced an innate ability to anticipate the trajectory of the ball. She won her initial title in 1936 at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, teaming with her sister, Evelyn, in doubles.
“They called me ‘Small Fry’ since I was so little I could hardly see above the internet,” she recalled yrs later on.
Fry gained so lots of tournaments, which includes the Akron Women’s Tennis Championship as a 12-yr-old in 1939 and all over again in 1940, that her father started off a scrapbook to maintain all the newspaper clippings. On it, he wrote: “Objective: Wimbledon by ’45.”
If it hadn’t been for World War II and the suspension of engage in at Wimbledon until finally 1946, she may possibly have fulfilled that deadline.
The 5-foot-5 suitable-hander commenced touring the newbie circuit in 1941 and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Countrywide Championship a year later on at age 15. In 1944 and 1945, she received the U.S. ladies singles title.
Fry graduated from Akron Central Significant University in 1945 and earned a degree in human relations from Rollins Faculty in Winterpark, Florida.
She made it to Wimbledon in 1948, 3 decades past her dad’s prediction, but sprained her ankle in a London match with Louise Brough and had to withdraw.
She received her very first key title in 1951 on the clay at the French countrywide championships, defeating top rated-ranked Doris Hart in straight sets. The two turned tennis companions and received 11 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Every event, she performed singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She was ranked in the world’s Major 10 9 moments from 1946 to 1956.
Growing at Wimbledon
Fry turned a examine in perseverance at Wimbledon.
In 1949, she shed in the 3rd spherical to Betty Hilton. In 1950, she lost in the semifinals to Brough. In 1951, she missing in the remaining to Hart. In 1952 and 1953, she misplaced in the semifinals to Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly. In 1954, she misplaced in the quarterfinals to Betty Pratt.
Hampered by a nagging personal injury to her elbow, she skipped 1955 and abruptly retired from tennis. She took a occupation as a duplicate girl at the St. Petersburg Periods in Florida.
“I am finding a tiny weary of the activity now and it’s time to commence imagining about one thing else,” she advised a Beacon Journal reporter Sept. 2, 1955.
“I’ll do it by levels. I’ll play a few selected tournaments until eventually I make a decision to call it quits. I have received a large amount out of the match and I’ve had a good time.”
She rested her elbow for three months and returned to perform in 1956.
“I’m not kidding myself that following all these years I can gain at Wimbledon,” she stated in April. “But I’m surely likely to try out.”
On the grass courts at the All England Club in July, she defeated upcoming Hall of Famers Althea Gibson and Louise Brough to progress to the championship. Right before a capacity group of 15,000, she breezed earlier Angela Buxton 6-3, 6-1 in 50 minutes to capture the title.
Soon after savoring a tickertape parade in St. Petersburg, the conquering hero returned to Ohio.
Key to the town
Akron Mayor Leo Berg proclaimed Aug. 8, 1956, as Shirley Fry Day. He offered the tennis star with the important to the town. Extra than 300 people today attended a College Club luncheon in her honor.
Requested how she felt following successful Wimbledon, Fry explained to the viewers: “Actually, I experienced no feeling at all right away afterward. I was numb then. A small time later on, I commenced stressing about the speech I would have to make that night time …
“But after an hour or so, as the numbness wore away, I started to have a emotion that just after lastly successful at Wimbledon, there was not everything I could do erroneous … that I could do practically anything.”
To cap off the yr, Fry defeated Gibson on Sept. 9 at the U.S. national championships, forerunner to the U.S. Open up, and was ranked the No. 1 women’s participant in 1956.
In December, Fry unveiled her engagement in Australia to U.S. businessman Karl E. Irvin Jr., an Illinois indigenous who labored in Sydney as an promotion govt for a New York company. He had been an Air Pressure captain in Entire world War II and worked on the side as a tennis umpire.
They experienced achieved a 10 years previously at a match in Chicago, but bought reacquainted in November 1956 through the New South Wales championships exactly where she was participating in and he was umpiring.
Right after they began courting, “it was really hard to concentrate just on tennis,” she stated.
Housewife and mother
Fry received her closing significant on Jan. 27, 1957, defeating Gibson in Australia. A couple of weeks later on, she and Irvin wed in Sydney, and she retired from tennis to grow to be a housewife and mother.
The Irvins welcomed 4 youngsters — Mark, Scott, Lori and Karen — and lived in West Hartford, Connecticut, for 35 years.
The loved ones created regular visits to Akron. Her dad and mom operated Fry’s Tennis Store from their East Trade residence right up until the mid-1970s.
Throughout a 1962 excursion, Shirley Fry Irvin stated she did not intellect getting out of the limelight and did not miss dwelling out of a suitcase. She had competed for 21 a long time on the amateur stage and imagined that was plenty.
“Once in a though I miss it when the family members troubles pile up all around my ears,” she reported. “But the emotion doesn’t last extensive.”
She was inducted into the Intercontinental Tennis Corridor of Fame in 1970, a dozen many years right after currently being inducted into the Summit County Sporting activities Hall of Fame. Athletics historians have regarded her as the best feminine athlete in Akron’s historical past.
In a 1973 job interview, Irvin acknowledged the passage of time. She was 45 a long time old and experienced endured many operations for tennis elbow. She was also producing arthritis in her knees.
“I tried out to perform past summer time in the National Seniors and created it to the semifinals, but I was fatigued following three days of playing,” she reported. “I’m not applied to it.”
She stated she however appreciated actively playing so, but it was “very disheartening to participate in poorly.”
“I’m afraid I’m having previous,” she reported.
Golden yrs in Florida
Widowed in 1976, Irvin finally moved to Florida, paying out her time coaching tennis and participating in golfing. She returned to Akron in 2011 to obtain the Summit Award, offered by the Summit County Historic Modern society to Akronites who have attained countrywide distinction.
Between other honors, the tennis courts powering Akron’s Mason Group Discovering Heart are named for her.
Shirley Fry Irvin was 94 when she died in hospice care in Naples, Florida, on July 16, one particular week immediately after the 65th anniversary of her victory at Wimbledon. She is survived by her four young children, 12 grandchildren and quite a few nieces and nephews.
Over the decades, Irvin downplayed her victory at Wimbledon, indicating she was fortunate through the 1956 match and “just stuck all-around very long enough to gain.”
She experienced to acknowledge, even though, that successful the darned detail was a great deal much better than the option.
“You know, memories are excellent and owning experienced that excellent experience, it is worse to assume that probably you under no circumstances would’ve,” she instructed the Hartford Courant in 1975.
Mark J. Value can be attained at [email protected]