Helen Jacobs
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Helen Jacobs
Helen Jacobs
Helen Jacobs.jpg
Jacobs with the Wightman Cup, Wimbledon 1934
Full name Helen Hull Jacobs
Country (sports)  United States
Born (1908-08-06)August 6, 1908
Globe, Arizona, U.S.
Died June 2, 1997(1997-06-02) (aged 88)
East Hampton, New York, U.S.
Retired 1947
Int. Tennis HoF 1962 (member page)
Highest ranking No. 1 (1936, A. Wallis Myers)
Grand Slam Singles results
French Open F (1930, 1934)
Wimbledon W (1936)
US Open W (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935)
Grand Slam Doubles results
French Open F (1934)
Wimbledon F (1932, 1936, 1939)
US Open W (1932, 1934, 1935)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
US Open W (1934)
Team competitions
Wightman Cup (1927, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939)

Helen Hull Jacobs (August 6, 1908 - June 2, 1997) was an American tennis player who won nine Grand Slam titles. She was born in Globe, Arizona, United States.

Early life

Jacobs was born in Globe, Arizona, and was Jewish.[1][2] Her parents, Roland and Eula Jacobs, moved the family to San Francisco in 1914.[3]

Tennis career

Jacobs had a powerful serve and overhead smash and a sound backhand, but she never learned to hit a flat forehand, despite her friendship, and some coaching, from Bill Tilden.[4] Like both her Wightman Cup coach Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman and her archrival Helen Wills Moody, she grew up in Berkeley, California, learned the game at the Berkeley Tennis Club, pursued her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley and was inducted into the Cal Sports Hall of Fame.

Jacobs won five Grand Slam singles titles and was an eleven-time Grand Slam singles runner-up. Six of those losses were to Helen Wills Moody. Jacobs's only victory over Moody was in the final of the 1933 U.S. Championships. Moody retired from the match with a back injury while trailing 3-0 in the third set to a chorus of boos from the audience who believed that Moody quit the match merely to deny Jacobs the satisfaction of finishing out her victory. It was reported by many witnesses after the match that Moody still planned to play her doubles match later that afternoon but was advised against it. Years later, Moody confirmed her injury, saying, "My back is kind of funny. The vertebra between the fourth and fifth disk is thin. When the disk slips around it's intolerable. It rained the whole week before that final match. I lay in bed, and that was bad because it stiffened worse. I just couldn't play any longer, but I didn't say anything because it would look like an excuse." Jacobs almost defeated Moody again when she had match point at 6-3, 3-6, 5-3 in the 1935 Wimbledon Championships singles final but a mishit on a short lob, which she decided to let bounce, cost her the point and four games later the match.[5][6] In the 1938 Wimbledon final against Moody, Jacobs turned her ankle at 4-4 in the first set and hobbled around the court for the remainder of the match, with Moody winning the final eight games and the second set lasting a mere eight minutes. When asked after the match why she did not accept Hazel Wightman's on-court advice to quit the match after the injury, Jacobs said that continuing was the sporting thing to do so that Moody could enjoy the full taste of victory, an obvious allusion to Moody's retirement from the 1933 U.S. final. Moody said, "I was very sorry about Helen's ankle. But it couldn't be helped, could it? I thought there was nothing I could do but get it over as quickly as possible." In total, Jacobs lost 14 of the 15 career singles matches she played against Moody.

Jacobs won three Grand Slam women's doubles titles and one in mixed doubles. She was the runner-up at six Grand Slam women's doubles tournaments and one Grand Slam mixed doubles tournament. She won the singles and women's doubles titles at the Italian Championships in 1934.

Jacobs, in 1933.

According to A. Wallis Myers and John Olliff of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Jacobs was ranked in the world top ten from 1928 through 1939 (no rankings issued from 1940 through 1945), reaching a career high of World No. 1 in those rankings in 1936.[7] With the exceptions of 1930 and 1938, Jacobs was included in the year-end top ten rankings by the United States Tennis Association from 1927 through 1941. She was the top ranked US player from 1932 through 1935.[8]

Jacobs was a member of the U.S. Wightman Cup team from 1927 through 1937 and again in 1939. Her lifetime record was 19-11.

In 1933, Jacobs became the first woman to break with tradition by wearing man-tailored shorts at Wimbledon.

While she was still playing tennis, Jacobs became a writer. Her first books were Modern Tennis (1933) and Improve Your Tennis (1936). She also wrote fictional works, such as Storm Against the Wind (1944). Her autobiography Beyond the Game appeared in 1936. In 1949 she published Gallery of Champions, a collection of biographies of female players, which she dedicated to Molla Mallory.[9]

Honors and awards

Jacobs was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1933. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1962. In 2015, she was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.[10]

World War II and personal life

Jacobs served as a commander in the U.S. Navy intelligence during World War II, one of only five women to achieve that rank in the Navy.[5]

Long known to have been lesbian, she was in a relationship from 1934 to 1943 with Henrietta Bingham, daughter of Louisville publisher and ambassador to England Robert Bingham.[11] Her partner in later life was Virginia Gurnee.[5] Jacobs died of heart failure in East Hampton, New York on June 2, 1997, where she had been living.[12][13]

Grand Slam finals

Singles (5 titles, 11 runners-up)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Runner-up 1928 U.S. Championships Grass United States Helen Wills 2-6, 1-6
Runner-up 1929 Wimbledon Grass United States Helen Wills 1-6, 2-6
Runner-up 1930 French Championships Clay United States Helen Wills 2-6, 1-6
Runner-up 1932 Wimbledon Grass United States Helen Wills 3-6, 1-6
Winner 1932 U.S. Championships Grass United States Carolin Babcock 6-2, 6-2
Winner 1933 U.S. Championships (2) Grass United States Helen Wills 8-6, 3-6, 3-0 retired
Runner-up 1934 French Championships Clay United Kingdom Margaret Scriven 5-7, 6-4, 1-6
Runner-up 1934 Wimbledon Grass United Kingdom Dorothy Round 2-6, 7-5, 3-6
Winner 1934 U.S. Championships (3) Grass United States Sarah Palfrey 6-1, 6-4
Runner-up 1935 Wimbledon Grass United States Helen Wills 3-6, 6-3, 5-7
Winner 1935 U.S. Championships (4) Grass United States Sarah Palfrey 6-2, 6-4
Winner 1936 Wimbledon Grass Nazi Germany Hilde Krahwinkel 6-2, 4-6, 7-5
Runner-up 1936 U.S. Championships Grass United States Alice Marble 6-4, 3-6, 2-6
Runner-up 1938 Wimbledon Grass United States Helen Wills 4-6, 0-6
Runner-up 1939 U.S. Championships Grass United States Alice Marble 0-6, 10-8, 4-6
Runner-up 1940 U.S. Championships Grass United States Alice Marble 2-6, 3-6

Doubles (3 titles, 6 runner-ups)

Mixed doubles (1 title, 1 runner-up)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Runner-up 1932 U.S. Championships Grass United States Ellsworth Vines United States Sarah Palfrey
United Kingdom Fred Perry
3-6, 5-7
Winner 1934 U.S. Championships Grass United States George Lott United States Elizabeth Ryan
United States Lester Stoefen
4-6, 13-11, 6-2

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline

(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
Tournament 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 Career SR
Australian Championships A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A NH 0 / 0
French Championships A A A A A F QF QF SF F SF A QF A A NH R 0 / 7
Wimbledon A A A 3R F QF SF F SF F F W QF F QF NH NH 1 / 12
U.S. Championships 2R A SF F SF A QF W W W W F SF 3R F F SF 4 / 15
SR 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 3 1 / 3 1 / 3 1 / 3 1 / 3 1 / 2 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 1 5 / 34

R = tournament restricted to French nationals and held under German occupation.

SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.


  • Modern Tennis (1933)
  • Improve Your Tennis (1936)
  • Beyond the game: an autobiography (1936)
  • Storm Against the Wind (1944)
  • Gallery of Champions (1949)

See also


  1. ^ Beyond Stereotypes: American Jews and Sports in the Twentieth Century - Ari F. Sclar
  2. ^ The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 10, 1936
  3. ^ Sports Figures
  4. ^ Obituary: Helen Jacobs
  5. ^ a b c "Helen Jacobs, Tennis Champion in the 1930's, Dies at 88". The New York Times. June 4, 1997. 
  6. ^ "Mrs. Wills Moody Achieves Her Ambition". Gloucester Citizen. British Newspaper Archive. 6 July 1935. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York, N.Y: New Chapter Press. pp. 576, 695, 701-2. ISBN 0-942257-41-3. 
  8. ^ United States Tennis Association (1988). 1988 Official USTA Tennis Yearbook. Lynn, Massachusetts: H.O. Zimman, Inc. p. 260. 
  9. ^ "Jacobs, Helen Hull". WorldCat. 
  10. ^ Jim Buzinski (27 July 2015). "9 inducted into National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame". Outsports. 
  11. ^ Bingham, Emily (2015). Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham. New York, N.Y: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 223-266. 
  12. ^ Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham - Emily Bingham
  13. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 23378). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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