The Principality has had a long relationship with the brightest celebrities and sport personalities. The building of the legendary Monte Carlo Country Club was inspired by Suzanne Lenglen, who was the number one ladies’ tennis player in the world in the 1920’s, dominating the sport by having only lost 4 sets during her 7 year career.
Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen (24 May 1899 – 4 July 1938) was a French tennis player. Born to wealthy parents in Paris, Lenglen began playing tennis at 11 years old.
She was one of tennis’s biggest stars in the 1920s, building her popularity on her status as the youngest major champion in tennis history as well as her elegant style of play and exuberant personality.
Often playing in front of sell-out crowds and appearing on the front pages of newspapers for her biggest matches, she is recognized as the first female athlete to become a global sport celebrity.
Lenglen was referred to by the French press as notre Suzanne (our Suzanne) and universally called La Divine (The Goddess), embodying her mythical persona and perceived infallibility at tennis. She put women at the forefront of competitive tennis and revolutionized the sport by integrating the aggressive style of men’s tennis into the women’s game.
She also pioneered wearing sportswear suitable for playing tennis in matches and brought fashion into the game as well, highlighted by her signature bandeau headwear.
In 1925, Lenglen, who had not been present at the Monte-Carlo tournament for a few years, came back to the Principality to compete again and met with George Pierce Butler, a rich American benefactor and tennis enthusiast. Butler was in admiration of the leading world player, and he felt the Club was unworthy of her talent. Thus, the day after the 1925 tournament, George Butler undertook to persuade the sports authorities and the SBM, to create a more prestigious club.
Lenglen was ranked No. 1 in the world from the start of the rankings in 1921 through 1926, winning 8 Grand Slam singles titles and 21 in total. She also won 10 World Championship titles across all disciplines.
Dissatisfied by her lack of income, she forfeited her amateur status and became the first leading amateur to turn professional. Lenglen was ranked as the greatest women’s tennis player from the amateur era in the 100 Greatest of All Time series.
Lenglen died in 1938 at the age of 39. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1978, and the second show court at the site of the French Open is named in her honour.