Lena Rice

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For the American poet (1900-1981), see Helen Steiner Rice.
Lena Rice
Lena rice.jpg
Full name Helena Bertha Grace Rice
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom[1]
Born (1866-06-21)21 June 1866[2]
Marlhill near New Inn, Ireland[2]
Died 21 June 1907(1907-06-21) (aged 41)[2]
Marlhill[2]
Singles
Grand Slam Singles results
Wimbledon W (1890)

Helena Bertha Grace "Lena" Rice (21 June 1866 – 21 June 1907) was an Irish tennis player who won the singles title at the 1890 Wimbledon Championships. She is to date the only female player from Ireland to ever win a singles title at Wimbledon.

Biography[edit]

Lena Rice was born the second youngest of the seven children of Spring Rice and Anna Gorde in 1866. Her family lived in a two-storied Georgian building at Marlhill, half a mile from New Inn, County Tipperary. When her father died in 1868, her mother struggled to manage the household. Lena learned to play tennis with her sister Anne in their large garden at Marlhill, and both girls entered the Cahir Lawn Tennis club.[2]

Rice's first tournament outside County Tipperary were the Irish Championships at Dublin in May 1889. There she lost 5–7, 5–7 to Blanche Bingley Hillyard in the semifinals. In doubles competition, she reached the final partnering Hillyard, and in mixed doubles she won the title along with Willoughby Hamilton.[2][3]

Later that year, Rice played at the Wimbledon Championships. She reached the final where she met Hillyard once again. She won the first set 6–4 and had three match points at 5–3, 40–15 and advantage in the second, but Hillyard managed to come back and eventually won 4–6, 8–6, 6–4.[2][3]

The next year, only four players participated at the singles event at Wimbledon. After winning over Mary Steedman 7–5, 6–2 in the first round, her opponent in the All-comers final was May Jacks. Rice won 6–4, 6–1 and as defending champion Blanche Hillyard was pregnant and didn't enter the tournament, Rice won the title, the 50-guineas challenger trophy and a cash prize of 20 guineas.[2][3]

After her 1890 Wimbledon title, there is no record of Rice ever again playing tennis at a tournament. As her mother died in 1891, it seems likely that family ill health prevented her from continuing her tennis career.[2]

Rice, who never married, died of tuberculosis on her 41st birthday in 1907. She was buried at the New Inn cemetery, close to her parents, her brother Samel and her sister Agnes.[2]

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles[edit]

Wins (1)
Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1890 Wimbledon Championships United Kingdom Blanche Bingley Hillyard w.o.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ireland was part of the United Kingdom at that time.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bell, Eileen (1988). "Lena Rice of New Inn – The only Irish Ladies Wimbledon Champion". Tipperary Historical Journal (County Tipperary Historical Society). ISSN 0791-0665. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Collins, Bud (2010). History of Tennis (2nd ed.). New York: New Chapter Press. p. 706. ISBN 978-0942257700.