Alice Marble (September 28, 1913 – December 13, 1990) was an exceptional tennis player who dominated the sport between 1936 and 1940. She won a total of 18 Grand Slam championships, including five in singles, six in women’s doubles, and seven in mixed doubles. Marble was so dominant that she was ranked world No. 1 in 1939.
Some of her most highlighted achievements in the tennis arena were:
- At the U.S. Championships, Marble won the singles title in 1936 and from 1938 to 1940. She also won the women’s doubles title with Sarah Palfrey Cooke from 1937 to 1940 and the mixed doubles title with Gene Mako in 1936, Don Budge in 1938, Harry Hopman in 1939, and Bobby Riggs in 1940.
- At Wimbledon, Marble won the singles title in 1939 and the women’s doubles title with Cooke in 1938 and 1939. She also won the mixed doubles title with Budge in 1937 and 1938 and with Riggs in 1939.
- In Wightman Cup team competition, Marble was nearly unbeatable, losing only one singles and one doubles match in the years she competed (1933, 1937-39).
Marble’s incredible talent and achievements earned her numerous accolades, including being named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year in 1939 and 1940.
After finishing her amateur career in 1940, Marble turned professional and earned more than $100,000, through travel exhibition tournaments. Unfortunately, weakened by pernicious anaemia, Marble died at a hospital in Palm Springs, California.
- For a brief time after retirement, she worked on the editorial advisory board of DC Comics and was credited as an associate editor on Wonder Woman. She created the “Wonder Women of History” feature for the comics, which told the stories of prominent women of history in comic form.
- In her second autobiography Courting Danger (released after her death in 1990), Marble reveals that during World War II, she married Joe Crowley, a pilot who was killed in action over Germany. She also miscarried their child only days before his death due to a car accident. After attempting suicide, she recovered and agreed to spy for U.S. intelligence in early 1945. Her mission involved obtaining Nazi financial data by renewing contact with a former lover who was a Swiss banker. The operation ended when a Nazi agent shot her in the back while she was trying to escape in a car, but she recovered. While some details of this operation have been investigated by journalists and authors, few have been corroborated. The identity of the Swiss banker remains unknown, leading to suspicions that he may have been a Nazi and someone Marble was trying to avoid.
- Marble helped with desegregation of American tennis by writing an editorial, supporting Althea Gibson in the July 1, 1950 issue of American Lawn Tennis Magazine. Marble hoped to change the game of tennis by acting more like gentle-people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. Gibson was given entry into the 1950 U.S. Championships, becoming the first African-American player to compete in a Grand Slam.
- In 1964, Marble was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She settled in Palm Desert, California, where she taught tennis until her death. One of her students was Billie Jean King.