SA tennis champion from 1940s dies

One of South Africa’s leading tennis players of the post-war era, Sheila Summers, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday night in Johannesburg. She was 86.

In 1947, Summers was the first South Africa woman to reach a Wimbledon semifinal and two years later, along with Eric Sturgess, became the first South African to win a Wimbledon title.

In that mixed-doubles final, the South Africans prevented John Bromwich and Louise Brough from completing a hat-trick of wins when they downed the Australian/American pairing 9-7 9-11 7-5 in what was the longest final to date.

The pair also captured two French Open mixed-doubles titles—in 1947 and 1949.

In 1947, Summers became the first South African woman to have a top-five world ranking. The top spot was held by American Margaret du Pont.

Summers also won the South African Open four times and the Swiss Open three times in a row.
She coached the South African Federation Cup team as well as two junior Wimbledon champions—Joan Cross and Ilana Kloss.

She continued to coach for most of her life until hip problems set in. Two weeks ago, Summers had hip-replacement surgery to one hip. Just after that, she experienced problems with her other hip and she had to have a second operation.

Summers is survived by her son, Rohan; grandchildren Cindy (also a top South African tennis player), Brad and Brett; and one great-grandchild.—Sapa

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