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Joan Hartigan

Great Champions

One of the first players to be known to fans by her Christian name (rather than as Miss or Mrs), Joan Hartigan made her debut at the Australian Championships as a junior in 1931.

Born on 6 June 1912, Hartigan was an exuberant player idolised by school children who loved her hard-hitting forehand and light-hearted approach to the game. Her style was also remarkable because the tall, slim player hit what was known as an 'upside down backhand'; stroking the shot with the same face of the racquet that she hit her forehand.

She made her senior debut at the tournament in 1931 as well, losing in the first round to Marjorie Crawford, before returning in 1933 to take the title for the first time over Coral Buttsworth 6-4 6-3 in Melbourne.

Hartigan backed up her victory in 1934, defeating Margaret Molesworth 6-1 6-4 in the singles final and teaming with Edgar Moon in the mixed doubles to also take that title in the tournament played in Sydney. It was the start of a fruitful year for Hartigan, the New South Welshwoman becoming the first Aussie woman to make an international impact when she reached the Wimbledon semifinal later that year.

Skipping the 1935 tournament (the year in which she later reached her second Wimbledon semifinal), Hartigan won her third Australian singles title in 1936 defeating Nancye Wynne 6-4 6-4 in the championship match. While she continued to contest the event up until the World War II break, reaching the semifinal of the eight-woman draw in 1939 and 1940, she never won the trophy again and didn't return to the sport after the war years. Ranked in the top 10 in 1934, Hartigan reached her career-high ranking of No.8 that year and was also a top 10 player in 1935. She died on 31 August 2000.