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Sarah Palfrey

tennis player
Full name: Sarah Hammond Palfrey
Alias: Sarah Hammond Palfrey Danzig
Sarah Palfrey Fabyan
Mrs M.Fabyan
Mrs E.T.Cooke
Mrs J.A.Danzig
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Class of HOF
Bio If a course had been conducted on “How to Conduct Yourself as a Champion,” Sarah Palfrey Danzig would have been the ideal teacher and role model. Twice the U.S. Singles Champion, and a nine-time U.S. Doubles Champion, Sarah competed with high intensity but was ever gracious, charming, and sporting. Her ground strokes were classically produced and elegant, but her propensity to volley was what made her stellar in doubles. To her credit, Palfrey upended the estimable Pauline Betz in the 1941 and 1945 U.S. Championship finals.

Palfrey twice won the singles title at the U.S. Championships, the second time in 1945 at the age of 32. She was only the second mother to have won the title, with Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman being the first. Palfrey won the 1945 title after being down 4–3 in the third set to Pauline Betz Addie, with Betz Addie serving. Betz Addie was the three-time defending champion and would have won six consecutive titles had Palfrey not defeated her in the 1941 and 1945 finals.

Palfrey is one of the few women, if not the sole woman, to appear on a top-level male championship honor roll. Because of the manpower crisis during World War II, she and second husband Elwood Cooke were permitted in 1945 to enter the men's doubles of the Tri-State Championships in Cincinnati. They reached the final, losing to Hal Surface and Bill Talbert.

Palfrey won 16 Grand Slam championships in women's doubles (11) and mixed doubles (5). She teamed with Betty Nuthall Shoemaker to win the 1930 U.S. Championships and with Helen Jacobs to win the 1932, 1934, and 1935 championships. Palfrey and Alice Marble won the U.S. Championships 1937–40. At Wimbledon, Palfrey and Marble won the 1938 and 1939 women's doubles championship. Palfrey's final U.S. women's doubles championship was in 1941 with Margaret Osborne duPont. In mixed doubles, Palfrey teamed with four different partners to win the U.S. Championships: Fred Perry (1932), Enrique Maier (1935), Don Budge (1937), and Jack Kramer (1941). Palfrey also won the mixed doubles title at the 1939 French Championships, teaming with her future husband Elwood Cooke. Palfrey and Marble were undefeated in doubles for four years (1937–40).

In 1947, Palfrey turned professional and went on a "barnstorming" tour of one-night stands with Betz Addie, who had been stripped of her amateur status by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) for merely inquiring about the possibility of creating a tour for professionals. They earned about US$10,000 each.

According to A. Wallis Myers and John Olliff of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Palfrey was ranked in the World Top Ten 1933–36 and 1938–39 (no rankings issued 1940–45), reaching a career high in those rankings of World No. 4 in 1934.[3] Palfrey was included in the year-end Top Ten rankings issued by the USLTA 1929–31, 1933–41, and 1945. She was the top-ranked U.S. player in 1941 and 1945.

Palfrey and Marble lobbied the USLTA to remove the color bar and allow Althea Gibson to play at heretofore whites-only tournaments beginning in 1950. "She [Palfrey] was calmly persuasive, had clout as an ex-champ, and got Althea into the U.S. Championships in 1950," said Gladys Heldman, founder of the Women's Professional Tennis Tour.

Palfrey once said, "Tennis is the best game there is. It combines mental and physical qualities and is the sport for a lifetime. And there are many living examples at the age of 80 to prove it. So it is enough for us to know that tennis will remain, under whatever conditions, whether amateur or pro, the finest game there is for us, for our children, and our children's children."

Palfrey was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1963.
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