The kindly old lady standing with her 14-year-old pupil in the sunshine of a La Jolla tennis court is doing what she has done superbly well for over 20 years: drilling an unknown youngster into a fiercely combative tennis champion. "Teach" Tennant's apt pupils have held the U.S. women's championship for 11 out of the 21 years she has coached tennis. Teach adopted Alice Marble at 16, coached her from a baseball-playing tomboy into the most exciting and successful woman player of her generation. After Alice came Pauline Betz, who eventually took every major championship available and, after Pauline, "Little Mo" Connolly, who won so relentlessly and unceasingly, hitting the ball harder than any woman before her, that the tennis world almost felt relief when she retired undefeated in 1955. Teach changed the women's game from defensive maneuvering behind the base line to an all-out attack with aggressive serves, overheads and volleys and methodically developed in her tender-aged charges a killer instinct to match. "You have to be mean to be a champion," 17-year-old Maureen Connolly was told before the '52 Wimbledon finals. "How can you lick someone if you feel friendly toward them?"
Precepts such as this, unrelenting concentration on basic strokes and a motherly attitude toward her girls have made Teach the most successful coach in the game. Ranked third in 1920, Eleanor Tennant later became the first woman to turn professional. She made a name for herself teaching tennis to Hollywood stars with an appreciation of the game's social standing. Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert and even Groucho Marx learned the game from Teach, and Marion Davies paid her a $1,000 a month retainer, most of which she used to coach talented unknowns.
Today at 62 Teach is on the courts eight hours a day, six days a week, coaching 95 youngsters, including England's Margot Lord (above), and keeping an undimmed eye open for a potential Marble, Betz or Connolly.