Our holiday tennis history series at Tennis With An Accent is dedicated to the task of telling the stories of players who left a considerable imprint on tennis without winning copious quantities of major championships. Tennis rightly celebrates its greatest champions, but the sport is a mansion with many rooms, many places where one can achieve richly without attaining superstar status.
Betty Stove of the Netherlands is an excellent example.
— Reached the top five in singles
— Spent several years in the top 10
— Reached at least one major singles final
— Won several women’s doubles and mixed doubles major championships
That is a career packed with achievements and a measure of longevity, two traits which mark a player as, first of all, really good, and second, not just a flash in the pan.
Stove made the fourth round of Wimbledon five straight years, from 1975-1979, reaching the final in 1977 before losing to Great Britain’s Virginia Wade. She also reached the 1977 U.S. Open semifinals before losing to Chris Evert, the dominant player of that time on the WTA Tour. She first made the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1972, when Margaret Court and Billie Jean King ruled the major tournaments. She lived in the shadows of those giants, then Evert, then Martina Navratilova, and also Evonne Goolagong, who won seven majors and carved out her own considerable place in the 1970s tennis landscape.
Stove did not exist on that same plane, but the Dutchwoman — who played her first main-draw Wimbledon tournament in the amateur era in 1964 — showed considerable perseverance. She needed 11 years to make her first major quarterfinal in 1975, and in the latter half of the 1970s, she became and remained a threat at important tournaments in singles.
In doubles, she won 75 tournaments and became the No. 1-ranked doubles player in the world.
She didn’t win a major singles title, but in terms of fundamental career aspirations for tennis players of her era, Betty Stove checked quite a lot of boxes.
Then she turned the page and coached a Czech.
Hana Mandlikova, whom Mert Ertunga talks about in our Christmas Tennis With An Accent Podcast — here is our show’s homepage at ITunes/Apple Podcasts and at Radio Influence; the show goes live on December 25 — won four major titles in the face of the Evert-Navratilova axis of power in the 1980s. Mandlikova’s first major title came in 1980, the fourth in 1987. Stove coached Mandlikova for 10 years, guiding her through the 1980s and forming a partnership which produced the 1989 book “Total Tennis.”
Stove lived the life of a good singles player and an elite doubles player. She then lived the life of an accomplished tennis coach who constantly tried to defeat two of the greatest tennis players who have ever lived (Chris and Martina). She then poured her experiences and insights into a book meant to teach future generations of tennis players.
Sure, Betty Stove didn’t win that elusive major singles championship.
The whole of her tennis life — playing, coaching, and writing — cannot be viewed as anything less than supremely fulfilling and immensely productive.