Written by By Staff Writer
Contemporary athletes fans of mixed doubles champion Bob Bryan might be surprised by the story of how his wife, former mixed doubles world champion Natalie Bryan, and his sister-in-law Bethanie Mattek-Sands sparked a sport that’s become synonymous with a different kind of female competition.
The story of the Original 9 — and how it inspired young women to learn how to play at a time when there were only two facilities in the United States dedicated to helping them — is the subject of a new documentary by CNN Films and first aired in the United States on May 24.
Founder of the only American facility dedicated to tennis and a pioneer for female tennis player’s rights, Frances Hess was a graceful powerhouse in her day, breaking into the men’s professional tour in 1923.
Perhaps best known for her unlikely but charming U.S. Open victory in 1931, Hess collected 12 U.S. Open championships in the “second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes,” ensuring that she remained ahead of her time. Hess also inspired the other eleven original members of the Original 9, with new generations of women succeeding her.
As Nat Hess saw it: “I wanted it to be wonderful, attractive, a strong, intense game, so that this was something female tennis players could watch, would like and learn from.
“Frances also wanted that we would win. We didn’t want just to be a legend or famous in the women’s game. We wanted to be great in our own way.”
For Mary Mattek-Sands, “every so often I think about what Frances Hess’s legacy is on the court and off the court.
“At the time, tennis didn’t have separate courts for the men and women, so Frances and her female players were pioneers.
“You can’t really fathom what it was like to be a female tennis player who broke into a male dominated sport in the 1930s.
“So to be able to see a name like Frances Hess and the women she was inspired by, it’s pretty incredible to be part of the film and also in the Original 9. We hope it brings people into the sport from afar. I’m very hopeful.”
“The World Was Not Enough” begins in 1937.