Lilí Álvarez

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Lilí Álvarez
Lili de Alvarez 1926.jpg
Lilí Álvarez at the 1926 Wimbledon Championships ladies final
Full nameElia Maria González-Álvarez y López-Chicheri
Country (sports)Spain (−1936)
France (1936–)[1]
Born(1905-05-09)9 May 1905
Rome, Italy
Died8 July 1998(1998-07-08) (aged 93)
Madrid, Spain
Highest rankingNo. 2 (1927, A. Wallis Myers)[2]
Grand Slam Singles results
French OpenSF (1930, 1931, 1936, 1937)
WimbledonF (1926, 1927, 1928)
Grand Slam Doubles results
French OpenW (1929)
Wimbledon3R (1937)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
French OpenF (1927)
WimbledonQF (1926, 1936)

Elia Maria González-Álvarez y López-Chicheri,[a] also known as Lilí Álvarez[b] (Spanish pronunciation: [liˈli ˈalβaɾeθ]; 9 May 1905 – 8 July 1998), was a Spanish multi-sport competitor, an international tennis champion, an author, feminist and a journalist.[7]


Lilí Álvarez at the 1931 French Championships wearing her controversial "robe-pants"

She was born at the Hotel Flora in Rome, Italy, during a stay by her affluent Spanish parents.[8] She was raised in Switzerland and from an early age began competing in a variety of sports. At age eleven, she won her first ice skating competition, and then at age 16, she won the St. Moritz ice skating championship. She won her first tennis tournament at age fourteen. An all-around sportsperson, Álvarez was an alpine skier, equestrian, and an auto racer who won the Campeonato de Cataluña de Automovilismo at age 19.

Álvarez was a pioneer in women's tennis in Spain and was her country's most dominant player during the 1920s. Between 1926 and 1928, she reached three consecutive singles finals at Wimbledon. According to American Helen Wills Moody, who defeated Álvarez twice in Wimbledon singles finals, Álvarez' game was an "unusually daring one".

In 1929, Álvarez teamed up with the Dutch player Kea Bouman to win the women's doubles title at the French Championships. The following year, Álvarez won the singles title at the Italian Championships, an accomplishment that was not repeated by another female Spaniard for 63 years until Conchita Martínez won the Italian Open in 1993. Álvarez and Bill Tilden were the runners-up in the mixed doubles competition at the 1927 French Championships.

In 1927, Álvarez authored a book in English published in London under the title Modern Lawn Tennis.[5]

In 1931, she shocked the staid tennis world by playing at Wimbledon in a divided tennis skirt specially made by designer Elsa Schiaparelli that was the forerunner of shorts (pictured).[9] That year, Álvarez began reporting on the political events in Spain for the British newspaper the Daily Mail.

According to Wallis Myers of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Álvarez was ranked in the world top 10 from 1926 through 1928 and in 1930 and 1931, reaching a career high of World No. 2 in those rankings in 1927 and 1928.[10]

In 1934, Álvarez married Jean de Gaillard de la Valdène, the Count of Valdene,[11][12] a French aristocrat and diplomat, and from 1936[1] she played for three years on the international tennis circuit as "Countess Valdène".[4] In 1939, she lost her only child and the couple soon separated. She returned home to Spain in 1941 where she continued to be active in sports and began writing on religious and feminist topics, publishing her book Plenitud (Fullness) in 1946. She actively supported the worldwide feminist movement and in 1951 gave a speech entitled "La batalla de la feminidad" at the Hispanic-American Feminist Congress. Over the years, she wrote several more books.

Álvarez died in Madrid in 1998.

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles (3 runner-ups)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Runner-up 1926 Wimbledon Grass United Kingdom Kitty McKane Godfree 2–6, 6–4, 3–6
Runner-up 1927 Wimbledon (2) Grass United States Helen Wills 2–6, 4–6
Runner-up 1928 Wimbledon (3) Grass United States Helen Wills 2–6, 3–6

Doubles (1 title)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Winner 1929 French Championships Clay Netherlands Kea Bouman South Africa Bobbie Heine
South Africa Alida Neave
7–5, 6–3

Mixed doubles (1 runner-up)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Runner-up 1927 French Championships Clay United States Bill Tilden France Marguerite Broquedis
France Jean Borotra
4–6, 6–2, 2–6

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline[edit]

(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
Tournament 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 Career SR
Australian Championships A A A A A A A A A A A A A 0 / 0
French Championships 1R A QF A A SF SF 3R A A 1R SF SF 0 / 8
Wimbledon A F F F 4R 1R 3R A A A 2R 4R 4R 0 / 9
U.S. Championships A A A A A A A A A A A A A 0 / 0
SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 17

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanish pronunciation: [ˈelja maˈɾi.a ɣonˈθaleθ ˈalβaɾeθ i ˈlopeθ tʃiˈtʃeɾi]
  2. ^ She is also known by the name Lilí de Álvarez,[3] Countess Valdène,[4] and Lili de Alvarez.[5][6] Her book Modern Tennis has sources showing multiple spellings.


  1. ^ a b "The Championships 1936" (PDF). The Championships, Wimbledon. All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  2. ^ Arthur Wallis Myers (20 September 1928). "World's players ranked". The Argus. Melbourne: Argus Office (25, 619): 7. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Gades" Numéro 23 Colegio Universitario de Filosofía y Letras de Cádiz, Universidad de Cádiz. Colegio Universitario de Filosofía y Letras 1999 "Se recogía, incluso, su presencia en Wimbledon para asistir a un acontecimiento tan poco trascendente desde un punto de vista político y oficial, como era la final del tomeo de tenis, en la que participaba la Señorita Lilí de Álvarez."
  4. ^ a b Ernst Probst (2001). Superfrauen 12- Sport [Superwomen 12- Sport] (in German). Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag. p. 24. ISBN 9783638934053. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Modern lawn tennis (Hardcover) by Lili DE ALVAREZ". Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  6. ^ "ITF profile". Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  7. ^ "Lilí Alvarez, una contestataria de 74 años". El País. 20 November 1979. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Cuando el fútbol no era el rey: Los deportes en el espacio público" Page 192 Carles Sirera Miralles 2011 "Un buen ejemplo de las múltiples contradicciones que esta dualidad podría haber generado es la controvertida biografía de la tenista, varias veces subcampeona en Wimbledon, Lilí Álvarez. Nacida en 1905 en Roma, su madre era la esposa .."
  9. ^ Béla Kehrling, ed. (24 June 1931). "Külföldi hírek [International news]" (in Hungarian) (PDF). Tennisz és Golf (Budapest, Hungary: Egyesült Kő-, Könyvnyomda. Könyv- és Lapkiadó Rt.) III (13): 253. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  10. ^ Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York: New Chapter Press. pp. 695, 701. ISBN 0-942257-41-3.
  11. ^ "Air et cosmos" 682–699 1977 "Le comte Jean de Gaillard de la Valdène, qui s'était distingué comme pilote durant la première guerre mondiale, est décédé à Lausanne dans sa 82" année "
  12. ^ Mémorial aéronautique: qui était qui? p83 Marcel Catillon 1997 "de GAILLARD de LA VALDÈNE Jean. Né le 2 septembre 1895. Décédé le 26 août 1977. AS 1914–1918 avec 5 victoires aériennes homologuées. Affecté à l'escadrille Spa 95. Repose dans le cimetière de Bollène (Vaucluse). "

External links[edit]