LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gertrude "Gussie" Moran, who shocked the modest midcentury tennis world when she took the court at Wimbledon with short skirt and ruffled underwear, has died at age 89.
Moran had recently returned from a long hospital stay with colon cancer when she died Wednesday night in her small apartment in Los Angeles, said Jack Neworth, a tennis writer who befriended Moran in her final year.
As a 25-year-old seventh seed at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop at the usually staid All-England Club in London when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper for women at the time.
She lost the match, but her striking fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world, the British press dubbing her "Gorgeous Gussie."
"She had no idea what she was getting into," Neworth said. "She definitely liked fashion and was very attractive, but she was very naive and hadn't traveled much."
Moran was ranked as high as fourth in the United States, would be a doubles finalist at Wimbledon and reach the singles semifinals at the U.S. Open., but would always struggle to be known for more than the skirt and the "Gorgeous Gussie" moniker she got from the British press.
"Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time," tennis great Jack Kramer said in 2002 in the Los Angeles Times, which first reported her death. "Gussie was a beautiful woman with a beautiful body. If Gussie had played in the era of television, no telling what would have happened. Because, besides everything else, Gussie could play."
She always preferred to spell her nickname "Gussy," but reporters at Wimbledon spelled it "Gussie" and that version stuck, at least publicly, for the rest of her life.