A great champion, after whom the Australian Women's Singles trophy is named
Daphne Akhurst was born in 1903 in Ashfield, educated locally where she was both a talented tennis player, and an equally talented musician. Daphne won the singles and doubles in the Metropolitan Secondary Schools Tournament from 1917 to 1920. On leaving school Daphne won a scholarship to the Conservatorium of Music where she gained her Professional and Teacher’s Diplomas in 1922.
Daphne was identified as an upcoming star of the WSLTA and gained competition practice at Pratten Park against the likes of other top players of the association such as James Outram (J.O.) Anderson and John Herbert (Jack) Crawford. From 1921 Daphne’s tennis career took off and she competed in every competition locally and in the country areas. The County of Cumberland Championships that the WSLTA hosted at Pratten Park each year gave Daphne her first big win, in the women’s singles of 1923. After that she was a regular winner of that event over the next decade. Her success took her to state and national finals where she won the women’s singles championship in 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929 and 1930. Her steady game extended to playing doubles to great success also. She won the women’s doubles championship in 1924, 1925, 1928, 1929 and 1931 and the mixed doubles championship in 1924, 1925, 1928 and 1929.
One of the most successful years of play for Daphne was 1925 when, hot on the heels of her wins in the County of Cumberland Championships, she won the Australasian Women’s Singles Championship at Rushcutters Bay in front of the largest number of spectators ever to assemble at that ground. She was also victorious in retaining the Women’s Doubles Championship which she played with Mrs Sylvia (Lance) Harper, and again retaining the mixed doubles championship which she played with John Willard against her women’s partner Sylvia Harper and Richard Schlesinger.
Daphne and her women’s doubles partner, Sylvia (Lance) Harper. (Lawn Tennis Life, Vol. 2, No. 29, 6 November 1925)
Having proved herself in every competition she entered it is no surprise that in 1925 her international tennis career began when she was a member of the first Australian women’s team to tour abroad.
Repeating her 1925 success in the County of Cumberland and Australasian Championships, Daphne again toured Britain with the Australian women’s team in 1928 winning four rounds of the Wimbledon singles to reach the final, where she was defeated. She and partner, Esna Boyd, also reached the finals in the women’s doubles and yet again reached the finals in the mixed doubles with her partner, Jack Crawford. Although the team did not achieve ultimate success they returned from Wimbledon to Australia as heroes. At this stage Daphne was ranked third in the world.
Daphne died at only 30 of an ectopic pregnancy,in 1933, but leaving a legacy of generosity and grace, as well as sporting prowess.
The Australian Open women's singles trophy is named the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in her honour.
Today Daphne ranks third on the Australian all-time singles champion list behind Margaret Court and Nancye Wynne Bolton.