Cilly Aussem - 'one of the most attractive and engaging women who ever played the game'
(too old to reply)
2021-04-05 10:25:09 UTC
I've become a little obsessed with Cilly in the last few days after
'discovering' her accidentally. This is still primarily a tennis forum
so will post a few tidbits for tennis fans that should be of interest;

"Every now and then, a player will rise in the tennis world, give
promise of attaining great stature and then, after fulfilling a part of
the promise, retire to tennis limbo. Such a player was Cilli Aussem of
Germany, one of the most attractive and engaging women who ever played
the game. ...Helen Jacobs, from her book Gallery of Champions."

AUSSEM, "CILLY" (Cäcilie Edith Aussem)
Born 04 January 1909 in Cologne, Germany
Died 22 March 1963 in Portofino, Italy
Married Count Fermo Murari Dalla Corte Bra' of Italy in March 1936 at
Munich, Germany
Height: 5 ' (1.524m)
Nickname: "Tennis Queen of Europe"
Trademarks: a crouching forehand, wearing bandeaus and later visors.
[Active 1923-1935]
2021-04-05 10:27:15 UTC
The Fragile Fraulien With The Will of Iron

1931 French and Wimbledon singles champion. Also won the 1930 French
mixed with Bill Tilden.

The pretty native of Cologne was universally admired for her charm and
attractiveness. "She had a lovely, heart-shaped little face with big
amber eyes, and wore her russet-colored hair parted in the middle, a
fashion that enhanced her doll-like appearance", according to Norah

Propelled to succeed by her mother, Aussem rose up in German tennis,
winning the Dutch and German titles in 1927-gaining her a world ranking
of #7 . Here her game stalled, held back by a combination of being too
defensive and psychological pressure to please her mother. Frau Aussem
was so intense she accused Paula von Reznicek, a German rival who had
recently beaten Cilly, of hypnotizing her daughter into defeat! In
August of 1928 the two women had a courtside fight where Von Reznicek
hit Cilly's mother in the face.

It was Bill Tilden helped her reach her full potential. During the
Riviera season in early 1930 he took Cilly under his wing. In order to
do so he promptly sent the overbearing Mrs Aussem packing back to
Germany. Showing noticeable improvement, Cilly blossomed with Bill by
her side. The pair won the French mixed title in 1930.

Her tiny and at times frail frame meant Aussem was prone to injuries or
overexertion. A dramatic example of this was against Elizabeth Ryan in
the 1930 Wimbledon semifinal. At 4 all in the third of an exciting
contest she fell to the ground in a dead faint [perhaps due to twisting
an ankle] and had to be carried off the court in a stretcher.

Recovered by 1931-the German romped to victory at the French
championships. At Wimbledon the crown was also hers. After a tough 6-3
in the third victory over Simone Mathieu little Cilly won a 6-2 7-5
final over fellow German Hilde Krahwinkel. It was a boring match, both
women hardly being able to move due to blisters. This hardy mattered in
the aftermath of victory however, and Cilly's feat made her a national
heroine in Weimar Germany. It happened to coincide with boxer Max
Schmeling becoming world champion, setting off huge celebrations.

Cilly was never the same after a trip to South America in 1931-32 where
she got a liver infection. Operated on for appendicitis on her return to
Germany, She attempted to return too soon. At the French, where many
hoped she would test Helen Wills-Moody in defense of her title, she was
forced to retire against Betty Nuthall. Aussem led Nuthall a set and
4-1, then lost the next 5 game and retired. She was clearly spent.

The illness so severe she was unable to defend her Wimbledon title.
Problems with her eyesight also bothered her; she often spent hours in
darkened rooms to counter the effects.

She was never again to get past the quarterfinals at a major.

Cilly’s career was effectively over in 1934 at the age of only 25. Her
last grand slam was at Wimbledon in 1934, where she reached the QF. Wed
to an Italian count in 1936, she contracted malaria while with her
husband in Somalia. It permanently weakened her already suspect
eyesight. The Countess della Brae led a quiet life in northern Italy,
virtually forgotten in her native land when she died in 1963. In recent
years her memory in Germany was revived when Steffi Graf became famous.
2021-04-05 10:33:41 UTC
Cilly Aussem – The Cheerful Champion

By Dieter Koditek

“In her tender, fragile-looking, but very agile body there dwelled a
strong will. And with this will she was able to move mountains when
playing tennis. Thus did Cilly Aussem, the high-spirited Rhinelander,
become the first German Wimbledon champion. However, before she achieved
this goal, the photogenic lady with the big dark eyes had had to
overcome many obstacles. She was not born with talent, she had to
acquire it during many hard hours of training prescribed by her mother.
‘Mummy’ Aussem was not only as pretty as her daughter, she was also
exceptionally ambitious where her tennis career was concerned.

“Cilly Aussem, who was born in Cologne on April 4, 1909, had her first
experience with a tennis racket and tennis balls at a very early age. At
the oldest club in her native city, the Rot-Weiss Köln, she found in
Willy Hannemann a renowned coach who helped her make rapid progress. At
the age of 15 she became German Junior Champion, at 17 she won the
senior title for the first time, and at 19 she was number in the German
ranking list. In those years she also had her international breakthrough
– she won the women’s single title at the International German
Championships at the Hamburger Rothenbaum club in 1927, 1930 and 1931.

“One of her most important fellow travellers and helpers was the great
Bill Tilden, who was not only the best player of his era, but is still
today considered one of the greatest players of all time. The American,
who was worshipped in tennis circles, but in those days was also
controversial because of his homosexuality, made no secret of his liking
for the dainty Rhinelander. In his book ‘Aces, Places and Faults’, he
wrote the following flattering words about her: ‘Together with the
Englishwoman Kay Stammers, Cilly was the most exciting girl who has ever
played tennis. She was my best mixed doubles partner.’ From this one can
conclude that in Tilden’s era the mixed doubles was also an important
event for the top players.

“However, Tilden was more to the young German woman than just a partner
and admirer. He was also the person who probably set her on the most
important course of her career. He recognised that Cilly had to free
herself from her dependence on her domineering mother if she wanted to
become a real champion. Her respect for her mother had resulted in some
questionable reactions, for example, after a defeat against Paula
Heimann, the future Paula Stuck, Cilly Aussem burst into tears,
explaining: ‘I’m not crying because I lost, but because I’ve
disappointed my mother.’

“During one of the then very popular series of tournaments on the Côte
d’Azur, Bill Tilden grasped the opportunity to take the decisive step.
When Frau Aussem asked how her daughter could be made into a really
great player, the champion answered: ‘By you getting on the next train
and beginning the journey home.’ Those words sunk in. Frau Aussem did
what was right, and her little daughter had her free space at last.

“As early as 1930 the Rhinelander, who later switched to the Rot-Weiss
Club in Berlin and was coached by Roman Najuch, had announced her
intentions with regard to the most coveted of all titles at Wimbledon.
She reached the semi-finals by defeating the world number two, the
American Helen Jacobs. But there she lost in very unfortunate
circumstances to another American, Elizabeth Ryan who, with 19 titles in
singles [?], doubles and mixed doubles set a Wimbledon record surpassed
only by Martina Navratilova more than half a century later [?]. In her
semi-final against Elizabeth Ryan, Cilly Aussem fell so heavily that she
temporarily fainted from the pain and had to be stretchered off court.

“However, one year later there was no stopping her at Wimbledon. When
the semi-finals were over it was clear that there would be a German
champion because, in addition to the player from Cologne, the tall Essen
native, Hilde Krahwinkel, had also qualified for the final. Cilly Aussem
won the match against her compatriot, 6-2, 7-5, making herself immortal
with this triumph. A few weeks earlier she had also won the women’s
singles title at the International French Championships, held on clay in
Paris – proof of her all-court game.

“By this time the cheerful woman, the star with no airs and graces, had
been experiencing problems with her eyesight. She often spent the time
before her sporting endeavours in darkened rooms. She wanted to protect
her eyes in this way. The sunshade she wore during the latter stage of
her career and which became her trademark was also used to this end.

“Her eye problems signalled an early end to her great career because she
was always in delicate health anyway. After a long break from taking
part in tournaments, caused by an appendix operation and an exhausting
South American trip, Cilly Aussem featured in the world rankings for the
last time in 1934. Then she disappeared from the tennis scene and found
her happiness in her marriage to an Italian aristocrat, Count Murari
della Corte Brà, with whom she spent the rest of her short life in his
homeland. She had met the aristocrat while skiing in Garmisch Partenkirchen.

“When Cilly Aussem died in 1963, nothing had been heard of her for a
long time. Almost completely blind, she had withdrawn from the public
eye. Her death would probably have gone unnoticed in Germany if, when
reading the daily newspapers, a German journalist had not seen an
obituary notice with the sad news about someone with the name of Murari
dalla Corte Brà.

“Cilly Aussem’s final resting place is the San Giorgio graveyard in
2021-04-05 10:37:36 UTC
At last a true documented catfight on the women's tour-even if it was 70
years ago!

Berlin, August 20, 1928

Rising German tennis star Cilly Aussem suffered two seemingly
unexplainable loses to a lower ranked German Frau von Reznicek. Aussem's
mother was convinced Reznicek had hypnotized Cilly!

The story gets even better. Moma Aussem made her charges public by
writing a letter to the President of the German tennis Federation,
asking him to do something about it.

At a tennis club in Berlin Reznicek demanded a retraction of the charges
of hypnotism, "and failing to get it, swung a hard right at Frau
Aussem's right ear and a hard left at Frau Aussem's left ear, gaining at
least one victory without the use of hypnotism"

Reznicek was banned from tournaments for 6 weeks and both women are
countersuing. Poor Cilly has often had to witness her mother's
disruptive scenes at her matches.