Don McNeill (tennis)

William Donald McNeill (April 30, 1918 – November 28, 1996) was an American tennis player. He was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma and died in Vero Beach, Florida, United States.

Don McNeill
Hammersley and Mc Neill.jpg
McNeill (right) with Chilean tennis player Andrés Hammersley in 1942.
Full nameWilliam Donald McNeill
Country (sports) United States
Born(1918-04-30)April 30, 1918
Chickasha, USA
DiedNovember 28, 1996(1996-11-28) (aged 78)
Vero Beach, USA
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
CollegeKenyon College
Int. Tennis HoF1965 (member page)
Grand Slam Singles results
French OpenW (1939)
Wimbledon2R (1939)
US OpenW (1940)
Grand Slam Doubles results
French OpenW (1939)
Wimbledon3R (1939)
US OpenW (1944)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
US OpenF (1944)


Don McNeill graduated from Kenyon College in 1940, where he became a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Lambda chapter).

McNeill won his first major title in 1938 when he defeated Frank Bowden at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships, played at the Seventh Regiment Armory in Manhattan, New York.[1]

In 1939, McNeill became the second American to win the French Championships singles title (after Don Budge) when he defeated compatriot Bobby Riggs in the final in straight sets.[2] Afterwards he played at Wimbledon, the only time he participated, and lost to Franjo Kukuljevic in the second round of the singles, reached the third round in the doubles and the quarterfinal in the mixed doubles.[3] He went on to win the All England Plate, a tennis competition held at the Wimbledon Championships which consisted of players who were defeated in the first or second rounds of the singles competition.[4]

In June 1940 McNeill beat Bobby Riggs to win the singles title at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Chicago.[5] In August that year he also won the Southampton Invitational tournament after a victory in the final over Frank Kovacs.[6] His run continued two weeks later when he won the invitational tournament at the Newport Casino.[7] In September he won his second Grand Slam title when he defeated Riggs in the final of the U.S. National Championships after being down two sets to love.[8] There were several bad line calls that went against Riggs in this match.[9] McNeill was the third player who managed to overcome a two-set deficit in the final of the U.S. Championships after Maurice McLoughlin (1912) and Bill Tilden (1922).[10]

His title wins in 1940 earned McNeill the No. 1 ranking in the USA at the end of the year.[11] There were no "official" amateur rankings during World War II - McNeill reached as high as World No. 7 in Gordon Lowe's amateur rankings list in 1939.[12] During the war McNeill served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was attached to the embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While stationed there he won the Argentinian Championships in 1942 and defended the title successfully in November 1943, defeating Pancho Segura in the final.[13][14]

After the war McNeill decided to focus on his business career and played tournaments less frequently. In 1950 McNeill won his second U.S. Indoor title, twelve years after winning his first. This time in the final he was too strong for Fred Kovaleski, defeating him in four sets. Additionally he had been a runner-up in 1940 and 1946.[15] Both Allison Danzig, in a New York Times article in 1936, and Pancho Segura, in a telephone interview in 2014, described McNeill's game as consisting of very heavily topspun drives off both wings, and Segura was of the opinion that McNeill didn't turn pro because there was really very little money in professional tennis then.

He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1965.

After his tennis career he became an advertising executive in New York.[2] McNeill died on November 28, 1996 in Vero Beach due to complications from pneumonia.[16]

Grand Slam finalsEdit

Singles: 2 (2 titles)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win 1939 French Championships Clay   Bobby Riggs 7–5, 6–0, 6–3
Win 1940 U.S. National Championships Grass   Bobby Riggs 4–6, 6–8, 6–3, 6–3, 7–5

Doubles: 3 (2 titles, 1 runner-up)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1939 French Championships Clay   Charles Harris   Jean Borotra
  Jacques Brugnon
4–6, 6–4, 6–0, 2–6, 10–8
Win 1944 U.S. National Championships Grass   Bob Falkenburg   Bill Talbert
  Pancho Segura
7–5, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1
Loss 1946 U.S. National Championships Grass   Frank Guernsey   Gardnar Mulloy
  Bill Talbert
6–3, 4–6, 6–2, 3–6, 18–20

Mixed: 1 (1 runner-up)Edit

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss 1944 U.S. National Championships Grass   Dorothy Bundy   Margaret Osborne
  Bill Talbert
2–6, 3–6


  1. ^ "Don McNeill Wins Indoors Tennis Singles Crown". Palm Beach Daily News. March 6, 1938.
  2. ^ a b Collins, Bud (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). [New York]: New Chapter Press. pp. 612, 613. ISBN 978-0942257700.
  3. ^ "Wimbledon player archive – Don McNeill". AELTC. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014.
  4. ^ Alan Little, ed. (2011). 2011 Wimbledon Compendium. London: The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. pp. 493–497. ISBN 9781899039364.
  5. ^ "Don McNeill Defeats Riggs in Tennis Finals". St. Petersburg Times. June 25, 1940.
  6. ^ "Don MvcNeill Wins Southampton Tennis". Eugene Register-Guard. August 4, 1940.
  7. ^ "McNeill Wins Both Titles at Newport". The News. August 18, 1940.
  8. ^ "McNeill Takes Rigss' Crown". The Tuscaloosa News. September 10, 1940.
  9. ^ Collins, Bud (2016). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (3rd ed.). New York: New Chapter Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-937559-38-0.
  10. ^ E., Digby Baltzell (2013). Sporting Gentlemen : Men's Tennis from the Age of Honor to the Cult of the Superstar. Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers. p. 320. ISBN 978-1412851800.
  11. ^ "Don McNeill and Alice Marble Top Tennis Lists at Year End". The Spokesman-Review. December 28, 1940.
  12. ^ United States Lawn Tennis Association (1972). Official Encyclopedia of Tennis (First Edition), p. 425.
  13. ^ "McNeill Wins Tennis Title". The Montreal Gazette. November 22, 1943.
  14. ^ "Tennis to Promote Pan-Americanism". The Milwaukee Journal. June 9, 1944.
  15. ^ "Aging Don McNeill is Spry Enough to regain Net Title". The Milwaukee Journal. March 27, 1950.
  16. ^ "W. Donald McNeill, 78, a U.S. Tennis Champion". The New York Times. November 30, 1996.

External linksEdit