LOS ANGELES — Gertrude ‘‘Gussie’’ Moran, who shocked the modest midcentury tennis world when she took the court at Wimbledon in a short skirt and ruffled underwear, died.
Ms. Moran, 89, had colon cancer when she died Wednesday in her small apartment in Los Angeles, said Jack Neworth, a tennis writer who befriended her in her final year.
As a 25-year-old seventh seed at Wimbledon in 1949, Ms. Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop at the staid All-England Club in London when she started her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper at the time.
She lost, 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.’’
‘‘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.
Gertrude Agusta Moran was born in 1923 to Harry Moran, a sound technician at Universal Studios, and his wife, Emma. They lived near the ocean in Santa Monica.
Ms. Moran began taking tennis lessons at 11, and later played at Santa Monica High and on traveling junior teams.
After retiring from tennis, she toured with the USO, and was once on a helicopter that crashed in Vietnam. She did various stints on radio and television including a sports talk show for six years in New York.
Ms. Moran married three times, resulting in an annulment and two divorces, and had no children.
Ms. Moran said she was happy that modern-day players like the Williams sisters can be flashy and unashamed in their court fashion.