Obituary | Jenny Staley Hoad – 1934-2024

Jenny Staley Hoad died peacefully in Fuengirola, Spain, overnight on Tuesday last week at the age of 89, just short of her 90th birthday on 3 March.

Those who have enjoyed visiting Lew Hoad’s Campo de Tenis in Fuengirola, Spain, will remember the legend’s amiable wife, Jenny, who was a formidable left-hander in her own right, and reached the final of the Australian Championships in 1954.

Learning to play on the hard courts of Melbourne, Jenny won the Australian junior title in 1953 at Kooyong, and, the next year at the age of 19, she reached the final of the Australian Championships at White City where she was beaten by Thelma Long.

Victories came at the Australian Hardcourt Championships in 1954, and the South Australian Championships in 1955.

During the overseas tour of 1955, together with Fay Muller, Beryl Penrose and Mary Carter, Jenny made the headlines when she discovered leading up to Wimbledon that she was pregnant and within 24 hours was married to Lew Hoad at St Mary’s Church, with Rex Hartwig as the best man and Harry Hopman giving the bride away. 

The couple had been secretly engaged since Lew proposed on her 21st birthday 3 months earlier, and their relationship made them the glamarous ‘It Couple’ of tennis.

When Lew struggled with form in the 1954 Davis Cup, Hopman reflected there was little he could do to motivate a player who ‘had one of Cupid’s barbs stuck fast in him’.


The golden couple - Australian great Lew Hoad (L) with his wife, Jenny Staley Hoad, photographed on 24 June 1968.

© David Cairns/Daily Express/Getty Images

After reaching the mixed doubles semi-final at Wimbledon after their wedding, the couple parted, as Jenny returned to Australia while Lew continued touring for another 3 months.

Jenny’s best singles performance at the Wimbledon Championships was reaching the 4th-round in 1955, losing to 8th-seeded Angela Buxton, and 1956 when she was defeated by 5th-seeded and eventual champion Shirley Fry.

Tennis led the couple around the world for more than a decade after Lew turned professional.

Jenny was an advocate of women’s tennis and publicly railed against the high-handed manner in which Australian women’s teams were managed in the early 1960s, appealing for greater respect for the players.

The Hoads moved to Spain after Lew retired in 1970, where they set up ‘Lew Hoad’s Campo de Tenis’ at Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.

The resort became a magnet for friends and celebrities, including Stewart Granger, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Peter Ustinov, Deborah Kerr and her husband Peter Viertel, Kirk Douglas, singer Frank Sinatra and saxophonist Stan Getz, who soaked up the sunshine and goodwill, and, at the centre of it all was Jenny, whose bright personality drew people in.

In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer ranked Hoad as one of the 21 best players of all time.

Lew was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of leukemia on 13 January 1994, which caused his death on 3 July 1994, at the age of 59.


Rod Laver @rodlaver posted on 4 July 2019: In the last 8 club @Wimbledon with Jenny Hoad and her grandson Ignacio. What a resemblance to Lew, my idol.

Jenny and Lew had lived together in Spain for 30 years, and, after his passing, Jenny continued running the Campo for another 5 years before selling it in April 1999.

She retired to a nearby property from where she maintained close links with the club, playing tennis almost every day and writing a book, My Life with Lew, with Jack Pollard, an Australian journalist, which was published in 2002.

Lew was a mis-understood man, seldom free of back pain and yet still managed to win 2 Wimbledon singles titles, 3 Wimbledon doubles, a French, Italian and Australian singles title and 17 of his 19 Davis Cup matches.

My Life with Lew was the story of Jenny and Lew’s amazing life together, counting among their friends Sean Connery, Richard Burton and Ava Gardner.

The book was a love story, a travelogue and a detailed look at one of the world’s best tennis players by the one person in the world who knew him best.

Jenny maintained her links with Australian tennis and, in 2019, she sat next to Rod Laver at a dinner to honour the 50th anniversary of his Grand Slam.

Laver noted the honour as Lew had been his childhood hero, and remarked how her grandson, Ignacio, reminded him so much of his idol.

Prior to the Davis Cup in 2022, Tony Roche arranged for the Australian team to visit the ‘Campo de Tenis’, where they met Jenny and heard stories of the past, and, in the following days, she was court-side at Malaga for Australia’s semi-final against Croatia.

Until very recently, Jenny continued to play the game she so loved, knifing away volleys, craftily set up by her vicious left-handed serve, and all delivered with a wicked but always friendly smile.

Jenny leaves two daughters, Jane and Sally, and a son, Peter, as well as 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.


Jenny Hoad at the Campo de Tenis in October 2023


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1 Comment

  1. SamaraHoad

    Thanks! It’s a beautiful text

    Reply

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