Melbourne, Australia, 15 February 2024 | Mike Sexton

It is with a heavy heart that the Australian tennis community mourns the passing of Jenny Staley Hoad, whose place in the post-war golden age is part of legend.

As a player she was a gifted left-hander who reached the final of the Australian Championships in 1954 and in partnership with Lew Hoad became a glamorous and enduring symbol of the sport.

Learning to play on the hard courts of Melbourne, Jenny rose to prominence by taking the Australian junior title in 1953 at Kooyong. The following year, aged 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.

It was during the overseas tour of 1955 (with Fay Muller, Beryl Penrose and Mary Carter) that she put tennis onto the front page. In the lead-up to Wimbledon, Jenny found she was pregnant and within 24 hours was married to Lew Hoad at St Mary’s Church. Rex Hartwig was best man and Harry Hopman gave the bride away.

The couple had been secretly engaged since Lew proposed on her 21st birthday three months earlier and their relationship made them the ‘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’.

Australian tennis player Lew Hoad (L) with his wife, Australian tennis player Jenny Staley Hoad, UK, 24th June 1968. (Photo by David Cairns/Daily Express/Getty Images)

Australian tennis player Lew Hoad (L) with his wife, Australian tennis player Jenny Staley Hoad, UK, 24th June 1968. (Photo by David Cairns/Daily Express/Getty Images)


After reaching the mixed doubles semifinal at Wimbledon after their wedding, the couple parted, as Jenny returned to Australia and Lew continued touring for another three months. The following year, Lew won the men’s singles crown at Wimbledon while Jenny reached the quarterfinals in what was her final year playing.

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 such as Frank Sinatra, Peter Ustinov and Stan Getz who soaked up the sunshine and goodwill. At the centre of it was Jenny, whose bright personality drew people in.

After Lew’s passing in 1994 from leukaemia, Jenny continued running the resort for another five years before retiring to a nearby villa.

Her connection with Australian tennis remained. 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. In the following days, she was courtside at Malaga for Australia’s semifinal against Croatia.

Jenny passed away quietly in her sleep in Spain at the age of 89.