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Alice Marble, the U.S. women's No. 1 in 1939. Gjon Mili—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

LIFE: Classic tennis photos

On the eve of the 2012 Wimbledon championships, LIFE.com offers a selection of classic photographs celebrating tennis: images of kids, adults, amateurs, professionals, men and women, all enjoying the singular pleasure of smacking the fur out of a yellow ball.