From Behind the secenes in women’s pro tennis, by Grace Lichtenstein

The Court-Goolagong final was held at noon on Saturday, the first match in the stadium before the men’s semis. The scheduling was significant – the stands did not really filled each day until after 1pm and the television coverage did not begin until 4pm. The prize money might have been equalized for the money at Forest Hills this year, but the exposure was not.

Promptly at 12 o’clock, Evonne and Margaret strode out of the marquee onto the grass, each carrying bouquets of roses. Their personalities showed through even in their walks – Margaret‘s the now-familiar, stately processional, Evonne’s a bouncy, cocky, head-tossing strut. Much earlier in the tournament, I had come across the two of them practicing together early in the morning. Although they were frequent rivals, Evonne and Margaret had a mentor-pupil friendship of long standing. Court, nine years older, had been Evonne’s idol as a child. A faded picture of the curly-haired little aboriginal staring up worshipfully at the olde woman, already a world champion, still hung on the wall of the Goolagong home in Barellan. They had, on occasion, been doubles partners.

Evonne, serving first, began and ended the initial game sensationally, with aces. She was dressed in white, as usual (even though Forest Hills welcomed color costumes), appealingly sexy without a sexy girl’s build.
She broke Margaret in the second game, hitting winners on her return-of-serve, putting her ground strokes deep toward the baseline. But in the seventh game, Margaret, who seemed to have been slow in warming-up, broke back, and they stayed even until 5-5, when Margaret got a second break. All she had to do was hold her own serve in the next game to win the set.

At Wimbledon, Billie Jean had noted with some distress that Evonne could play mediocre tennis right up until it was time for her opponent to take the set, and then suddenly raise the level of her game 1000 percent. She did it now, taking the game on Margaret’s serve to pull even at 6-6, and force the tie breaker. The crowd grew hushed.

Just quickly as she had climbed that 1000 pecent, she toppled back 999. On the first point, she hit an easy overhead long, on the second she double-faulted, on the third Margaret caught her flat-footed with a dropshot. Evonne picked up the next two points, then sent a forehand wide and a backhand into the net to lose the net.

In the second set, Evonne again raced from brilliance to mediocrity without ever crossing middle ground. Each time she missed a first serve, Margaret would cream her weak second one. Yet Evonne’s backhand volley was cutting through balls at the net like a buzz saw, well enough for her to stay even with Court to 5-5. In the next game, on break point, she stunned Margaret with a whistling return-of-serve that pushed Court far into a corner. Margaret barely managed to get her backhand on it, blooping the ball right down the middle of the court. Evonne, on her toes at the net, volleyed it away. She won the set on the next game, to shouts of “Come on, Goolie!”

It turned out to be her last hurrah. While Evonne bobbed around like a cork, Margaret let the superbly machine that was her body do its precision work. With the score 4-2 in her favor in the third set, there was no stopping Big Mama. She won eight of the final nine points, the set, the match, the title, the $25,000, the Mustang, and one silent salute from a Dodger fan in the third row of the bleachers.

2014 Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:

Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia

Fashion and gear:

Marketing:

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon Trivia
Wimbledon past champions: stats and records
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Bjorn Borg – Ilie Nastase Wimbledon 1976
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history

Recaps:

Polls:

Will Andy Murray retain his Wimbledon title?

  • No (80%, 45 Votes)
  • Yes (20%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 56

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Who will win Wimbledon 2014?

  • Roger Federer (31%, 14 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (24%, 11 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (24%, 11 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (0%, 0 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ernests Gulbis (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Other (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 45

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Who will win Wimbledon 2014?

  • Maria Sharapova (41%, 12 Votes)
  • Serena Williams (21%, 6 Votes)
  • Other (14%, 4 Votes)
  • Li Na (10%, 3 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (7%, 2 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Agniezska Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jelena Jankovic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Dominika Cibulkova (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 29

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Chris Evert, Wimbledon 1976

Excerpt from Chrissie: My Own Story by Chris Evert Lloyd with Neil Amdur, 1982

I took the first set 6-3, steadier off the ground, Evonne won the second 6-4, and then opened a 2-0 lead in the third until I got back a service break and we went to 4-all. That’s when I looked up in the Friends Box and saw Billie Jean and Rosie motioning with their eyes. At first, I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to tell me; then it dawned: They wanted me to move into the net and attack Evonne’s second serve.

If Evonne held her serve now, it would leave me serving at 4-5, but if I broke I could serve for the match. “Never change a winning game,” was a tennis motto, but if I didn’t take some chances and change Evonne’s rhythm, she could serve and volley her way straight to the title.
I didn’t exactly look like Tony Roche rushing to the net in the ninth game. But my aggressiveness in chipping to Evonne’s forehand threw her off enough for her to miss several passing shots. I broke to 5-4 and needed only to hold serve for a second Wimbledon title.
On the court changeover, I should have been thinking just as aggressively. Instead, I retreated, lost my serve at love and then sat back and watched Evonne carry the momentum to a 6-5 advantage. Sitting at mid-court, I toweled off and went back to several basics: Get your first serve in, preferably to Evonne’s forehand; stay keen…

Evonne helped rebuild some of my confidence. On the first point of the twelfth game, she rushed the net with an approach shot to my backhand. If I held back anything, she would be in perfect postion for a finishing volley, so I leaned forward and drove the ball cross-court with a ferocity that bordered on recklessness. The pace of the shot stunned her because she mishandled the volley, and I held serve from 15.
At many tournaments, 6-all in the third set means a decisive tie breaker. Not Wimbledon. Evonne and I would go on under conventional scoring until one of us took two consecutive games.

Evonne had chances to hold for 7-6, but I attacked and won the point with an overhead and then broke on two errors. I had served once for the match and squandered the advantage. Here I was again. At 30-0, Evonne won the next two points, but I reached 40-30. Evonne moved in behind a forehand volley down the line. Anticipating my two-handed cross-court drive, she crowded closer to the net, leaning and waiting. Instead of the passing shot, however, I held my two-handed backhand as long as I could, and then, with the same motion as my drive, flicked a topspin lob crosscourt, over Evonne’s left shoulder. The ball landed a foot or so inside the baseline. Game, set and match.
I must have thrown my Wilson racquet fifty feet in the air…

1977 Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Sarah Virginia Wade, popularly known as Ginny, was only the third British player since Dorothy Round, in the 1930s, to win three women’s singles Grand Slam tournaments. The other two were Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones, who both won on the extremes of court surfaces, grass and clay, whereas Wade’s Grand Slam titles were all on grass. Intensely patriotic, she represented her country for an unparalleled span of years: and her crowning achievement was to win Wimbledon in 1977 when the 100th championships coincided with the 25th anniversary of Queen Elisabeth II’s accession to the throne. The Queen was present for the occasion.

Wade’s patriotism had been diverted from South Africa. Her mother was born there, of British parents, and graduated from Rhodes University before moving on to Cambridge, where Wade’s father, an Oxford graduate, was chaplain. The youngest of four children, Wade was 11 months old when the family settled in Durban, where the archdeacon’s daughter turned out to be a bundle of inexhaustible energy, became obsessed with tennis, and gradually developed a tempestuous, slam-bang playing style. She was 15 years old and one of the nation’s most promising juniors when – South Africa having become a Republic outside the Commonwealth – the Wades returned to England, in February, 1961. At first they lived at Wimbledon, where Wade went to the local grammar school and, with her sister, joined the club across the road from the All England Club. She saw her first Wimbledon that year (Angela Mortimer beat Christine Truman in the first all-British final since 1914). It was in 1961, too, that the family moved to Kent and, this time, stayed put. All one needs to add to that potted off-court history is that Wade, the daughter of a clergyman and a mathematics teacher, studied at the University of Sussex and graduated in general science and physics in June, 1966 – her examinations coinciding with the more energetic challenges of a Wightman Cup contest at Wimbledon.

That background was important. As a much travelled teenager from a scholarly, intellectual, upper middle-class environment rooted in the vicarages of two nations, Wade was a rare commodity. Thee were plenty of players around who could list one or two similar items in their curriculum vitae, but none who combined so much that was unusual. Wade was a throwback to the kind of players who had graced Wimbledon half a century earlier. Inevitably she was something of a misfit in the context of the international tennis circuit as we knew it in the 1960s and 1970s. With her slightly haughty manner, her up-market accent, and her coterie of social and cultural peers, she dod not find it easy to mix with the street-smart hoi polloi. It was as much to her credit as theirs that, while remaining a mite eccentric, she eventually became part of the family. It might have happened sooner but for her comparatively cloistered upbringing.

All that goes some way towards explaining why, in her early years on the tour, Wade lacked a winning personality. It also partly explains why she found it difficult to keep a rein on a passionate nature that often erupted into querulous and unseemly on-court tantrums. She was agressive, turbulent, volatile, highly strung. Often, she was so nervous or distraught that her stroking technique and tactical sense were adversely affected. On such occasions she could lose to inferior players: as happened, notably, when Christina Sandberg, Pat Walkden, and Ceci Martinez beat her in the Wimbledons of 1968, 1979 and 1970. It sat oddly with Wade’s social and academic development that, at times, she could be capable of ill-tempered outbursts and tactical naïvety. She could not always control the fires burning within her – but they never went out. Wade always had star quality or, as friend once put it, a ‘divine spark’. She enjoyed going on stage at players’ cabarets. She saw herself, I suspect, as part of the ‘Establishment’ class born to exert authority. And as the years went by she mellowed, achieved emotional maturity, played with smiling self-assurance, and ceased to get rattled. She learned to control her temperament, her game, and her opponents.

Even the ‘phase one’ Wade was capable of great performances: spectacular, exciting, dramatic, but eschewing the infuriating wildness that punctuated those early years. The demons within were tamed on special occasions in 1968, 1971 and 1972. Her success in the first Open tournament, at Bournemouth (her birthplace), had no moe than historic signifiance, because the women’s event was a sideshow to the men’s. But in the first US Open championships in 1968 she was devastating, beating such formidable opponents as Rosie Casals, Judy Tegart, Ann Jones and Billie Jean King without conceding a set. She was the first British player to win the US women’s title since Betty Nuthall in 1930. The cheque for $6,000 mattered far less than the consistent splendour of Wade’s tennis in winning it. In a tent by the Forest Hills clubhouse she attentively poured champagne for the small contingent of Brits. In those days, there were not many of us around. I recall the stray thought that Wade – like Fred Perry before her – had a character in harmony with the bustling aggression of New York.

1968 Virginia Wade at Tennis Championships at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, News photo

A different source of satisfaction came in the 1971 Italian championships, at that time the toughest clay-court test outside Paris. Wade liked Rome. She liked the tournament. But slow clay was not her scene. She had never mastered it: because patient, devious manoeuvring was not in her nature. That year, the field of 16 was mostly modest. But in the final Wade beat Helga Masthoff (formerly Niessen), who had once committed herself to the opinion that there was no way Wade could ever beat her on clay. Masthoff, tall and unhurried, wth more than a hint of hauteur, exuded the airs and graces of a rather supercilious grande dame. Off court, she had a droll sense of humour. On court, her iron-clad composure (plus the sharpest of tactical wits) could make the likes of Wade seem emotionally dishevelled. Beating her in Rome meant a lot to Wade. But as she poured champagne again, this time on the sunny terrace of the Foro Italico, Wade merely osbserved ‘I’ve learned how to play on this stuff’.

In 1972 Wade beat Evonne Goolagong, the French and Wimbledon champion, in the Australian final. But we had to wait more than five years for the ‘phase two’ Wade to win Wimbledon. She had been playing there since she was 16 (altogether, she contested the singles for 24 consecutive years). The semi-final pairings suggested that Sue Barker was more likely than Wade to win the title for Britain. But Betty Stove beat Barker: and Wade eventually overwhelmed Chris Evert, a result that left Evert in shock for days.
Then Wade beat Stove – whereupon the centre court became a raging sea of Union Jacks, applauding hands, echoing roars, repeated hurrahs, and the improvised paradox of ‘For she’s a jolly good fellow’. It was rather like the last night of the Proms: one of those special occasions on which the British let their hair down. Everything had coincided to make this a great day: anniversaries for Wimbledon and the Queen and, most of all, the long-deferred triumph of a player closely identified with tradition, royalty and patriotism.

Virginia Wade

Wade was 5ft 7in tall and her weight usually hovered around 9st 7lb. She was dark and lithe, springy and athletic, thoufh rather heavy-footed. Her blue eyes had icy, alarming clarity. She had a graceful yet restlessly untamed air about her. One sensed the threatening reserves of nervous and physical energy, the jungle instinct, the prefeence (on court) for action rather than cerebral indulgences. In most of this she had much in common (and was aware of it) with the big cats. It was easy to imagine Wade in the latter role, bounding on to her prey and tearing it to bits. That natural athleticism, aggression and fighting spirit was the main reason for her success. Her racket-work was not exceptional. She had a superb first service, delivered with a classically fluent action, and her volleys were boldly terminal when she took care with them. The forehand was dangerous but often wayward, the backhand more consistently damaging – she put so much ‘work’ on the approach shot that, once over the net, it became almost subterranean.

Wade was a mass of contradictory qualities, not least the fact that she seemed to be thorougly English in spite of her South African upbringing and a disposition that was probably more suited to New York (where she was to settle) than the Home Counties. She aroused conflicting emotions but nobody could feel dispassionate in the presence of so much passion. In her autobiography Wade pointed out that she had the same birthday as Arthur Ashe (two years older) and that they were the first US Open champions and both won Wimbledon at the age of 31. Add the big services, the cultural interests and the African connections, and you can begin to believe in the influence of the stars.

In 1974, Jimmy Connors captures his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open defeating Phil Dent (Taylor’s father) in the finals. At that time, the tournament was played on grass at the Kooyong Stadium over Christmas and New Year’s and Jimmy Connors was engaged to Chris Evert.
1974 was the only year Bjorn Borg played at the Australian Open, losing in the third round to Phil Dent. In the women’s draw Evonne Goolagong in her fourth-consecutive Australian Open final appearance, defeated Chris Evert 7-6 4-6 6-0.

Jimbo’s road to the title:
1st round: def Jean-Louis Haillet (FRA) 6-1 7-5
2nd round: def Graeme Thomson (AUS) 6-4 6-2 7-6
3rd round: def Syd Ball (AUS) 6-4 5-7 6-3 6-4
Quarter finals: def Vladimir Zednik (TCH) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
Semi finals: def John Alexander (AUS) 7-6 6-4 6-4
Finals: def Phil Dent (AUS) 7-6 4-6 6-0

From Jimmy Connors‘ autobiography The Outsider:

“Australia in December is stupid hot and at times the weather matched my mood. The facilities were basic, to say the least – the Kooyong Stadium had a tiny locker room with a single shower and one toilet cubicle – but that didn’t bother me. No, what pissed me off was the partisan crowd, screaming approval at every hometown player and abuse at every foreigner. Guess who was their main target?

I took the brunt of it; three of the five matches I played to reach my first Grand Slam final were against Aussies. Every time I beat a local the fans roared their disapproval. Who was this upstart American brat hell-bent on ruining their party? Hearing the crowd booing was one thing, but was the hell was the deal with those flies? Where were they breeding those things anyway? They looked like B-52s coming down on me.

Spencer and Chrissie did their best to calm me down, and I know that without them I would have imploded and been on my way home long before I met another Australian, Phil Dent, in the finals.
But even Chrissie was getting on my nerves. Nobody was safe. With the organizers usually scheduling me on the court after Chrissie, I would go along to support her, sometimes bringing a sandwich and a Pepsi for my lunch. Chrissie didn’t seem to like that one little bit. If she noticed me eating and not paying attention during her match, she would throw me a look, which wasn’t hard for me to read: “If you’re not going to watch me play, then get out of here.” That pissed me off even more than the hostile Australian fans, because it was embarrassing; I thought everyone in the stadium could see what was going on. Run along, Jimmy, do what you’re told. […]

Phil Dent took the full force of the frustation and aggression that had been building in me from the first day of the tournament. Fortunately, I managed to channel it into my game. The super-dry, well-worn grass of Kooyong reminded me of the armory floorboards, and I adopted the approach Mom had taught me back in St Louis, moving forward, taking the ball early, blasting it down the lines and across the court. Even with the crowd cheering their countryman on, he didn’t stand a chance.
I took the first two sets, and although he managed to rally in the third set, taking it 6-4 and putting on a show for his fans, it was just a momentary setback. I regrouped, ignored the lynch mob in the stands, and won the fourth, 6-3, to capture my first Grand Slam title.

I was ecstatic, even if, to be brutally honest, the Australian Open in the 1970s didn’t draw the number of top players that it should have. The long flight and the unfortunate timing of the tournament limited the field. But it was still a Grand Slam and an important win in anybody’s book.
If the scheduling had been like it is today, I would have gone to Australia more often. But I played the Australian Open only twice in my career, winning it in 1974 and losing to John Newcombe in the finals the following year, and I thought that was good enough. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made, but who knows; if I had played the Australian a few more times, would I have won more majors? Your guess is as good as mine.

Between 1974 and 1979, I also didn’t play in the French Open so there was a long period of time where I was competing only in Wimbledon and the US Open.

So get this – in my career I won eight Slams and was in the finals of seven others, basically playing only two majors a year. Take it for what it is worth.

Getting that first win in the Australian Open was huge. That victory did set me up perfectly for what was to become the most extraordinary single year of my career: I would win 15 tournaments and lose only four matches out of 103. I also saw it as a launchpad that would catapult me toward the French Open and Wimbledon. I was partially correct.”

Kinda ironic to read Connors complain about the crowd don’t you think? Really would like to know his opponents’ thoughts on playing against him and the crowd at the US Open…