Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
“One of the most exciting matches I remember was the final for the championships at Wimbledon, played on the Centre Court on July 6, 1889, between Miss Rice and me.
I started very nervously, as Miss Rice had given me rather a fright in the Irish Championship the month before, when she appeared in Dublin as a “dark horse”. On that occasion I had only scraped through 7-5 7-5. I began the match at Wimbledon by serving a double fault, and lost several games by doing the same thing in the first set. My length was awful and Miss Rice was playing well from the start. She had a very fine forehand drive, but, like myself, a bad backhand. She led a 3 games to 1, and took the first set at 6-4.
In the second set I regained my confidence a little, winning three love games out of the first four; but Miss Rice won the next four games in succession, the score being called 5-3 and 40-15 against me.
At this point, in my despair, I said th Mr. Chipp, who was umpiring the match, “What can I do?”. His grim answer was, “Play better, I should think.”
I then fully realized that I had not been playing my best game and that to win I must hit harder. This I did, with the result that my length improved and I snatched this game from the fire -although Miss Rice was three times within a stroke of the match- and I eventually won the set at 8-6.
The last set was well fought out, for, although I began well and led at 3-1, Miss Rice won the next three games in succession and rached 40-30 in the following game. This was her last effort, as I ran out at 6-4, winning the Championship for the second time. I think it was one of the closest matches I ever played, and I see that I only won 18 games to her 16, and 110 strokes to her 100, and I felt I was most lucky to win at all.”