Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard

Six times Wimbledon champion Blanche Bingley Hillyard recalls her second Wimbledon victory in 1889. Extract from Lawn Tennis for Ladies by Dorothy Chambers Lambert.

“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.”

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