Wimbledon celebrates its 50th anniversary – but 1970s women couldn’t keep up

Most of the players on court at Wimbledon in 1975 won championships in their own right, while Sue Barker was one of the few able to match the game’s male stars

The UK tennis calendar fills with pre-season tournaments, mini-tournaments, build-up events, Challenge Tour events and major championships. The playing fields differ greatly: while the players train, prepare and improve within these small stages, the men’s game gathers pace and gravitates towards the centralised National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, south-west London.

Fast forward three decades and the women’s game is a progressive and more mixed proposition. Women’s tennis is becoming less about whom you catch, and more about who you are. However, Wimbledon 1977 was the exception.

In the lead-up to the event, which took place on 1 July, the match organisers urged the female players to emulate their male counterparts and “win in character”. The pay-off for female finalists was the following match, between John Newcombe and Borg, and the men – before the match starts – engage in a motivational circle walk through the grounds.

Sue Barker was one of the only female winners to match the male stars in 1975. Photograph: BBC

The match itself began with a view on the left of Centre Court, with the Court 1 structure in the background. Pam Shriver was on court No 2, and Bertie Bott, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert-Lloyd on Court No 1, when Newcombe and Borg took the first set. As the third set reached a conclusion, the match proceeded in complete darkness. But the match was not over until Berry Sellers was defeated in the tie-break. The only other woman to win a set on the Suzanne Lenglen court was Belladonna Jarrett. The two men who achieved the feat were Pat Cash and Don Budge.

Serena Williams: ‘I would rather hate myself than do it again’ Read more

Sue Barker was one of the only women to match the male stars in 1975. The race has largely been won by women. When the event took place in 1970, only 10 female players competed in all the tournaments. One of these was Britain’s Helen Cox. She won the French Open that year.

Although the contest between the cream of men’s and women’s tennis was played on Thursday, the men’s singles are first on Centre Court. Newcombe played Borg, who beat Jimmy Connors in the men’s final. Roger Federer will be on the Centre Court court against John Isner on Thursday.

Leave a Comment