Wimbledon started this week, and for the first time in a really long time, a British tennis player has a shot at winning the whole shebang. If Scotland’s Andy Murray takes the title, he’ll be the first Brit to do so since Fred Perry in 1936. Well, that’s what sports commentators would have you believe.
I started watching The Championships on television when I was 13, and after some time, I noticed something curious: there was hardly any mention of the real last British Wimbledon singles champion, Virginia Wade.
Wade won the Wimbledon women’s singles championship in 1977, and she is, to this day, the last British person to win a major singles title. In her career, she won two other major singles titles (the US Open and Australian Open), four major doubles titles, and was a runner-up in six other major doubles tournaments. That’s nowhere near the top of the list – Steffi Graf has 22, the most since professionals were allowed to play in the big championships – but it’s absolutely nothing to sneeze at. It was enough to get her inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that Wade only gets a fraction of the Perry love. It wasn’t even until 2007 that men and women received equal prize money. Oof.
Wade retired in 1986, when I was three years old. I like to think that women have come a long way since then, but, sadly, women athletes often get short shrift.
But there is no reason not to give Virgina Wade her due. She carries the torch of British tennis, at least until someone else takes it up. We’d do well to remember that.
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