Diamond: Forget something, Wimbledon?

Much has been made of Andy Murray's win at Wimbledon, widely and incorrectly headlined as the first Brit to win a singles tennis final there since Fred Perry pulled it off in 1936.

Virginia Wade did it in 1977. And four other women had done it before that.

You think the pressure was on Murray, who made his Wimbledon debut as a wildcard in 2005? Imagine what it was like for Wade in 1977.

When she stepped on the fabled Centre Court to play in the "ladies" singles final, Wade had never won the title, breaking English hearts year after year. But that year, it was the centenary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club championships, known as Wimbledon.

As if that wasn't enough to shake the volatile Wade, Queen Elizabeth II was in the audience for the first time in a quarter of a century. (The Duke and Duchess of Kent are the royal patrons of the championships.)

In all those previous years, whenever Wade played at Wimbledon, folks would gather around television sets to watch and cheer for the gorgeous, lithe and intelligent 1966 graduate of the University of Sussex. Wade was England's darling.

But the whole country came to a dead stop when Wade took the court against hard-hitting Betty Stove of the Netherlands in the 1977 final. Forget stiff upper lip. Those notoriously stoic folks wept with joy and danced in the streets when she won.

After more than a decade as Britain's No. 1 female player, "Our Ginny" had done it.

When she raised the winner's plate — women are awarded a plate, while men get a cup — the crowd at Centre Court broke into song, serenading Wade with "For she's a jolly good fellow."

There to cover the final for "Inside Women's Tennis," I found myself in tears, both for Wade's storybook win and later for Stove, who played three finals that day — Ladies Singles, Ladies Doubles and Mixed Doubles — and lost all three matches.

As I recall, the lead to my story on the match was, "If it had been a movie, critics would have panned it as preposterous."

A pro since 1967, Wade was an international star by 1977, her fame starting with a win at the first U.S. Open in 1968 when she took home $6,000 in prize money.

But Virginia Slims came along in the late 1960s and Wade went a long way, baby. By the time she retired in 1986, she had earned a reputed $1.5 million and been honored by the queen as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Four years earlier, she became the first women elected to the Wimbledon Committee, and in 1989 she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

Suck it up guys.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World