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Sports Then and Now

Evonne Goolagong

Posted on September 14, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong

In recognition of the improbable U.S. Open run by Kim Clijsters, we honor as this week’s Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week a former women’s tennis great who accomplished a similar feat 29 years ago.

In 1980, Evonne Goolagong upset Tracy Austin and Chris Evert to claim the Wimbledon title and become the first woman in 66 years to claim the Wimbledon title after having a baby.

The first Australian Aboriginal athlete to have success in a sport other than soccer or boxing, Goolagong joined the professional circuit at age 18 in 1970. The following year she claimed both the French and Wimbledon titles and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.

In a decade where Chris Evert and Billie Jean King dominated the headlines, Goolagong actually set a record by appearing in 17 grand slam finals. From 1971 through 1976, she appeared in the finals in the finals in 16 of 24 majors.

Unfortunately, her record against the other top players was not stellar as she was 0-4 against King, 1-3 against fellow Australian Margaret Court and 1-3 against Evert during that period. She lost the U.S. Open final four straight years from 1973-1976.

In addition to her two grand slam titles in 1971, she won the Australian Open from 1974-1977.

In 1975 she married amateur tennis player Roger Cawley and in 1977, gave birth to her first child.

In 1978 she lost to Martina Navratilova, but in 1980 made her surprising run to her seventh grand slam title.

Goolagong-Cawley gave birth to her second child in 1981 and retired from professional tennis in 1983. She finished her career with 68 singles titles and nine doubles crowns. In addition to her seven grand slam singles titles, she also won six grand slam doubles titles and one mixed doubles grand slam title.

If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.

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