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Evonne Goolagong Cawley: Tennis Mom

Posted on July 11, 2021 by Dean Hybl
Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Fifty years before Ashleigh Barty claimed her first Wimbledon Championship, another Australian woman claimed the Wimbledon Women’s Singles title on her way to a Hall of Fame career.

The path to tennis greatness was a unique one for Evonne Goolagong Cawley. The daughter of an itinerant sheep shearer, Goolagong Cawley was the third of eight children in an Australian Aboriginal family. Though Aboriginal people faced significant discrimination during that era, Goolagong Cawley was able to play tennis from a young age due to the generosity and support of numerous people within Australia.

She emerged on the international tennis stage as a 19-year-old in 1971 as she reached the finals of the Australian Open and then won the French Open and Wimbledon titles. She remains the only person to win the French Open women’s title in her first time playing in the tournament.

In 1972, she reached the finals of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, but did not claim any of the titles. She also played the U.S. Open for the first time in 1972 and reached the third round.

Interestingly, 1972 and 1973 would mark the only years during her career that Goolagong Cawley played in all four major tournaments. In 1973, she reached the finals of the Australian and U.S. Opens and was a semifinalist at the French Open and Wimbledon.

After losing the finals of the Australian Open in three straight years, she finally broke through to win the title in 1974 with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-0 victory over Chrissy Evert. She would go on to claim three straight Australian Open titles while she and Martina Hingis are the only women to make the finals of the Australian Open six straight years.

In 1977 the Australian Open was played twice and after not competing the first time, she won her fourth (and final) Australian Open in December 1977.

That would prove to be her final major title of the 1970s. The only major she did not claim during the 1970s was the U.S. Open as she reached four consecutive finals between 1973 and 1976, but could not claim the championship.

It was during the 1976 U.S. Open that Goolagong Cawley realized that she was pregnant. Her first child (daughter Kelly) was born in 1977 and Goolagong Cawley played in only four grand slam tournaments over the remainder of the decade, winning the second Australian Open of 1977, reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1978 and 1979, and then reaching the quarterfinals of the 1979 U.S. Open.

In 1980, Goolagong Cawley lost in the second round of the Australian Open, but then after skipping the French Open made a surprising run to win her second Wimbledon crown.

Facing her longtime rival Chrissy Evert in the finals, Goolagong Cawley became the first mother to win Wimbledon since Dorothea Lambert Chambers in 1914.

After reaching the finals of 17 grand slam tournaments (out of 26 appearances) in the 1970s, her victory at Wimbledon would prove to be her only time playing for a grand slam title in the 1980s.

Her second child was born in 1981 and Goolagong Cawley was hampered by a number of injuries over the next few years. She concluded her grand slam career at the site of her first grand slam victory by reaching the third round of the French Open in 1983.

Overall, Goolagong Cawley claimed seven grand slam titles and reached the finals 18 times. She had an overall record of 132-28 (82.5%) in 35 total grand slam tournaments. Her best year-end ranking was #2 in 1976.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.

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