10,000 miles from home, how Wimbledon became a second home for Evonne Goolagong Cawley

At the age of 19, not many teenagers will make a trip from Australia to London but Evonne Goolagong Cawley did but her journey to that first trip is a incredible one.

Evonne was one of eight children, her family was from a Australian Aboriginal family and were members of the Wiradjuri people. They had their own language and survived as skilled hunters, fishers and gatherers in families in New South Wales.

Aboriginal people faced discrimination for many years in Australia but Evonne was able to play tennis thanks to a man called Bill Kurtzman.

Bill saw Evonne watching tennis from being the fence and invited her to come in and play.

At the age of 14 her parents allowed her to go to a tennis school in Sydney after two of Vic Edwards’ assistants saw her play and her potential. 

At a younger age, Evonne has said she saw in a cartoon at 8 this lady, who found this girl heading to Wimbledon to play tennis and emulated that herself after finding out Wimbledon was a real place. 

Her first tennis racket was made by her mum by an old fruit box and her first tennis dress was made from a bed sheet.

Over 10,000 miles from home the 19 year old made her Wimbledon debut. Evonne lost to Jane Bartkowicz in round two on her first appearance but it was just the beginning.

The following year, 1971 she returned as the third seed. The top two seeds were Billie Jean King and Margaret Court. Evonne was used to watching these two win it all out there but he flair and creativity on the court made them fear her and not her fear them. 

In the semi-finals Evonne defeated Billie Jean King 6-4 6-4 and in the final saw off Margaret Court 6-4 6-1 to win her second Grand Slam having won in Paris on her debut earlier in the year.

A Wimbledon title, for the 20 year old soo far from home who would peer through the fence at the local tennis club, truly incredible.

Despite being on the other side of the world, Wimbledon became a home from home for Evonne who went onto make at least the semi-finals in 7 of her next 8 appearances. 

Evonne became a parent in 1977 and then 1981 but in 1980 got her hands on what would be her second Wimbledon title and last Grand Slam title. Billie had lost to Martina, Martina lost to Chris Evert and Evonnge saw off Tracy Austin and Chris Evert to win her second Wimbledon title.

Evonne returned to Wimbledon for the last time in 1982 but as per her first appearance didn’t make it past round two losing to wildcard Zina Garrison.

It was an incredible journey in such a difficult time in Australia but Evonne stood out and became a champion on and off court.

The best don’t just do it on the court but off it too. Since 2005, Evonne has run the Goolagong National Development Camp for Indigenous children to help promote a better health, education and employment. 

Evonne Goolagong Cawley – Wimbledon 1971 (Press Association)

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