Re: 1975:The Toughest Year
A Sports Illustrated report on Wimbledon in 1975
July 14, 1975
A Centre Court Case
Their pending lawsuits were moot when Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors went to trial at Wimbledon, and the surprising verdict went to Ashe. Just as emphatically, Billie Jean King retired a winner .
If the women's side of the tournament did not provide any courtroom drama, it dripped with sentiment, for the remarkable Billie Jean King announced early on that this would be her last major singles tournament and that she would only be returning to Wimbledon for "hit and giggle tennis." For the first time in years the Centre Court crowds were with her as she made a gutsy comeback in the semifinals to beat Chris Evert 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and then romped over newlywed Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the Friday final 6-0, 6-1. It should be noted that it was the second time this year that King has proclaimed her retirement.
The defeats of defending champions Connors and Evert wiped out the bettors who went for the so-called "lovebird double" in William Hill's gambling tent set up on the Tea Lawn. The young Americans were engaged last year when they won at Wimbledon, but they are no longer engaged or even dating, and when that news leaked out the second week of the tournament, it hit page one in the evening fish wraps, crowding out stories of the sinking pound. Connors' frequent companion at the tournament and on the town in the evenings was British actress Susan George. "We're just good friends," she said, insisting that American singer Jack Jones is "still my man." For his part, Connors insisted the lipstick smeared on his cheek came from his mother.
In the women's singles, the usual four ended up in the semis: King, Evert, Margaret Court and Goolagong Cawley, who had beaten British heroine Virginia Wade in a splendid quarterfinal match. It was probably Wade's finest Wimbledon and it took Cawley at her flowing best to stop her. Then, in the Aussie side of the semis, Cawley had a fairly easy time with Court, 6-4, 6-4.
In the American semis Evert, who had won 28 straight matches since losing to Wade in Philadelphia last April, met a player she had never beaten on grass. When Chris won the first set 6-2, it appeared that the older generation ( King is 31, Court almost 33) was bowing out meekly. But King bowing out meekly would be like the Rolling Stones singing a lullaby. She fell behind a break in the second set, then went to work, breaking back twice to win 6-2. Once again in the third set she fell behind and once again she fought back, winning five games in a row to take the decider 6-3.
"I don't know how I got out of that one," she said. "I just love it here. I love that Centre Court. I wish I could hug it sometimes."
With King her best and Cawley playing back to the form that helped her win at Wimbledon in 1971, the women's final could have been a classic. Instead it was a fiasco. King played well but Cawley was a shadow of what she had been against Wade and Court. The Wimbledon historians had to go back in the record book to 1951 to find a women's final as one-sided as King's 6-0, 6-1 victory, and to 1911 to find one worse.
"What a way to end my career by winning the singles here at Wimbledon," said King. "I think I'm the most fortunate woman athlete who ever lived."
Her victory gave the British trivia experts a chance to show off their knowledge of the championship rolls. These gentlemen love to tell such stories as how the tournament was started back in 1877 to raise money for repairs to a horse-drawn roller and how that roller still sits at one end of Centre Court because it is too big to remove. Or how a ball struck in anger once hit the rail of the royal box. Scandalous! Anyway, the trivialists had a happy time with King. It was her 19th title, equaling the record set by Elizabeth Ryan (all in doubles) from 1914 to 1934. ( Ryan, now 83, sent King a congratulatory message.) It was her sixth singles title, putting her in a tie with Suzanne Lenglen but still two behind Helen Wills Moody, who was 8-1 in Wimbledon finals compared to King's 6-3.
King really had a good chance to pull off her third Wimbledon triple and become the alltime trophy collector in that department. She and mixed-doubles partner Roche did reach the third round, but Roche had developed a sore stomach muscle and chose to drop out and save himself for singles. In women's doubles King and longtime partner Rosemary Casals were seeded second but lost in the semis.
It was a very nice fortnight for American youth. Women's doubles was won by Kazuko Sawamatsu of Japan in partnership with a 19-year-old Californian, Ann Kiyomura, another in a long line of fine female players from that state ( King, Casals, Ryan, Moody, Hazel Wightman, Helen Jacobs, Alice Marble, Maureen Connolly, etc.)