Re: The Wightman Cup Thread – Reports, Results & More
June 13 and 14
Venue: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon (outdoors on grass)
Great Britain: Shirley Bloomer, Christine Truman, Ann Haydon, Anne Shilcock, Patricia Ward
United States: Althea Gibson, Dorothy Knode, Mimi Arnold, Karol Fageros, Janet Hopps
Non-playing captains: Mary Halford (GBR); Margaret du Pont (USA)
Great Britain d. United States 4-3
Althea Gibson (USA) d. Shirley Bloomer 6-3, 6-4
Christine Truman d. Dorothy Knode (USA) 6-4, 6-4
Bloomer/Truman d. Karol Fageros (USA)/Knode 6-2, 6-3
Knode d. Bloomer 6-2, 6-4
Truman d. Gibson 2-6, 6-3 6-4
Ann Haydon d. Mimi Arnold (USA) 6-3, 5-7, 6-3
Gibson/Hopps d. Anne Shilcock/Patricia Ward 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
From “Lawn Tennis and Badminton”, July 1, 1958
By Brigadier Sir John Smyth, Baronet, V.C., M.C., M.P.
“The Wightman Cup returned to Britain after 21 consecutive defeats by the United States of America when our team triumphed at the All England Club, Wimbledon, on June 13th and 14th.
“The result of last year’s match, played on the hard courts of the Edgeworth Lawn Tennis Club, Sewickley, Pittsburgh, USA, had been a victory for America by six matches to one. And that certainly did not give us much cause for thinking that the long succession of defeats was likely to be broken this year.
“America’s two singles players were available and were selected again, as were their two defeated opponents, Shirley Bloomer and Christine Truman, for Great Britain. For the third single we again selected Ann Haydon, who had distinguished herself by scoring our only success last year in beating the Wimbledon runner-up, Darlene Hard. From the doubles players of last year, Miss Hard and Louise Brough had dropped out, and America had nominated their fifth-ranking player, Karol Fageros, and their sixth-ranking player, Mimi Arnold. At the eleventh hour they also included in their team Janet Hopps, ranked number 9. The latter had distinguished herself in America by two singles victories over the great Althea Gibson.
“There was one other American player, who, though unranked in 1957 owing to insufficient performance, would have been a certain starter for the Wightman Cup and Wimbledon had she been able to make the journey. And she was, of course, the hard-hitting, ambi-dexterous Beverly Fleitz – who had beaten Althea Gibson in straight sets in Puerto Rico in March and was showing great form. When, as a result of a telephone conversation between London and America, it had been finally ascertained that Bev could not make the trip owing to her inability to leave her young child, I thought we had, at long last, a chance to win the Wightman Cup.
“When the American team had been announced – but before Janet Hopps had been included – I told Mary Halford, our non-playing captain, at the finals of the Surbiton tournament, and I also told the editor of this journal a few days later that, in my opinion, the fate of this year’s Wightman Cup depended on the American captain, Margaret du Pont. If she should decide to play in one of the doubles, as I felt sure she would, we might well lose 3-4. If, on the other hand, she decided to stand down, we might possibly win 4-3.
“Margaret du Pont was fit and in full practice, as she showed from her long knock-up with her Wimbledon partner on the mornings the Cup matches were being played. But she decided that she would ‘give the younger players a chance’. And we can only be grateful for her noble decision.
“And so to the start of the Wightman Cup match at Wimbledon on Friday, 13th June. Now Althea Gibson is an extremely intelligent girl for whom I have great admiration. It had seemed to me from seeing her play this year that she realises that she has the weapons to beat all-comers on the Wimbledon turf in 1958, as she did in 1957, provided she can remain in complete control of her nerves and her temperament. In her first Wightman Cup match, against Shirley Bloomer, she showed herself to be in complete command. She was neither hurried nor worried. Shirley, of course, fought back gallantly and achieved some miraculous winners on the run. But she was ‘on the run’ throughout and constantly under pressure. It was not an encouraging start for Britain.
“Britain Takes Two Rubbers
“The next match, between the two second strings, Dorothy Knode for America and Christine Truman for Britain, was as delightful a contest as one could wish to see. Mrs Knode is a great fighter and a fine tactician, but Christine’s big guns were too powerful for her. Mrs Knode’s first service is an apology; her second is an invitation, and Christine accepted it avidly. She could run round her safe but defensive backhand and wallop it with her powerful forehand. There were, of course just about 17 years’ difference in the ages of the two players and that is a very great deal to give in women’s tennis – as, indeed, it is in men’s.
“This match to me was a pointer. It showed Mrs Knode to be every bit as good, if not better, than in her two recent victories over Miss Bloomer, and it showed Miss Truman to be physically and mentally much toughened and matured since last year.
“The double which followed, in which Miss Bloomer and Miss Truman beat Mrs Knode and Karol Fageros, 6-2, 6-2, has been described at best as undistinguished and at worst as much worse than this. Miss Bloomer, however, captained her doubles team extremely well and certainly gained the admiration of the crowd when, finding a frilly undergarment was descending quite early in the match, she just stepped out of it and handed it to her captain who was sitting by the umpire’s chair. The latter accepted it with complete confidence, knowing that its loss was not significant. Shirley appeared to move better without it.
“Mrs Knode’s Strong Backhand
“So Britain led on the first day by two matches to one – which hadn’t happened for a very long time. The second day’s play started with the single between Miss Bloomer and Mrs Knode. For some reason the British officials almost from the highest to the lowest were completely confident that this match was in the bag. Here were two mainly baseline players – though admittedly Miss Bloomer was ten years the younger – who played much the same type of game. Both are fine runners and fine fighters, but I considered that Mrs Knode’s more fluent stroking, particularly on the backhand, and her rather more intelligent tactical play would bring her victory. The fact that Shirley wasn’t feeling the best made her task more difficult and the score against her, 4-6, 2-6, heavier than it would have been it would otherwise have been.
“And now we come to the real drama of this year’s Wightman Cup match. The gloom in the British camp was heavy indeed. It really did seem, in the words of Henry Newbolt, ‘There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight/Ten to make and all the match to win’.
“The score was two-all with three to play. But in two of these the great Althea Gibson was engaged and the result appeared a foregone conclusion. The last time I had seen Christine play Althea she had been made to look like a helpless child. The first set went according to plan – Althea’s plan. She was pacing the match as she pleased with everything under control and she won it, 6-2.
“What changed the whole aspect of the match was nothing to do with strokes or tactics. It was Christine’s own mental reaction to the prospect of plodding along to inevitable defeat. She refused to accept it. She counter-attacked the big service, began to scramble and throw herself about the court, attacked with her own service and forehand; and above all she went in to the net on every good opportunity. Miss Gibson is not used to this treatment and neither her strokes nor her temperament are suited to it. Moreover, once again when it came to a final set, the difference of thirteen years in ages must have counted.
“Christine had got her teeth into the match and refused to let go. Errors started to flow from Miss Gibson under pressure. And, despite a nervous double fault at match point, Christine won a magnificent victory for Britain at 6-4 in the final set. I was reminded of the great victory of Betty Nuthall, when aged only 16, on this same Number One Court at Wimbledon thirty-one years ago against the American champion, Molla Mallory. Betty also lost the first set before hitting her way out of trouble to victory. Althea Gibson took her unexpected defeat extremely well and my admiration for her increased.
“Miss Haydon Plays A Vital Part
“I felt that the result of the Wightman Cup then depended on the next match, the third single between Ann Haydon for Britain and Mimi Arnold, USA, and we were lucky to have such a good player to represent Britain in a crisis. At first it looked easy for Ann. She led 4-0 and won the first set at 6-3. But Mimi is a grand little fighter. She slowed down the game, kept the ball in play, lobbed high and was prepared to run until the cows came home. She was, however, a very tired girl when she took the ten minutes’ rest at one set-all, but she still had lots of fight left in her.
“Ann looked a splendidly fit young athlete as she came out. And she needed all her fitness and her fighting spirit before the gallant Mimi would acknowledge defeat. And yet I felt Ann should have won more easily. She needs to get more speed and better placement on her ground strokes.
“And so Britain regained the Wightman Cup after 28 years’ endeavour – and her two youngsters, Christine and Ann, totalling only 35 years between them, had notched three points on their own and Christine had had a share in the fourth. In the remaining doubles, a very lackadaisical Miss Gibson, partnered by Miss Hopps, beat Anne Shilcock and Patricia Ward in three sets. I never set great store by a match played after the tie is decided, and it may be that our pair would have been able to pull out something more had the fate of the Cup depended on it. But Althea Gibson is a very powerful doubles player and Janet Hopps is pretty good too.
“A Tribute To Mrs Mary Halford
“In a close, nervy contest of this sort captaincy and the team spirit mean a lot. I have seen a good many Wightman Cup captains and, with the exception of the fabulous Hazel Wightman, I would say Mary Halford is about the best of them all. It is not easy for a captain to achieve the happy medium of making her team feel she is with them and part of them without giving the impression that she is fussy or bossy. Our winning British team was a happy family – and it was this which, apart from other factors, gave them the best chance of success. And don’t let’s forget the work Dan Maskell and George Worthington have put in over the past few years. And George Worthington is essentially the right coach for the big occasion. He doesn’t say much and he doesn’t fuss. He just gets on with the job.
“But although we may have had a certain amount of luck in that the full strength of the American team was not available, nevertheless this year’s Wightman Cup match was a landmark in the history of British women’s tennis, and our victory will give a tremendous fillip to the British game.”
Last edited by newmark401; May 23rd, 2014 at 01:49 PM.