Originally Posted by Declan
I LOVED the Wightman Cup, particularly in the late Seventies and early eighties. In fact, Britain's 4-3 win over a red-hot American team in 1978 is right up there at my list of 'favourite sporting memories of all time' (along with Virginia Wade's winning Wimbledon and Mary Pierce's triumph at Roland Garros). Michelle Tyler's win over Pam Shriver was the springboard for the victory, Sue Barker and Virginia Wade both beat Tracy Austin, and the final doubles, when Wade/Barker won a three-setter over Chris Evert and Pam Shriver to win the Cup, was SO exciting! Unbelieveably the BBC stopped broadcasting it live at the start of the final set of that match, so I had to listen to the rest of it on the radio! The next night the BBC showed a special programme called "How We Won the Wightman Cup" so I did get to see it, happily! Two years later I sat in the television room by myself at University, screaming at the television set when an over-the-hill Virginia lead firm World No.1 Chris Evert 5-1 in the final set, which would have levelled the tie and brought it all down to the final rubber again! Alas it was not to be as one of Virginia's shoe laces came undone and distracted her on her second match point, then Chris roared back to win, and later blamed her lacklustre performance on problems with her period rather than Virginia's fine play! My final happy Wighman Cup memory is attending the 1986 tie at the majestic Royal Albert Hall in London, and being about the only Brit in the place willing Kathy Rinaldi to win over an on-form Jo Durie, which she happily did.
The Wightman Cup would have no place in the world game now, would it? Once the likes of Clare Wood became fixtures in the British team it was right to end when it did, although usually I'm a banner-waver for the traditions of the game. I can't see there being any tension or much chance of an upset in, say, a match between Lindsay Davenport and Jane O'Donoghue!!
Happy days, Declan although I must say I am aghast at your support for Rinaldi against Jo!
The event was always well supported by the British LTA and public and until around the late 70s by the USLTA if not the American public although I believe the ties held in Cleveland were usually successful. It perhaps should have been stopped after 1980. Certainly when Virginia was past her peak and Sue had only bloomed for a handful of years it was all very one-sided and in a boxing match would have been stopped. The early 70s were disappointing in that at times the US started using Chris Evert plus a couple of lower ranked players.
How did you feel about the British victory in 1974? I have to admit I didn't really get a buzz from it. I know Julie Heldman was in the top 10 at that time but along with Janet Newberry and Jeanne Evert plus a couple of others I can't remember, it didn't really feel "true". The move to the Royal Albert Hall was inspired. It was a great venue even in the 80s when as a nation we had already moved on to the mentality of being happy that at least we had played well whenever we were beaten.
We also missed the 1975 victory more meritous because it was on American soil and the US team included Chrissie. That was the year when Ann Jones nearing 37 and I think having had her second child played Team Tennis for Cleveland and reached a level which the Brits thought put her in line for the 3rd singles. However the upcoming youngsters led by Sue Barker thought this was a retrogressive step and "rebelled". It all worked out very well in the end from our point of view when Sue was given the 3rd spot and beat Janet Newberry. Virginia renewed her old partnership with Ann in the doubles and they won their match. It was a pity for Ann that she didn't play against the Chris Evert doubles team because I don't believe she ever played Chris at all.
How on earth can you describe 1978? Chris Evert looked a shoe-in for 2 matches. Virginia had started her gradual decline from winning Wimbledon and Barker was just about treading water in the top 20. With Tracy Austin already in the top 10 and Pam Shriver having been USO finallist it looked like a 6-1 victory for the US if Virginia could beat Tracy. Virginia hung in there against Tracy and Sue played probably her best match of the year to beat her. But as you say the pivotal match was the Tyler-Shriver match up. It just shows how you can become inspired and play above yourself feeding from the crowd. Nerve-racking stuff. I think the BBC would have more sense than to stop televising the match live at such a crucial stage today.
I can't remember too much about Michelle and I may be wrong but didn't she made the world's top 30?
Are you absolutely sure about 1980? Again it's only from memory but I didn't think the match was that close.
I just missed the great British victories of 1958 and 1960. Around the late 50s and 60s the event became competitive on the whole except for 1961 and 1967. Although the scorelines in 1963 and 1965 look pretty conclusive for the US so many of the individual rubbers which nearly always ended in US victory could have gone either way. When you look at the US teams of this period which consisted mostly of Darlene Hard, BJK, Karen Hantze-Susman and Nancy Richey you can see how tough it would have been to win.
Surprisingly on a small no of rubbers played against weaker US teams in the 70s the most successful Brits are Joyce Williams and Glynis Coles! Joyce played 4 singles and 4 doubles matches winning 2 of each - 50%! Coles did even better winning 3 of 6 singles and 2 of 3 doubles.
Of the top players who played regularly Ann Jones has the best record with a 47% win rate in single (10 out of 21) and 50% in doubles (6 out of 12). With the best Brit not even reaching 50% it can be seen how dominant the US was.
I must gather my thoughts on the 60s matches.