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The Championships, Wimbledon 2018 - Official Site by IBM
THU 12 JUL 2018 10:14 BST
Ladies' semi-final: 1932 style
The Evening Standard reports from the 1932 ladies' semi-final
In the first ladies' semi-final of The Championships 1932, Helen Jacobs took on Rene Mathieu of France, in a match described by the Evening Standard as "quite interesting, but scarcely exciting".
From the Evening Standard
, 28 June, 1932
A Game of Patience on Centre Court
Miss Helen Jacobs beats Mme. Mathieu
Two Tired Women
Miss Helen Jacobs (America) is the first Wimbledon championships finalist. Today she beat Mme Mathieu (France) in a semi-final battle of patience and prolonged rallies by 7-5, 6-1.
So she meets the winner of the other semi-final - Mrs Helen Wills Moody and Miss Mary Heeley - which is to be played tomorrow.
This was the only big singles at Wimbledon today, yet an hour before the gates opened the queue was long enough to account for all the day tickets. Perhaps the doubles, which almost monopolised the programme, are a bigger draw than most of us suspect.
By now Wimbledon takes sunshine as a matter of course. It grilled the standing throng as Miss Jacobs and her opponent came into court, the one all in white, the other with a salmon-pink jumper which she at once discarded.
From the word "play" the game seemed to promise a test of long endurance in the glare.
Miss Jacobs's cuts and chops, which once or twice seemed to make the spin-laden ball egg-shaped, were treated very gingerly by the Frenchwoman, in the manner of a batsman playing himself in. A very long first game and a shorter second one went to America, nearly every point being made on errors rather than on outright placements. Miss Jacobs kept the ball mainly down the middle of the court; Mme Mathieu tried to open up the angles.
But not exciting
It was all quite interesting, but scarcely exciting. One real winner by France earned a burst of applause in game number three won by Mme. Mathieu. Another such "hit for six" a forehand drive deep to the corner followed just afterwards but did not prevent Miss Jacobs from presently leading 3-1.
I was remindedy strongly of a spin bowler coaxing his would-be victim into "having a go." Now and then Mme. Mathieu obliged with varying success, but usually she answered patience with patience.
In the sixth game Mme. Mathieu did not appear to appreciate a line decision against her. Right or wrong, the verdict helped Miss Jacobs into a set-winning position at 4-2.
The Mme. Mathieu tried, in a series of rallies, to bring her clever adversary netwards by hitting the ball short to her backhand, thus opening up the forehand court for reprisals.
She lost this game, was unsteady in the next, lost the first three points of it but won the next five, and so led 5-3. This crucial game was interrupted by some slight misunderstanding with the umpire about a line decision.
The incident ended in Miss Jacobs serving one more ball.
Miss Jacobs soon advanced to within two points of the set; her opponent fended off the danger, brought down the leeway to 4-5 and soon, by the use of exemplary patience and steadiness, drew level at five-all. The last rally of this tense game must have been about the longest of the present tournament.
The ball seemed to cross the net 30 or 40 times before a short return from Miss Jacobs allowed a chance of trying a smash. Smash she did, with the desperation born of breathlessness, and the ball fell feet wide of an opponent too tired to scramble after it.
Another long rally followed just afterwards. It ended on this occasion in a net-cord shot from Mme. Mathieu's racket. Not a sign of emotion did she show. There was another of these titanic rallies, ended cleverly by France: but two rallies later Miss Jacobs had the set 7-5.
An "incident" opened the second set. Mme. Mathieu put over a service which Miss Jacobs hit out of court. She apparently called out that a ball boy had unsighted her and that she was not ready. "One more service" said the umpire, but, after more discussion, he allowed two and Miss Jacobs won the point.
Strain on concentration
Just afterwards came a further strain on French concentration. A ball hit by Mme. Mathieu was called "Not up" by the umpire on the grounds apparently that it had bounced twice. It was an unlucky game for France. Madame shrugged her shoulders in disappointment, and shook her head.
At the 2 games to 1 cross over Miss Jacobs then leading, sat for a moment on the steps of the umpire's chair - a signal of exhaustion. Slower still became the rallies of the ensuing game, ended when Miss Jacobs took a chance with a hard drive and took it successfully.
Mme. Mathieu, too, was tiring. Once, after a long duel, ended by an American volley, she limped back wearily to her general headquarters on the baseline, her shoulders heaving.
At 5-1 Miss Jacobs missed two points for the match, one of them on a smash a couple of inches out. But she utilised a third chance better and won the match.
Mme. Mathieu gathered up her things and left the court in advance of her conqueror.
Miss Jacobs had played the match with commendable, if unspectacular cleverness. Her ball control was immaculate, her spins a thorn in her opponent's side, and she knew the exact moment to take risks.