Aussies at Roland Garros – Evonne Goolagong 1971
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros.
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros. The highlights will be revealed in chronological order and when all 20 have been named, you get the chance to vote for your No.1 achievement.
Evonne Goolagong was just 19 when she won her first of 14 Grand Slam titles. A sublime mover on court, Goolagong’s speed was matched by her graceful strokes.
Seeded third on debut at Roland Garros, Goolagong stunned the field to make it to the final without dropping a set. Top seed Margaret Court’s surprise loss in the third round robbed the tournament of a possible Court–Goolagong final, instead it was unseeded Helen Gourlay who had to try and stop Goolagong’s fairytale run in the final.
She couldn’t do it. Goolagong won 6-3 7-5 to become the first person since American Althea Gibson in 1956 to win in Paris on her first attempt.
Weeks later she would endear herself to the city of London as she won her second major at The Championships, this time defeating her idol Margaret Court in the final.
These early successes sparked a run that saw Goolagong make it to 17 Grand Slam tournament finals during the 1970s – more than any other player male or female during that period.
To add to her French and Wimbledon titles in 1971, she won four consecutive Australian Opens between 1974 and 1977, but on the flipside, she lost four consecutive US Open finals from 1973 to 1976 – a record she still holds. A second Wimbledon title would come in 1980.
Goolagong finished her career with 68 WTA titles and 14 Grand Slam titles (seven singles, six doubles and one mixed). And in 2007 she was retrospectively honoured as being the world No.1 for a two-week period in 1976 after some missing records were uncovered.
“I knew at the time in 1976 that I was No.1. It was a real surprise but very satisfying to finally be recognised as No.1 in the world,” she said.
Goolagong now devotes much of her time to promoting tennis through the Learn Earn Legend! Program in conjunction with Tennis Australia and the government.
“I think champions come along once in a while and if we can get more young kids playing the game then we’ve got a better chance of finding that champion. And I’m trying to do my part by getting as many young kids playing the game as possible.”
Profile: Evonne Goolagong
Aussies at Roland Garros – the complete list to date
1971 Evonne Goolagong wins the first of her seven singles majors