Remembering Wilma Rosewall
A much-loved member of the Australian tennis community, Wilma Rosewall made a profound contribution to her family and the sport.
Wilma Rosewall was a quiet but powerful influence as her husband, Ken, constructed the tennis career that made him one of the most beloved champions of Australia’s golden era.
It was tennis that had first brought the pair together, Ken and Wilma meeting as young players at the Bruce Cup, a public schools event staged between Queensland and New South Wales, in 1948.
“It goes back a long way,” the prolific Rosewall has commented, explaining that he was representing New South Wales while Wilma (then Wilma McIver) was competing for Queensland when one of the game’s longest unions first began.
“After that, I had an occasional visit to Brisbane and (Wilma) was in the Wilson Cup team in Queensland when I won the juniors. In 1953 I won the seniors event in Melbourne at Kooyong and she was there for that.”
Keeping in touch and visiting Wilma in Brisbane whenever tennis took him to Queensland, the couple married in October 1956.
Their wedding was described in some reports as Brisbane’s “society wedding of the year”, with more than 800 guests attending and 2000 people reportedly gathering outside the church.
A 63-year marriage would include many highs for the well-loved couple, who became parents to sons Brett and Glenn in 1959 and 1961 respectively.
Rosewall, whose eight major singles titles include the unique record of becoming both the youngest and oldest champion of the Australian Championships (at age 18 in 1953 and as a 37-year-old in 1972), has described how a career that extended well into his 40’s would not have been possible without Wilma’s support.
“When she got married, she probably wasn’t sure what she was getting into,” Rosewall wrote in his biography Muscles, adding that his decision to turn professional soon after their wedding entailed many years of exhausting travel.
Describing Wilma as the family’s “mainstay”, Rosewall also related how the family built many treasured memories through tennis.
“I think one of the most enjoyable things in 1974 when (the boys) were both old enough to enjoy the world and where they visited,” he related of a trip that took in both Wimbledon and World TeamTennis in America.
With those memories still strong, it’s no surprise that Ken now relates that “it’s a life that we would do all over again.”
Those sentiments are echoed throughout the tennis community following Wilma’s death in Sydney on Sunday.
“Wilma was married to Aussie great Ken for more than 60 years and was a much-loved member of our Tennis family,” said Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
“A wonderful woman, she will be dearly missed. My deepest condolences to Ken and his family.”