A Wimbledon dream: Goolagong Cawley and Newcombe look back
On the 50th anniversary of their 1971 Wimbledon singles triumphs, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and John Newcombe reflect on a golden era for the sport.
Fifty years since Evonne Goolagong Cawley and John Newcombe claimed life-changing Wimbledon singles titles, the Australian legends can each remember where their dreams began.
For Goolagong Cawley, who was just 19 years old when she won the first of two Wimbledon ladies’ singles titles, inspiration to triumph at the All England Club came from a magazine story she read at around age eight.
“This story was about a young girl who was found, trained and taken to this place called Wimbledon, where she played on this magical Centre Court. And she won and I didn’t know it existed. And somebody said to me, ‘That’s for real’,” said Goolagong Cawley, whose tennis journey had famously started by hitting balls with a wooden bat fashioned from a fruit crate.
“Every time I hit the ball against the wall, I used to pretend I was there,” Goolagong Cawley recalled. “And then I dreamt about it every night.”
Newcombe had some powerful Australian role models to fuel his passion at the historic Grand Slam. Already a winner of the 1967 and 1970 Wimbledon singles titles when he lifted the 1971 trophy as a 27-year-old, Newcombe was inspired by Australian legends including Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall as a child.
“In my book, they were two of the greatest (players) … so to have been on court with them in a Wimbledon final was pretty damn special,” Newcombe said.
Rosewall was among the players Newcombe defeated to claim the 1971 title. The year previously, he’d also defeated his countryman, fondly known at ‘Muscles’, in a marathon final at the All England Club.
“I did beat Ken very easily in the semifinal,” said Newcombe, who was runner-up to Laver in the 1969 final. “But Muscles, he and I had had a five-setter the year before in 1970, which I won in five sets.”
Confidence from those victories undoubtedly helped as the Australian overcame American Stan Smith for his third and final title. “(It) might have been the toughest of the three Wimbledons that I won,” said Newcombe, the No.2 seed at the 1971 tournament.
A special year for an Aussie trailblazer 💚
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A fellow Australian also featured in Goolagong Cawley’s triumph, the then-teenager claiming a straight-sets victory over her idol, Margaret Court, in the championship match.
Goolagong Cawley held confidence-boosting momentum after achieving her Grand Slam breakthrough at Roland Garros just weeks earlier and dropped only one set on her way to the Wimbledon final. There, she played some of the best tennis of her life.
“There’s been like three or four times in my life when I’ve been in complete control of my game – like in the zone, I guess. I think that was one of them,” recalled Goolagong Cawley, a 6-4 6-1 winner over Court.
That two Australians had claimed both the 1971 singles titles of course enhanced a special Championships in a golden era of the game.
“It was an incredible time for Australian tennis, because we had so many great players vying for these major championships every year,” said 2002 Wimbledon men’s singles champion Lleyton Hewitt as he reflected on Newcombe’s 1971 triumph.
And world No.1 Ash Barty speaks often about the inspiration that Goolagong Cawley has provided throughout her career.
“I think for her to be able to be the first one to pave that path was really showing that no matter what anyone says, you can go out there and believe in your dream,” said Barty. “Put your dreams out to the universe, and you never know what can quite happen.”
With memories of their 1971 Wimbledon victories still vivid, Goolagong Cawley and Newcombe are delighted that their success-breeds-success influence endures.
|Wimbledon 1971, ladies’ singles
A second main draw appearance at Wimbledon delivered Evonne Goolagong Cawley with her dream.
|First round|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d Gail Hansen (USA) 6-0 6-2|
|Second round|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d Kristien Kemmer (USA) 6-4 6-1|
|Third round|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d Julie Heldman (USA) 6-3 6-3|
|Third round|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d Lesley Hunt (AUS) 1-6 6-2 6-1|
|Quarterfinals|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d  Nancy Richey (USA) 6-3 6-2|
|Semifinals|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d  Billie Jean King (USA) 6-4 6-4|
|Final|| Evonne Goolagong (AUS) d  Margaret Court (AUS) 6-4 6-1|
|Wimbledon 1971, gentlemen’s single
John Newcombe was the defending champion when he triumphed at Wimbledon for the third time.
|First round|| John Newcombe (AUS) d Bob Hewitt (RSA) 6-4 6-3 7-5|
|Second round|| John Newcombe (AUS) d Ian Fletcher (AUS) 7-5 6-4 6-2|
|Third round|| John Newcombe (AUS) d Gerald Battrick [GBR] 6-4 6-4 6-4|
|Fourth round|| John Newcombe (AUS) d Alex Metreveli [RUS] 9-8 6-3 4-5 6-3|
|Quarterfinals|| John Newcombe (AUS) d Colin Dibley (AUS) 6-1 6-2 6-3|
|Semifinals|| John Newcombe (AUS) d (3) Ken Rosewall (AUS) 6-1 6-1 6-3|
|Final|| John Newcombe (AUS) d (4) Stan Smith (USA) 6-3 5-7 2-6 6-4 6-4|