Young newcomer Evonne Goolagong was one month away from her 20th birthday when she scored straight-set victories over Billie Jean King in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, going on to defeat defending champion (and fellow Australian) Margaret Court on 2 July 1971 and become the youngest woman to win the Wimbledon singles tennis title in 12 years.
Goolagong was born in Griffith, New South Wales – the third of eight children from an Australian Aboriginal family. She grew up in the small country town of Barellan, where she began to play tennis.
In 1965, Vic Edwards – the proprietor of a tennis school in Sydney – travelled to Barellan to take a look at the young Goolagong and immediately saw her potential.
He persuaded her parents to allow her to move to Sydney where she was coached by Edwards and lived in his household, with him becoming her legal guardian, coach and manager.
Her first major victory was the upset of Gland Slam champion Margaret Court in the Victorian Championship at Melbourne.
After her sensational Wimbledon win in 1971 she was named “Female Athlete of the Year” – but she never won at Wimbledon again.
She lost the Wimbledon final in 1972 to Billie Jean King. In the 1975 final, Billie Jean beat her 6-0, 6-1 – one of the worst defeats in Wimbledon history.
She had Chris Evert on the ropes in the 1976 final but lost 8-6 in the third set. In 1978, she was ahead of Martina Navratilova in the third set of their semifinal match, but a calf muscle popped as she was stretching for a lob, and she could only hobble to defeat.
Goolagong married former junior British tennis player Roger Cawley in London on 19 June 1975. Her last major championship was the Virginia Slims title in 1976.