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Tuesday, 3 January 2017 11:22 AM GMT
From the archive: The mothers that won Wimbledon
With Azarenka potentially a contender to become one of the few mothers to win The Championships, looks back at those who acheived the feat... READ MORE

Victoria Azarenka, twice a Grand Slam champion and twice a runner-up, has just had her first baby at the age of 27 and wants eventually to return to top-flight competition, but history shows how hard it can be for mothers to succeed at the highest level. Remarkably, only four mothers have won the Ladies’ Singles title at The Championships since the event was first contested in 1884.

Indeed, in the last 103 years the feat has been achieved only once, by Evonne Cawley (nee Goolagong) in 1980. It is not as if Wimbledon has proved especially difficult for mothers in comparison with other tournaments: in the Open era the only other mothers who have won Grand Slam singles titles have been Margaret Court, who in 1973 won the Australian, French and US Opens but lost in the semi-finals at The Championships, and Kim Clijsters, who took the US Open in 2009. 

Like the three mothers before her who claimed the Wimbledon singles title, Cawley had already triumphed previously at The Championships. The Australian’s victory in 1971, at the age of 19 and in only her second appearance, was the stuff of fairytales.  She had grown up in New South Wales in a small country town where her family were the only Aboriginals. One of her first rackets was made from a wooden fruit box. 

Her free-spirited nature and graceful game quickly captured the hearts of the Wimbledon crowd. She lost in the second round in 1970,  but 12 months later swept through the tournament, dropping only one set. She beat Billie Jean King in the semi-finals and Court in the final.

Having married Roger Cawley, who had been a promising British junior player, in 1975, she gave birth to a daughter, Kelly, in 1977, and a son, Morgan, in 1981. Her career was regularly punctuated by injuries, but she won seven Grand Slam singles titles, six in doubles and one in mixed doubles.

Her finest hour was arguably that 1980 victory.

Cawley went into The Championships seriously short of match practice after a seven-week absence with injury but played herself into form. She lost the first sets to both Betty Stove and Hana Mandlikova in the third and fourth rounds respectively and faced a huge challenge in the semi-finals against Tracy Austin, who had won 35 of her previous 36 matches. Cawley won 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 and beat another American, Chris Evert, 6-1, 7-4(4) in the first Wimbledon singles final to be decided by a tie-break.

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