Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Great Champions

On arriving in Melbourne for the 1974 championships Evonne Goolagong Cawley must have wondered what it took to win her home Grand Slam title. The 23-year-old had already made three-consecutive finals appearances, falling twice to Margaret Court (in 1971 and '73) and once to Virginia Wade (in 1972).

It might have been a long time coming, but once Goolagong Cawley solved the Australian Open puzzle there was no stopping her. Her first victory at the 1974 championships was a hard-fought affair, the Sydneysider winning through three-setters in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final, which was against Chris Evert in the first championship match of the pair's great rivalry.

Played in oppressive heat and humidity, Goolagong Cawley took a shower between the second and third sets, returning to claim the title with her trademark wet handkerchief tied around her neck. Prior to the 1975 tournament Goolagong Cawley suffered an off-court blow when her father Ken was killed in a car accident. And, while she didn't drop a set en route to her 6-3 6-2 defeat of Martina Navratilova in the final, the strain showed during the presentation ceremony with the 24-year-old weeping on her coach Vic Edwards' shoulder.

The winning formula now clearly in her possession, Goolagong Cawley coasted through the extreme temperatures and gale force winds that challenged during Australian Open 1976, turning in another set-perfect score sheet and defeating Renata Tomanova 6-2 6-2 in the final. Pregnant with her daughter Kelly, Goolagong Cawley missed the January 1977 edition of the Australian Open, returning for the December instalment of the tournament to again claim victory, this time over Helen Gourlay, and become the first mother in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title.

It was the last time Goolagong Cawley made the final of her home tournament although she played on a further three occasions. When she finally waved goodbye to her fans she owned an impressive 39-9 win-loss record.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley became the first mother in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title in 1977.