Class of 1989
World No. 2 (1975)
Grand Slam Results
7-time major champion, 6-time finalist
Overall Record: 881-377
Singles Record: 839-329
Doubles Record: 42-48
Member of the British Wightman Cup Team 1965-1985
Member of the winning team 1968, 1974, 1975, 1978
Member of the British Federation Cup Team 1967-1970, 1972-1983
Overall Record: 66-33
Singles Record: 36-20
Doubles Record: 30-13
Virginia Wade chose the perfect time to become the first British female to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship in 8 years and the last to win since.
In July 1977, the summer of the monarch’s Silver Jubilee, Wade won her third major title at the All England Club, with nicely coincided with Wimbledon’s centenary year. Queen Elizabeth II, who made no qualms about not being a tennis fan, was making only her second ever appearance at Centre Court when Wade met Betty Stove of the Netherlands for the championship. “If she’s [Queen Elizabeth II] going to be there, I am going to be there too,” Wade said.
Wade, then 31, and singles champion at the US Open in 1968 and at the Australian Open in 1972, wore a beautiful pink cardigan as she arrived on court. After dropping the first set 4-6, her whole demeanor turned a fiery red in winning the final two sets convincingly, 6-3, 6-1. Wade, who was playing in her 17th of an all-time record 26 Wimbledons, upset No. 1 seed Chris Evert, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, in the semifinals to reach her one and only final. Once she settled into a groove after the first set, her precise groundstrokes controlled the match. “Winning Wimbledon was the thing that made my career worthwhile,” Wade told the Guardian in 1977. Those in attendance witnessed Queen Elizabeth II present Wade with championship trophy and then sang a rendition of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” to celebrate the victory.
With her victory in London, Wade held the distinction of being the last Brit to win Wimbledon singles until Andy Murray in 2013 (and again in 2016). Her winnings were $20,499, compared to today’s multi-million dollar purse. In an interview with the Independent in 2007, Wade joked that her Wimbledon title came right on schedule. “Well, Angela Mortimer had won in 1961 and Ann Jones in 1969, so when I won in 1977 we all thought it happened every eight years, but maybe we were just anomalies, because there was Sue Barker and Joe Durie, but then the [British] players just petered out.”
Wade was a lithe 5-foot-8 steady stroke machine who had a beautiful all-court game built on a smooth slice backhand and a forehand that she could hit with topspin or flat. Wade was a thinker between the lines; her shots were patient and calculated. She was adept at controlling tempo and wouldn’t be forced into foolish shots. She would pause a minimum of five seconds before releasing her serve after getting into the ready position and hopped into position to move laterally or take a short ball and attack the net.
In her lengthy 26-year career, Wade won 55 singles titles, eighth on the all-time list. She favored playing at Wimbledon and the US Open the most of any of the four majors. As a 23-year old in 1968, she won the inaugural US Open, doing so as the No. 6 seed with a stunning and unexpected 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 1 seed Billie Jean King. It was Wade’s fifth trip to the US major and although she would play the event another 15 times, her best finishes afterward were the semifinals in 1969, 1970, and 1975. The 1968 victory earned her $6,000. Wade only traveled to the Australian Open five times, but in 1972 stung another No. 1 seed when defeating crowd favorite and native Evonne Goolagong, who was in the midst of playing in seven consecutive Australian finals, 6-4, 6-4. Wade entered the French Open 15 times, advancing to the quarterfinals in 1970 and 1972.
Though a natural on grass, Wade’s steady game was effective on all surfaces, one her biggest non-major victories coming on clay at the 1971 Italian Open, when she defeated Helga Niessen Masthoff, 6-4, 6-4.
With her doubles victory with Margaret Court at the 1973 French Open over Betty Stöve and Françoise Dürr, 6-2, 6-3, Wade became the first and only British female player to win a title at all four majors. Wade advanced to 10 major doubles finals, winning four, all with Court. The duo captured the 1973 Australian, French, and US Open titles and the 1975 US Open.
Wade was a fixture playing both Federation Cup (17 years) and on Britain’s Wightman Cup team (21 years). She holds the most record for Fed Cup wins (66). Wade was ranked in the World Top 10 for thirteen straight years (1967-1979), reaching No. 2 in 1968. She has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II with an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).
Following retirement, Wade stayed active in tennis, serving as an analyst for the BBC and various U.S. networks. She published her autobiography, Courting Triumph, in 1978.
Australian Open: W 1972
French Open: QF 1970, 1972
Wimbledon: W 1977
US Open: W 1968
Australian Open: W 1973
French Open: W 1973
Wimbledon: F 1970
US Open: W 1973, 1975
Wimbledon: QF 1967, 1981
US Open: QF 1969