Disclaimer: My "authority" on tennis rests on that time I went to tennis summer camp for two weeks. I was eight, and routinely lost to 6-year-olds. But everyone's interest piques up for any big tournament, especially Wimbledon. Andy Murray, a 26-year-old Scottish player, beat Novak Djokovic, claiming the match and the championship. If you followed the press after his win, like I did, you'll find titles like, The New York Times' "After 77 Years, Murray Restores British Rule," USA Today’s “Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, ends 77-year drought”, and the Telegraph’s “After 77 years, the wait is over.”
Well, he is but he isn’t. Meet Virginia Wade — she’s 67, she’s British, and she won Wimbledon in 1977 in straight sets.
For those of you keeping score, 1977 is after 1936 and before 2013. Moreover, there have been three other British winners since Fred Perry's 1936 championship: Dorothy Round Little in 1937, Partially Deaf Player Angela Mortimer in 1961, and Ann Haydon-Jones in 1969.
This isn’t to lessen Murray’s extraordinary achievement nor to damper Britain’s celebrations, but rather I see this “Who’s Forgotten About Virginia Wade” phenomenon as an opportunity to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions about women in the sports world.
Is a man winning Wimbledon more important that a woman? Why would a nation cast aside the memory of one champion in order to emphasis the drought of a (male) one?
According to Wade’s website, she was the number one British player for a decade, won the 1968 US Open Single Championship, the 1972 Australian Open Single Titles, four Double Titles at the Australian, French, and U.S. Open. She is a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and an Office of the Order of the British Empire.
In honor of Andy Murray’s win, Virginia Wade reflected, “You never forget how it feels to win Wimbledon. If you’re American and you in the U.S. Open, it’s big. If you’re French and you win Roland Garros, it’s huge. But to be British and win Wimbledon is another level.”
While Wade will never forget her win, it’s not hard to see how we might forget about hers. As you’ll see, her editors placed an informational box that not emphasized her win, that of a man’s. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to showcase 1977 or perhaps to mention Wade's personal history? Instead, the editors bypassed the hero of 1977 to further highlight that of 1936.
Well Wade, we'll take your advice and celebrate Murray's great win, but if we do talk about that wait, we’ll be sure to add your name to the conversation.
Congrats Andy and Britain! Congrats again Virginia Wade!