Wimbledon was just beginning its 2nd century.
In the summer of 1977 the Championship at Wimbledon celebrated its first 100 years, and on opening day, I was there.
Like so many children of military members around here will tell you, moving around a lot has its drawbacks, but it often opens up all sorts of opportunities for those who serve, and their families. My family moved to Colorado Springs in 1978. Before that my father was stationed at RAF Croughton in the Midlands of England. One of the great experiences of that tour was a day at Wimbledon.
My sister Cindy and I followed tennis pretty closely in those days. It was the era of Connors and Borg, Evert and King. I was just learning to play, taught by a family friend (another American stationed in England) who was really into tennis. So he got us tickets for opening day, Wimbledon, 1977.
London is only about 60 miles from where we lived so this was a day trip, and what a day. We had general admission tickets, so we could go to certain areas at any of the main courts, and any space we could find at the outer courts. It was at one of those that we watched Rod Laver. (court 9 or 19 I think, Mr. Laver was past his prime.)
We also stood in the stadium at court number 1 to watch Roscoe Tanner take on John Lloyd. Tanner had lost in the semi-finals in '76 to eventual winner Borg. The tall, power-serving, left-handed American was expected to be a strong contender. Lloyd was not. It was the Yank against the Brit. As an American living in England I was all about Tanner crushing Lloyd. It didn't happen. Tanner bounced out in the first round. Lloyd eventually went on to marry Chris Evert, an even greater achievement than ousting Tanner.
After the match I went down to the area where the players leave the court and tried to get an autograph from Tanner. I was not quite 12 years old, but even for a kid, he was in no mood to sign. He walked quickly past, but I tried.
We also saw Dick Stockton play that day, and Brian Gottfried and a few others. We're pretty sure the legendary Stan Smith was standing right near us in the crowd at the Laver match, never confirmed it, but in our minds it was him for sure.
Also tried strawberries and cream at Wimbledon ( you have to). I remember being fine with the strawberries, not so crazy about the cream. Somewhere in the basement I have a little cap/visor thing I bought that day that says Wimbledon-100 years on it. Probably not worth anything to anyone these days, except me.
That year Bjorn Borg went on to win on the Mens' side, and for the women, a nice twist to the anniversary year. 1977 was the year Englishwoman Virginia Wade took the title. 1977 was also the Silver Jubilee for Britain's Queen Elizabeth so that whole nation was awash in national pride. Of course all that happened on the last day of the tournament, and I was only there for the first day.
At the top you'll find a photo I took that day on a cheap Kodak Instamatic. It's hard to tell but that's Roscoe Tanner on court 1. I'll try to add a couple more.
Looking back on that day, I can't believe how cool it was, even to a kid.
I also can't believe that Wimbledon is now almost a third of the way through that 2nd Century. Wow!
We'll talk again soon
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