Sarah Virginia Wade, invariably known as Virginia, or ‘Ginny’ for short, has the distinction of being the last British woman to win a Grand Slam tennis singles title. Indeed, she won three such titles, the US Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1972 and, most famously of all, Wimbledon in 1977.
A natural grass court player, with a competent, all-court game, Wade was, nevertheless, making her first appearance in the singles final, at the age 31, in her sixteenth year at the All England Club. Seeded number three, she beat defending champion, and number one seed, Chris Evert 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the semi-final, to set up a final meeting with number seven seed, Betty Stöve. In the final, Wade lost the first set 4-6, but rallied to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and duly received the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Queen, who was attending Wimbledon for the first time in 15 years. Her victory was timely, insofar as it coincided not only with the centennial Wimbledon Champions, but also the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Born in Bournemouth on July 10, 1945, Wade emigrated to South Africa with her parents as an infant, but returned to England with her family as a teenager. Her tennis career coincided with the start of the Open Era and, in 1968, she turned professional, albeit with mixed feelings. Indeed, having won the British Hard Court Open in her hometown, Wade refused to accept the £800 prize money on the grounds that it was just one-third of the £2,400 awarded to the men’s champion, Ken Rosewell, and two-thirds of the £1,200 awarded to runner-up Rod Laver.