When it comes to her travels on the tennis circuit, one of the greatest players of all time knows the score. It’s love all. As told to Di Webster.
1958: When I was a youngster of 15, I left Albury [NSW] for Melbourne to advance my tennis career. My training went to another level and I credit my time there with what I achieved in the sport.
I’d go to [former tennis great] Frank Sedgman’s gym in Little Collins Street five mornings a week. It was a men’s gym and they’d put curtains across so I could do weights. Women didn’t lift weights in those days.
I also used to train at Grace Park in Hawthorn in the cold and wet and run the streets with Doberman dogs coming at me. I now look at the indoor courts and the gym and think how wonderful it would be to train there.
I didn’t have any money so I went everywhere by tram. I don’t know why, given my country background, but I’ve always loved the fashions in Melbourne. Even when I go back now, I love the shopping and the atmosphere.
1961: London was a beautiful city, particularly back in the early ’60s – the history, the shopping, Wimbledon. When I first went there, I was a country kid and overawed by everything.
Wimbledon was a big thing. There was no prize money so you were playing for your nation, not so much for yourself; I loved that. Rolls-Royces and Bentleys with the Wimbledon flag on the front would pick you up in London and take you to the matches. You wanted to wave to people out the window because you felt like royalty.
There was strawberries and cream at the tennis and everybody dressed up. They even had Ladies Day fashion – probably a bit like Ascot or the Melbourne Cup. A lot of royals went to Wimbledon back then. Being in England and part of the Commonwealth, as a young person it was just special.
1967: In the early days, we couldn’t come back to Australia after Wimbledon because we didn’t have the money. So my husband, Barry, and I – we got married in 1967 – spent a few months every year in America.
We stayed with people in Cincinnati and became part of the family. They had a lovely house and boat in Key Largo, Florida, and a couple of times a year we’d holiday down there.
We’d go fishing out in the Gulf Stream and go after crayfish in the canals; we’d have crayfish coming out of our ears! That was my outlet. After a week of that, it was like I’d had a month’s holiday.
I was brought up catching freshwater crays in the Murray River; it was the most relaxing thing. When I think of my tennis days, I think of America and the Florida Keys. I love deep-sea fishing.
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