Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Grand Slam-winning mom, congratulates Kim Clijsters on US Open win

By Dennis Passa, AP
Monday, September 14, 2009

One Grand Slam-winning mother to another: Go Moms!

BRISBANE, Australia — Evonne Goolagong Cawley didn’t get to watch the moment when Kim Clijsters emulated her achievement of nearly 30 years ago by winning a tennis major after having a child.

While Clijsters was winning the U.S. Open, and celebrating on court in New York with her 18-month-old daughter, Jada, Goolagong Cawley was busy working in Sydney with the next generation of potential tennis stars she’s mentoring.

But the last person to win a Grand Slam singles title after having a child was nonetheless thrilled from afar for the Belgian comeback star.

“I was so very excited to hear that Kim won, and I’m so happy for her,” Goolagong Cawley, who won Wimbledon in 1980, three years after having daughter Kelly, told The Associated Press on Monday. “Go Moms!”

“How gorgeous that she brought her daughter on court to celebrate. Please pass along my congratulations to her for such an amazing win.”

In a time zone 14 hours away, Goolagong Cawley was at a private ladies’ school attended by three of the students from her aboriginal tennis program when Clijsters was playing the U.S. Open final.

“At the moment I found out about Kim’s win, I was talking to my three kids at the ladies’ college, so it was a nice touch that I could share that with them,” she said.

Goolagong Cawley, who has been suffering with a throat infection which made her a little reluctant to answer media calls for comment, said one of her biggest memories of her 1980 win was being told by a Wimbledon official how long it had been since a mother had last won at the All-England Club.

“It was funny, because as soon as I came off the court, the first thing the official said to me was ‘Do you realize you are the first mother since Dorothea Douglass Chambers in 1914 to win here as a mom’?”, Goolagong Cawley said.

Douglass Chambers beat Ethel Thomson Larcombe 7-5, 6-4 that year at Wimbledon for her second consecutive win. It was far easier to win back-to-back titles then — the defending champion merely had to play in the final after a challenger tournament was held.

Goolagong Cawley, like Clijsters, had a tougher road.

While Clijsters beat both Venus and Serena Williams before her 7-5, 6-3 win Sunday over Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Goolagong Cawley had to beat Tracy Austin in the semifinals and then Chris Evert Lloyd — 6-1, 7-6 (4) — in the 1980 final to capture her second Wimbledon title nine years after her first.

Evert was in the crowd Sunday with her husband, golfer Greg Norman, watching the women’s U.S. Open final.

Goolagong Cawley reached the finals of 16 of 24 Grand Slam singles tournaments from 1971 to 1976, winning five of them. Her Wimbledon titles in 1971 and ‘80 equaled Bill Tilden’s mark for having the longest gaps between championships at the All-England Club.

Goolagong Cawley retired in 1983 — after having son Morgan in 1981 — and lived at Hilton Head, S.C. and in Florida until moving back to Australia in 1992.

She and her husband, former British tennis player Roger Cawley, now live at Sunrise Beach in the northern Queensland state.

She and Cawley organize tennis camps and educational programs for Aboriginal youths.

Goolagong Cawley said Kelly wasn’t at the All-England Club in 1980 after she won the title, so she wasn’t able to have her daughter share in the on-court excitement that Clijsters’ daughter enjoyed on Sunday.

“She was out in London with her nannies,” Goolagong Cawley said, laughing. “I think Kelly has seen more parks and zoos around the world than most kids.”

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