French Open 2018: First open winner Nancy Richey on prize cash & Paris riots 50 years in the past
|2018 French Open|
|Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 Might-10 June|
|Protection: Every day dwell radio and textual content commentaries on BBC Radio 5 dwell and the BBC Sport web site|
When Nancy Richey received the 1968 French Open, she by no means obtained the prize cash, couldn’t ring her dad and mom for the whole event and needed to change motels thrice in Paris.
The American’s victory over Briton Ann Jones within the last ought to have earned her 5,000 francs (£422 – the equal of about £7,000 at this time) – the primary time prize cash was provided at a Grand Slam occasion – however as a result of she, like most of her compatriots, was nonetheless an beginner, she couldn’t settle for it.
As a substitute, she acquired her $27 (£11 on the time) day by day allowance – a number of weeks later.
“It was actually unbelievable,” Richey instructed BBC Sport. “It disgusts me… [Americans] did not get to play for the prize cash within the first yr.”
She is the one beginner winner of a Grand Slam ladies’s singles title for the reason that begin of the Open period – and is more likely to stay so.
However the 75-year-old will not be bitter and right here describes how being an beginner had its benefits and the way the strikes that paralysed France in Might 1968 could have helped her win the title.
And he or she additionally explains why she forgave her mum for answering one piece of fan mail.
Beginner v skilled period
Having been unable to say the cash in Paris, a couple of weeks later Richey reached the ultimate at Queen’s, which was then a males’s and girls’s event. Each singles finals have been cancelled by rain and she or he was given a £250 procuring voucher.
“I might have put it within the financial institution, if I would obtained precise cash, however this was a voucher I needed to get one thing with – I wasn’t certain what I used to be going to do with it so I went to [London department store] Liberty’s and picked out a set of china and had it shipped dwelling,” she stated.
“They did not name it prize cash – I could not obtain it. I suppose we would name it semi-prize cash.”
She says she has used the fruit-patterned eating set twice.
Richey did finally flip professional and was a member of the pioneering ‘Authentic 9’ – gamers who broke away from the tennis institution in 1970 and fashioned their very own skilled tennis circuit, which finally led to the formation of the WTA Tour.
However earlier than that she lived off the $27-a-day allowance she was given by her governing physique, the USLTA.
“You could possibly pay your resort – not a fantastic place – and your meals. You scrimped and you bought by,” she stated.
“You did not make something but it surely did pay for it. I used to be lucky that my mum and pop did not push me out – till I obtained married in 1970, I lived at dwelling. It is lots totally different to what occurs at this time.”
Richey believes one of many most important causes she received the French Open was as a result of she was in significantly better form bodily than a few of her rivals who had simply turned skilled, together with compatriot and 12-time Grand Slam singles champion Billie Jean King.
“They have been travelling, taking part in one-night issues, I do not know in the event that they even performed full matches,” she stated. “They weren’t in a position to actually practice or play like I used to be taking part in, and weren’t in nearly as good a form as I used to be in.
“I beat Billie Jean within the semis – the conditioning had lots to do with it.”
Pioneers of girls’s tennis
Like all Grand Slam occasions nowadays, the French Open gives equal prize cash for women and men, with singles champions this yr set to take dwelling 2.2m euros (£1.92m).
However it could by no means have occurred with out Richey and the remainder of the ‘Authentic 9’, who risked suspension or expulsion by the tennis authorities once they arrange their circuit, partly in protest on the disparity between males’s and girls’s prize cash.
All of them signed $1 contracts and inside the subsequent yr greater than 40 gamers have been taking part in for over $300,000 in prize cash. In 1973, their Virginia Slims Circuit turned the Ladies’s Tennis Affiliation, which nonetheless runs ladies’s tennis at this time.
“The ‘Authentic 9’ actually began professional tennis for the ladies. I am greater than thrilled that we have been those who obtained it to begin. It was a particular time,” Richey stated.
However does she want she may have been a participant on at this time’s Tour, reaping the total good thing about the massive prizes on supply?
“No,” she stated. “At my stature – 5 foot three – I do not suppose there’s any means I may compete with the six-footers who’re taking part in at this time.
“I am greater than thrilled that we have been those who obtained it to begin. I am blissful – what we did was to get ladies’s tennis the place they have been taking part in for many prize cash.”
And because the graphic beneath reveals, if Richey had been allowed to just accept her prize in 1968 she would have been in a position to purchase 10% of an average-priced home in Britain, whereas this yr’s winner may purchase greater than eight of them.
‘It was just like the darkish ages’ – Paris in Might 1968
France was within the grip of civil unrest whereas the French Open was being performed in 1968, and a few gamers couldn’t even get to Paris which led to many first-round walkovers.
A few of those that did make it to the French capital had been compelled to be artistic of their journey plans, together with Richey’s brother Cliff, who flew to Luxembourg and paid $100 for a 180-mile taxi journey to Paris with a few different gamers.
And as soon as they have been there, the influence of the demonstrations and normal strikes was important.
“Because the weeks progressed the event saved asking us to maneuver nearer to the courts as a result of the gasoline was operating out within the official vehicles,” stated Richey. “I moved resort thrice.
“It was getting worse by the day after we obtained in there. The telephones weren’t working to name overseas, rubbish was piled sky excessive in every single place. After which proper after I received, the strike broke and I may name dwelling and inform my dad and mum that I had received the event. Superb.
“It was just like the darkish ages. Not to have the ability to discuss to my father, who was my coach for all my taking part in days, it was off the wall. It was the oddest event I ever performed in.”
However, she wouldn’t change something. In reality, she would go so far as to say the strikes had helped her as a result of her brother couldn’t get out of Paris and ended up staying on to teach her by the remainder of the event.
“I am actually grateful for the strikes as a result of I am undecided Cliff would have stayed and he was nearly as good in teaching as my dad was, so it was actually a key factor to me profitable the event,” she stated. “I’ve handy him half the trophy no less than as a result of he actually helped.”
Fan mail and groupies, 1960s-style
Tennis gamers at this time have thousands and thousands of followers on social media, who can pore over each ‘like’, emoji and selfie of their idols.
However in Richey’s day, in case you needed to attempt to interact along with your favorite participant it needed to be pen and paper.
She by no means replied to any of her fan mail however then her mum responded to a British lady referred to as Mary in 1966.
“After I obtained dwelling from Australia my mum was standing on the door,” Richey recalled. “She says you are going to kill me – and Mary had written again so now it was my duty to write down to Mary.
“Nicely, she’s now my greatest good friend.”
Mary and one in every of her pals travelled to Paris to comply with Richey’s journey to the French Open title – no imply feat amid the transport strikes.
“These have been my groupies,” she laughed. “That they had a resort eight miles from Roland Garros – they walked to the courts and again for 2 or three days throughout the event to look at me play. To stroll eight miles to the court docket and again – 16 miles, I can not even conceive of it.”
Tennis at this time ‘a bit of bit boring’
Richey has not performed tennis for round 18 years after breaking her foot. Today she retains match with day by day three-to-four-mile walks round a neighborhood park.
Maybe a hangover from her taking part in days, she retains a meticulous report of the variety of miles she has clocked: “I’ve carried out 310 miles since 1 January.”
She nonetheless watches a little bit of tennis – however doesn’t at all times take pleasure in it.
“The sport at this time is ‘increase, increase, increase – and increase’ – there isn’t any range in type, there isn’t any serve and volley. Numerous instances it will get a bit of boring to look at,” she stated.
However she can be tuning in to see whose identify will seem on the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen 50 years after her personal.
“I actually want to see [Simona] Halep win, just because she has come so shut so many instances. She’s sort of light away in the important thing areas there so possibly she will get it collectively,” she stated. “And [Petra] Kvitova appears to be like like she’s having a very good yr.”