The last set was well fought out, for, although I began well and led at 3/1, Miss Rice won the next three games in succession and reached 40/30 in the following game. This was her last effort, as I ran out at 6/4, winning the Championship for the second time. I think it was one of the closest matches I ever played, and I see by Pastime that I only won 18 games to her 16, and 110 strokes to her 100, and I felt I was most lucky to win at all.
[Signature: Blanche Hillyard]
(Champion, 1895, 1896, 1898, 1901, 1908)
Of course it goes without saying that my most memorable and exciting matches will all be those in which I have excelled or been the most distinguished person at the immediate moment! Let me just say that I am not going to give details of any match, as that is beyond my power and, I assume, of little interest to the reader.
Winning my first championship of the Ealing Lawn Tennis Club at the age of 14 was a very important moment in my life. How well I remember, bedecked by my proud mother in my best clothes, running off to the Club on the Saturday afternoon to play in the final without a vestige of nerve (would that I had none now!), and winning—that was the first really important match of my life.
Another great game will always be imprinted on my memory, and that was in 1894, the first year that the late Mr. H.S. Mahony and I won the All England Mixed Championship. We beat Mrs. Hillyard and Mr. W. Baddeley in the final. The excitement of the onlookers was intense, and never shall I forget the overpowering sensation I felt as we walked, after our win, past the Aigburth Cricket Ground Stand, packed to its limit. How the people clapped and cheered us! It was tremendous.
[Illustration: MRS. HILLYARD]
[Illustration: MRS. STERRY]
[Illustration: MISS V.M. PINCKNEY]
[Illustration: MISS D. BOOTHBY]
Another memory—the year 1895. Certainly I must be honest and say it wasn’t exactly a good championship win, for Miss Dodd, Mrs. Hillyard, and Miss Martin were all standing out. Any of these could have beaten me. Nevertheless it was a delightful feeling to win the blue ribbon of England, especially as my opponent in the final, Miss Jackson, had led 5-love in both sets! By some good fortune I was able to win seven games off the reel in each case.
One more match—in 1907. I had heard a great deal about Miss May Sutton (who made her first appearance in England in 1905) beating everybody without the loss of a set. I had also heard she was a giant of strength, and that the harder one hit the more she liked it. The first time I met her was at Liverpool in 1907—I did not play the previous season. I was determined to introduce unfamiliar tactics, giving her short balls in order to entice her up to the net. The result was that many of her terrific drives went out, and I think this was primarily the reason why I was the first lady in England to take a set from her. I recollect her telling me, after the match was over, that my game was very different to any other she had ever played, and that she was not anxious to meet me again—remarks I took as a great compliment.