Computer glitch denied Goolagong No. 1 WTA ranking in '76

Updated: December 31, 2007, 3:43 PM ET
Associated Press

SUNRISE BEACH, Australia -- Evonne Goolagong finally made it to No. 1, although the honor was 31 years late in coming.

[+] EnlargeEvonne Goolagong
STF/AFP/Getty ImagesDuring a search of the WTA rankings archive, it was discovered that several paper records were missing. Once those results were added, Evonne Goolagong edged Chris Evert by 0.8 points in 1976 to take the No. 1 ranking for a brief period.

The Australian tennis star was told by the WTA Tour that she should have been top-ranked for a two-week period in 1976. That was a stretch in which she was in the middle of winning six tournaments, including the Australian Open and the season-ending Virginia Slims Championship.

But when some tournament records were transferred to a computer in 1976, all of Goolagong's points were not entered and she never received the top ranking, the WTA said.

The WTA has amended its records, making Goolagong the 16th No. 1 player since the introduction of tour computer rankings in 1975.

Two weeks ago, the 56-year-old Goolagong received a trophy from the WTA that is now displayed in her oceanside home.

"I'm very proud of the achievement," Goolagong told The Associated Press. "I was on a roll for that stretch in 1976. It was a great surprise to hear after all these years."

A recent search of the rankings archive in St. Petersburg, Fla., found several paper records were missing between April and July 1976.

Rankings were calculated twice weekly until 1990 -- they are done weekly now -- and it was discovered Goolagong overtook Chris Evert by 0.8 points after the Aussie's victory in the Virginia Slims in Los Angeles in late April 1976, before Evert regained the crown May 10.

"Unfortunately our record-keeping wasn't perfect in those early days of women's tennis and our ranking system was viewed as a means of just accepting tournament entries," WTA Tour chief executive and chairman Larry Scott said.

"It wasn't until the early 1980s that the media and players started to pay attention to the changes in the rankings during the year as opposed to only the end-of-season rankings."

Goolagong reached the finals of 16 of 24 Grand Slam singles tournaments from 1971 to 1976, winning five of them. She won Wimbledon titles nine years apart -- in 1971 and 1980 -- to equal Bill Tilden's mark for having the longest gaps between championships at the All-England Club. She has seven Grand Slam singles titles overall.

Goolagong retired in 1985 and lived in the United States -- at Hilton Head, S.C., and Naples, Fla. -- until moving back to Australia in 1992.

Now, Goolagong is frequently seen power walking in the streets around her Sunrise Beach home north of Brisbane. She and husband Roger Cawley organize tennis camps for Aboriginal youths. During next month's Australian Open, 15 young athletes from across Australia will be flown in for a camp outside Melbourne.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press