MURIEL EVELYN ROBB (1878 - 1907)


Muriel Evelyn Robb was born on 13 May 1878 in Jesmond, Newcastle. Her parents were William David Robb, a provision agent and Ellen Robb, nee Ritson.At the time of Muriel's birth, the family was living at 1, Victoria Villas.

Muriel learned the rudiments of tennis playing whilst attending Cheltenham Ladies College in Gloucestershire. At some point, Muriel became a member of the local tennis club, the Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club, originally founded in 1883 and situated on Fern Avenue before moving to its present home on Osborne Road in 1890.

Muriel began entering tournaments in 1896 and in a relatively short period of time, won all of the main national singles titles of the British Isles, including her best known triumph, winning the Womens Singles at Wimbledon in 1902. Muriel played against the American, Charlotte Sterry, in the final and proved to be, arguably, the strangest women's singles final ever played at Wimbledon. Ms Sterry won the first set 6 - 4, but Muriel hit back to take the second 13 - 11; still the second longest set ever played in a women's singles final at Wimbledon, two games shorter than than the 14 - 12 first set played by Margaret Court and Billie Jean King in the 1970 final. In that second set, Muriel save one match point when Ms Sterry was leading 5 - 4, 40 - 30. at this point, the match was halted due to the increasing rainfall. The following day, the match was not so much resumed as replayed, with Muriel winning two more sets, 7 - 5 and 6 - 1. Nowadays, the match, final or not, would certainly be resumed with the score at one set all. Matches were almost always resumed, not restarted, even in those far away days. Why it was decreed that the match should begin anew the following day has never been explained but the 53 games played are a record for a women's singles final at Wimbledon.

Muriel is also credited with popularising the overhead serve in women's tennis, with most women at that time tending to favour the underhead serve. Indeed, one of her opponents, Blanche Hillyard described her serve thus, "the power she got on the ball was astonishing. Indeed, few men have ever had a harder drive".

Muriel died on 12 February 1907, less than five years after her greatest triumph. No other winner of a singles title has died at a younger age. 

In 2011, a blue plaque, honouring Muriel Robb's achievement, has been placed on the gates of Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club.

    Muriel Robb's famous overhead pose


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