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Time was, Wimbledon might as well have been in Tampa

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The world’s most famous tennis tournament began Monday, bringing in competitors and fans from all over the world.

Ah, but there was a time when Wimbledon was reserved for Tampa Bay alone.

It has been 22 years now since Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, both of whom lived here at the time, played in the Wimbledon Finals. Sampras won in four sets, although the first two were by tie-breaker, to win the first of his seven titles.

At the time, Sampras was No. 1 in the world and Courier was No. 2. Sampras lived in Tampa and Courier in Dade City.

It wasn’t Tampa’s only flirtation with Wimbledon. In 1956, Shirley Fry – a former copy clerk at the St. Petersburg Times – won the women’s draw at Wimbledon over England’s Angela Buxton. The story goes that Buxom’s wealthy father had promised her a recreational pier at a resort if she won. Then-mayor of St. Pete Samuel Johnson promised to give Fry the St. Petersburg Pier if she won to reciprocate.

After she did, Fry sent a cable back.

“Coming to collect my pier,” she said.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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