"When I found out that the Queen was coming for the ladies' final, I knew that was the time for me to be there."
Virginia Wade plays Betty Stove for the women's singles title of the centenary Wimbledon tennis championships Friday and Queen Elizabeth II will be in the royal box at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the first time since 1962.
That was the year Wade, now 31, first played Wimbledon. Now that she is in the final for the first time, after 15 years of sometimes maddening frustration, she doesn't intend to miss her chance to receive the gold championship plate from her majesty.
Wate first English finalist since Ann Jones won in 1969, has a 17-2 career advantage over Stove, first Dutch player to reach a Wimbledon singles final.
Encouraging as that record is, it is a more personal triumph that has Wade brimming with confidence. Her 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory over defending champ Chris Evert in the semifinals proved what she has been saying for some time: her reputation for dissolving in a jumble of nerves on big occasions is out-of-date.
"I think I've got the willpower and the guts and everything else to win this tournament, and that's what I want to do," she said after the triumph that electrified the center court crowd on Wednesday, and sent the prices scalpers can command for Friday's tickets skyrocketing.
"I've always thought that at Wimbledon particularly there's this balance of determination and tension, and if you're determined enough you can forget about the tension."
In her first 10 years at Wimbledon. Wade reached the quarterfinals only once. Although she has been consistently among the top 10 women players in the world the last decade, and won the first U.S. Open in 1968, she only reached the semis here twice before, 1974 and 1976. Never beyond.
Most years she was as jittery as a cat falling off a hot tin roof. She would smoulder, then erupt. "Ginny Crashes" became an annual headline, and after the tears had flowed, nerves and the pressure of the home crowd wanting so much for her to win were the excuses for her choking.
But this year she is better prepared physically and mentally. She attributes to the rigorous training regimen of the World Team Tennis New York Apples and encouraging advice from her Apples teammate, Billie Jean King.
"She's the one who said Wimbledon is a tournament you have to prepare for starting the day the previous Wimbledon is finished." Wade recalls.
"It is such a different tournament, it's amazing. The early rounds feel totally different from anywhere else. There's so much going on, so much activity, that it's difficult to make yourself concentrate. In the past I've wasted too much emotional energy in early matches, but this year I haven't had an untidy, careless moment on the court."
Wade will have to pay strict attention against Stove, 32, the 6-foot-1, 160-pound. Netherlander who had never been beyond the quarters here and has never been in the singles final of a big tournament.
Stove's powerful but inconsistent serve-and-volley game can make it difficut for an opponent to groove her strokes, as it was for Sue Baker in the semifinals. Stove's matches tend to have a heavy beat but not much rhythm.
"She's one of the toughest of all people to play because she's so erratic - so good and so bad, but so good when she's good," says Wade.
She doesn't expect to let the chance to fulfill her lifetime tennis dream get away. It's the Wimbledon centenary and the Queen's jubilee, and her majesty doesn't watch tennis very often.
"If I'm ever going to win Wimbledon." Virginia Wade says, confident in her fitness and newfound self-control, "this would be the one to win."