Fernanda Contreras Gómez never had been to the All England Club until this weekend, after becoming the first woman from Mexico since 1996 to hold a spot in the main-draw field at Wimbledon.
She felt as if she knew her way around the place rather well, though. That’s because the 24-year-old Contreras Gómez has been hearing tales of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament from her grandfather since she was a kid — Francisco “Pancho” Contreras Serrano reached the semifinals of mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 1958 and also played singles there.
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“It was really cool to walk around the grounds,” Contreras Gómez said. “It’s like, ‘Someone pinch me!’”
She qualified in May for the French Open, then won a first-round match in the main draw there. She qualified last week for Wimbledon, and, her ranking up to 154th, lost her first-round match in the main draw on Monday, beaten 6-1, 6-4 by 65th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland.
Contreras Gómez’s enthusiasm was not dimmed a bit.
“It was still so magical. There were some moments that I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m in London. This is insane. I had a pretty nice court with a view of Centre Court. Everything was pristine. The grass was really green. Barely used. I was kind of floating. It was awesome,” said Contreras Gómez, who moved with her family from Mexico to Austin, Texas, when she was 13, then studied mechanical engineering and played tennis at Vanderbilt.
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“There was happiness. There were moments of uncertainty — ‘Am I going to play with the rain today?’ — and patience,” she said. “The jittery nerves of, ‘Ooh, I’m about to play. I’m about to walk out on the court.'”
Her grandfather told her about the grind of the tennis tour — especially the travel involved — back in his day in the sport. She said he missed the births of each of his four children while away playing and gave each one a middle name to note where he was competing at the time: Altamira, Cleveland, Brisbane and — yes, for a son born in 1958 — Wimbledon.
The two spoke on the phone after Contreras Gómez earned the right to participate during the off-site qualifying rounds.
His message to his granddaughter?
“He said: I’m so proud of you. Another ‘F. Contreras’ is in the Wimbledon draw.”
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After her one-hour match against Linette, Contreras Gómez said she planned to talk with her grandfather on Tuesday.
“I’m sure,” she said, “he’s going to want to compare how my experience was to his.”