As tennis fans sat bleary-eyed in the wee hours of yesterday morning watching Swiss star Roger Federer win a record-tying Wimbledon title, 87-year-old Matua retiree Bob Beausire was taking a keener interest than most.

Beausire's great aunt Charlotte Cooper, who he affectionately called Chattie, was a five-times Wimbledon women's singles champion between 1895-1908, finishing runner-up a further six times around the turn of the century.

Although he's more at home now at the Tauranga Croquet Club's Domain headquarters, Beausire said yesterday his family connection with tennis' greatest Grand Slam at the All England Club meant he rarely got a good night's sleep each July when the tournament rolled around.

"The family's always been very keen tennis players (Cooper's husband Rex Sterry became president of the Lawn Tennis Association and their daughter Gwen played on Britain's Wightman Cup team) and I've always been particularly proud of my great aunt Chattie, even though there never seemed to be a great deal of hoopla around her achievements," Beausire said.


That was typified by her first win in 1895, when she defeated Helen Jackson Atkins 7-5 8-6 wearing a white ankle-length dress, starched button-up shirt and tie in accordance with Victorian attire of the time.

"Chattie was staying at the time with her brother and my great-uncle, Dr Harry Cooper, at his home in Surbiton. She biked home from Wimbledon and found her brother at home pruning the roses. When he asked what she'd been doing she replied, 'I've just won the Championship', at which point he said nothing, turned and went back to pruning his roses."

Cooper's other Wimbledon wins came in 1896, 1989, 1901 and 1908, and she was runner-up six times between 1897-1912.

She also won two golds at the 1900 Olympics in Paris in the women's singles and mixed doubles - becoming one of the first women to win an Olympic gold.

Born in Chile but raised in the UK, Beausire and his Kiwi wife Rae (nee Goodhue) came to New Zealand to live in 1976, with Beausire spending a lot his life living in Latin or South America, latterly as general manager of agricultural machinery giant Ransomes de Mexico.

He said his late wife got to accompany Cooper back to Wimbledon in 1963, three years before the former tennis trailblazer died, aged 96.

"I was abroad at the time working, which annoyed me, but my wife took Chatttie to Wimbledon from Luton. She was invited as a guest of the All England Club, her last visit before she got too old, and was met by the hierarchy who promptly whisked Chattie away for tea with the committee and left my wife standing there!

"She got to watch some tennis but wasn't invited to anything, standing around until it was time to collect Chattie at the end of the day. It seemed all a bit odd."