Being just a couple of weeks away and with excitement levels building as the world’s top players start to think about their warm up competitions at Queen’s, Halle and The Boodles, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the Wimbledon Championships. The grass court event of the season, which incidentally also happens to be the world’s oldest and only major grass court Grand Slam tournament, winning the Wimbledon Championships is often the ultimate goal of any professional tennis player.
A Brief History
A far cry from the varied tournament that we watch today, the first official Wimbledon Championships were held at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877 and consisted of one men’s event known as the Gentlemen’s Singles, which was open to amateur players. Won by a player called Spencer Gore from a field of around 20 competitors, that one event began to set the standard for tennis competitions. In 1884 women could final play on grass courts in the tournament’s original home just off Worple Road thanks to the introduction of the Ladies’ Singles, and event equality was firmly established in 1913 when the Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events were introduced.
That Iconic Venue
Since the very beginning the Wimbledon Championships have been held at the iconic All England Tennis and Croquet Club, although the venue itself has undergone a number of changes. Originally called the All England Croquet Club it remained at Worple Road until 1922 when it moved to its present location on Church Road. Its name was briefly changed to the All England Club when activity at the club was reduced to lawn tennis, but in 1899 its full title was restored.
The biggest changes to the venue itself have happened during the last twenty years, with the creation of a new number 1 court complex, extensive player facilities, new entrance buildings and even a museum. In 2009 a retractable roof was installed over the venue, and that year’s Championships were the first time that rain did not stop play on Centre Court.
As can be expected from such a prestigious Grand Slam event, since the introduction of the open era in 1968 Wimbledon has attracted the very best of the tennis elite. Year after year, star players from across the world have descended to the sleepy English village, and have given us some of the most exciting and scintillating games of professional tennis.
During the eighties and nineties, it was players like Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Steffi Graff and Martina Navratilova who were dominating Centre Court. As the new century began to take shape, we saw the arrival of the player who some believe to be the greatest in the Open Era – Roger Federer, along with super-athletes like Rafael Nadal and current men’s champ Novak Djokovic. Not to be outdone by the male players in the tournament, we also saw the arrival of some prodigiously talented ladies in the forms of Maria Sharapova, reigning champion Petra Kvivtova and the irrepressible Williams Sisters all of whom have made their mark in the ladies’ events