What springs to mind when you hear the word wimbledon’? With over 160,000 serves of Strawberries and Cream sold, we think of summertime, fun, fashion and amazing sporting ability.
Of course, it’s one of the UK’s greatest sporting events. As one of only 4 major grand slams on the ATP tennis tour, and the only event to be played on grass, not only is it the oldest tournament, but also the most distinguished. It’s every young player’s dream to hold high the he Cup’ or osewater Dish’.
Wimbledon, located just 9 miles southwest of Central London, has been one of England’s favorite events for well over a century. The All England Tennis Club was opened in 1869 on 4 acres of rented land, and members originally only played Croquet. It wasn’t until interest began growing in the sport of tennis, that the club advertised their intention to hold a lawn tennis tournament for mateur’ men only. There were 22 entrants, with the first game played on July 9th, 1877. The final was watched by around 200 people, in very basic conditions with a temporary stand built for 30 people. Very different from today’s event!
In 2018 there were 111 male singles entrants, 116 female singles, not to mention men’s doubles, ladies doubles, mixed doubles, wheelchair singles, as well as boys and girls singles tournaments. They played on 18 championship grass courts, with a further 20 practice courts nearby. During the 13 day tournament, there were 473,169 spectators and the event was watched by over 26 million worldwide, with the Centre court sold out for the finals, seating 14,979.
Prize money for the winners was introduced in 1968 when the Men’s Singles Champion was awarded 2000 GBP, and the Women’s Singles Champion significantly less at 750 GBP. The total prize money in 2018, was 34 million GBP, with both Men’s and Women’s singles winners receiving 2.25 million each. It was back in 2007 when women were paid the same as men for their event.
Wimbledon has always held a fascination for many, with tennis stars revered for their on-court and off-court antics. In recent years Roger Federer has dominated winning 8 Wimbledon championships, more than any player before him, but there’s been a close rivalry with Nadal and Djokovic. The William’s sisters have also held the public interest. Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf were longtime rivals in the late ’80s and Borg, Becker, McEnroe, and Connors kept fans on the edge of their seats. In the ’50s and 60’s Australians Lew Hoad, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, and Margaret Court kept the tickets selling and the American Billie-Jean King was a legend of Wimbledon in the 1970s.
Wimbledon is also a big hit with the Royal Family. Royals have been attending since 1907 and in 1926 Price Albert (later to become King George VI) competed in the doubles tournament, but didn’t last long, losing in three straight sets. Queen Elizabeth II was there to watch the Women’s Singles win of UK player Virginia Wade in the Silver Jubilee year in 1977. Currently, Prince Edward The Duke of Kent is thePresident of The All England Tennis Club and presents the prizes to the winners and runners-up.
In 2013, the Wimbledon Foundation was established; a charitable organization contributing hundreds of thousands each year to wonderful programmes across the globe, this year supporting WaterAid. They also have an initiative called The Road To Wimbledon, supporting the growth of grass court tennis, both in the UK and overseas.
The All England Tennis Club is, without doubt, a the cornerstone of British sporting history.