Wimbledon brings a few things to mind—grass (perennial ryegrass if you’re wondering), strawberries and cream, tea, white clothes, rain, pigeons, and, of course, great tennis. Now halfway through the tournament, I thought it would be a nice reflection to look back through history to see why Wimbledon is a great tournament—possibly the best tournament.
Wimbledon head coach Dan Bloxham said it best when he said, “Wimbledon reminds everyone of the heritage of the game.” Wimbledon takes place at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. It is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and the only major tournament still played on grass, the game’s original surface. In fact, one ton of grass seed is used each year to furnish the grounds of Wimbledon.
The first tennis tournament at Wimbledon took place in 1877 at the Club’s original location, off Worple Road in Wimbledon, as a way for the club to raise money to purchase a pony-drawn roller used to tend the grass. Players volunteered to compete in the tournament and spectators paid a shilling to attend. Now it costs from 45-130 pounds to attend the tournament.
The first champion was Spencer Gore, as Wimbledon only featured gentlemen’s singles. Now the tournament features gentlemen’s singles and doubles, ladies’ singles and doubles, mixed doubles, and junior tournaments. The tournament moved to Church Road in 1922 when the club bought a large plot of land. Today, Wimbledon features 19 grass courts over 42 acres and a retractable roof over Centre Court, installed in 2009.
Emily and I were lucky enough to visit the Wimbledon grounds this past year on our trip to London. During the tour we discovered just how well the grass is treated. The grass is attended to year round, with electric fences and guard dogs to keep the foxes away. Visitors aren’t allowed to touch the grass, and players aren’t allowed to practice on Centre Court and Court No. 1 in order to keep the grass in pristine condition. Each court is re-lined, rolled, and mowed every day during the tournament.
Much has changed at Wimbledon throughout the years but this tournament still encapsulates so much of the history of tennis, from the grass surface of the courts to the all white dress code. It is the site of the longest tennis match ever—John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut, which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes. Wimbledon is where Roger Federer won his record breaking 15th Grand Slam championship.
The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club has hosted tennis greats like Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Chris Everet, Maria Sharapova, and Serena and Venus Williams. After 136 years, one thing is certain for this historic tennis site: more history is in the making each year.