60 Love: A History of the Wimbledon Games

This coming Monday marks the first day of the Wimbledon Championships, a long anticipated international tennis tournament which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. In the UK, it is seen as a lovely patriotic game where crowds can mingle in the sunshine and cheer on the quick pace ball game with glee – but where did these games originate, and how did they become as big as they are today?

Wimbledon Championships
(Wimbledon Championships, image courtesy of Tennishead)

The first ever Wimbledon tournament was held in 1876 on one of the croquet lawns of the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club – it stemmed from Major Walter Clopton Wingfield devising ‘lawn tennis’ as a game from the original ‘real tennis’, and consequently changing the club grounds name to match this new invention. Rules were drawn up for lawn tennis (which have little changed for the tennis we know and love today) and to officiate the game the first ever championships were held between 22 men in a singles match, with Spencer Gore becoming the first ever Champion. This quickly became an annual event with more participators and spectators each year.

England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club
(England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, image courtesy of Wimbledon)

In 1884 woman’s singles was introduced alongside the transfer of men’s doubles from the Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club. Ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles events were then added to the games in 1913. Before 1968, the games were only ever played by tennis top-ranking amateurs with professional players being prohibited to enter. It was only until the open era of tennis took hold that professional players were allowed to compete.

The lawns at the England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club were placed so that the principle court was in the middle, which brought on the title we know today as ‘centre court’. When the games moved location in 1922 to the present site in Church Road of Wimbledon, the name stuck however was no longer an accurate description until new courts were put in place from the 1980s onwards. To this day, Wimbledon is the only tennis championships out of the four grand slams which still uses real grass on its courts as opposed to turf.

Televised Wimbledon Championships
(Televised Wimbledon Championships, image courtesy of Tennis Express)

Televised from 1937 onwards, Wimbledon is now considered one of the world’s premier tennis tournaments and is watched by millions across the world. The club’s goal is to maintain its leadership and follows a long-term plan to ensure its spectators, players, officials and neighbours are prospering at all times. It continues to improve its arenas and courts each year to ensure the games are as high of quality as always, which definitely pays off from the fantastic experience the population feels each year in watching.

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