Of the four tennis Majors, with each considered a leg of the Grand Slam circuit, none is bigger or more important than Wimbledon. Played in the All England Club in London since its inception in 1877, it is the oldest tennis tourney of the four Majors and is considered the most prestigious of them all. If you win at Wimbledon, you have won against the best.
If the US Open is the Super Bowl of tennis tournaments, then Wimbledon is the Olympics and World Championships all wrapped up in one. It is the only one of the Majors that is still played on real grass, the sport’s original playing surface, and has all the mystique and wonderful history still present at each year’s tourney.
The royal family is known to frequent the tournament and some rich traditions include a very strict dress code for the competitors and the eating of cream and strawberries for the fans. They also do not allow those annoying signs for advertisers like they have at most other tourneys so the courts are clean and nice looking. There is a certain standard of excellence that is in place for Wimbledon and everyone there knows what a special thing it is to be there, competitor and spectator alike.
In 2009, the tourney promoters installed a retractable roof on the center court in order to lessen the amount of play time because of rain. If a competitor makes it to center court at Wimbledon, they know they have made it to the big time. This is as good as it gets for tennis players, fans watching on TV and spectators at the matches itself. London is a great place to visit during the summer months and towards the end of June, as this tourney approaches, excitement is in the air.
The tourney can trace its beginnings to a private club that began in England in 1868. Several years later, lawn tennis was invented as an off shoot of the original game tennis, which goes as far back in time to the 12th Century and was once played only by the aristocracy and did not use rackets. Players struck the ball with their hands. It is with this incredible history that we can begin to look at how Wimbledon the tourney came into being.
The first annual tourney started just a year after the sport of lawn tennis came into the European world. 1877 was the first official year for Wimbledon, where around 200 fans paid a single shilling to watch the finals, won by Spencer Gore, an old time player. One of the longest traditions held by the tourney is the fact the main court was surrounded by many others, hence the title of center court, where the most important matches are held to this day.
The tournament went on for many years, enjoying the title of world’s premier tennis event. Media coverage is tremendous, with payouts for each athlete counting in the hundreds of thousands. But it was in 1993 that a major change was seen in the proceedings, involving massive reconstruction. In order to keep the prestige and marketability of the tourney, a long term plan was installed to maintain this leadership in the world of the Majors tennis tournament.
The first stage saw the removal of some older courts and the building of new ones. Tradition is one thing and they believe it important, but the old must sometimes be swept away to keep up appearances and make way for brighter and better appointments, including these new courts and the retractable roof.
Wimbledon demands respect due to its history but the promoters also realize they must adapt with the times and give spectators something new and exciting and the new construction is that and more. The old grounds are now cleaner and updated, to not only reflect the majesty of the past but also to embrace the future.