The Lawn Tennis Event History & Traditions
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is generally considered the most prestigious. So prestigious in fact, that members of the British Royal Family often attend the final matches. The tradition can be felt throughout the fortnight – traditions like taking the middle Sunday off, strawberries and cream, or even top seeds faltering on the infamous Court No. 2. The tournament has been held at the All England Club in the London suburb of Wimbledon since 1877. It is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, and the only one still played on the game’s original surface, grass, which gave the game of lawn tennis its name.
The tournament takes place over two weeks in late June and early July, culminating with the ladies’ and gentlemen’s singles final, scheduled respectively for the second Saturday and Sunday. Each year, five major events are contested, as well as four junior events and four invitational events. In 2009, Wimbledon’s Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof to ensure against the possibility of rain delays interrupting Centre Court matches during the tournament.
The hard court Australian Open and clay court French Open precede Wimbledon in the calendar year. The hard court US Open follows. Wimbledon traditions include the eating of strawberries and cream, drinking Pimm’s spritzers – a fantastically refreshing drink made from Pimms, lemonade, with various fruits (including strawberries of course!)mint, and a load of ice thrown in – royal patronage and a strict dress code for competitors.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which is responsible for staging the world’s leading tennis tournament, is a private Club founded in 1868, originally as ‘The All England Croquet Club’. Its first ground was situated off Worple Road, Wimbledon.
In 1875 lawn tennis, a game introduced by major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier and originally called Sphairistike, was added to the activities of the Club. In the spring of 1877 the Club was re-titled ‘The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club’ and signalled its change of name by instituting the first Lawn Tennis Championship. A new code of laws, hitherto administered by the Marylebone Cricket Club, was drawn up for the meeting. These have stood the test of time and today’s rules are similar except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.
The only event held in 1877 was the Gentlemen’s Singles which was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.
Previously, players bowed or curtsied to members of the Royal Family seated in the Royal Box upon entering or leaving Centre Court. In 2003, however, the President of the All England Club, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, decided to discontinue the tradition. Now, players are required to bow or curtsy only if Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales is present, as will be in practice during the 2012 Championships when the Queen will be in attendance for a day or two at Wimbledon.