Every summer, the world’s tennis greats gather in a small suburb on the outskirts of London to compete in one of the most storied and celebrated tournaments on the globe. The contest was coined by former champion John Barrett as the most coveted title in all of professional tennis as the “granddaddy of them all.” This year, the total amount of prizes reach 34.8 million. It’s a chance for the best to earn their spot in history and secure a legacy. Welcome to Wimbledon.
Marion Bartoli, Women’s Singles Champion, Wimbledon 2013
One of four Grand Slam Tournaments, Wimbledon is the oldest of its counterparts and widely considered to be the most prestigious. However, the tournament did evolve from humble beginnings. The early days of Wimbledon began as a small 19th century garden party, featuring both croquet and the secondary sport, “lawn tennis.” The club, called the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, was the first to hold a tennis championship, mainly to garner money to fund the croquet lawns. But it wasn’t long before the croquet fan section dwindled, and the popularity of tennis soared. In fact, eventually the Club even dropped the “croquet” from its name altogether. As a sentiment, it was reintroduced later, and today stands as the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
It was on the tennis courts at Wimbledon where modern tennis was forged, defining and shaping the sport for the rest of world. In 1877 during the first championship tournament, the doctrine of rules was formed, and there have been very few changes and exceptions since. Fans watched in awe as the sport’s earliest champions brought innovative new techniques every year, such as Spencer Gore, Frank Hadow, and the William and Ernest Renshaw with their showstopping “Renshaw Smash.” (The first time spectators saw an overhead serve) By the mid 1880s, thousands of fans were flooding the stands, and by 1905, Wimbledon was attracting overseas competitors.
William and Ernest Renshaw
Women’s Role in Wimbledon
Seven years after the first Wimbledon Tennis Championship, women were introduced in the sport. Dressed in full skirts and corsets, women did not enjoy comfortable wear until the 1930s, when shorts were first introduced. The first Women’s Singles champion was Maud Watson, and other early female greats included Lottie Dod, 5-time champion, Charlotte Cooper Sterry, 5-time champion, and Dorothea Lambert Chambers, 7-time champion.