Tuesday 9 July 2013

Game, Set, Match

Wimbledon circa 1877 courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.

It started on four acres of meadowland outside London, England.  The court measured 78 feet by 27 feet.  The net measured 3 feet 3 inches high.  The score was based on a clock face (15, 30, 40).  The players had to bring their own rackets and adhere to a strict dress code.  The event was Wimbledon.

Jeu de paume was an indoor racket and ball game played in France.  This sport evolved into an outdoor game played on grass called "royal tennis".  The All England Croquet Club added royal tennis or lawn tennis to their repertoire.  In 1868, they purchased four acres of land outside London (Worple Road) and built a court.  In 1877, they announced a tennis meeting open to amateurs to be held in July.  The fee was 1 pound and 1 shilling.  The trophy was valued at 25 guinea.  Six games equaled one set.  Servers were allowed one fault.

Twenty-one players showed up for the first Wimbledon tournament.  While the tennis players took their mark on the grass court, the spectators, dressed up for the occasion, watched from the stands.  The tournament took a few days to play, interrupted by a rugby match.  The final game was a contest between William Marshall and Spencer Gore.  The latter won the match and became Wimbledon's first champion.

                               At precisely 2:00pm (notice the clock), Cramm and Budge walk onto Centre Court to contest the 1937 Wimbledon final. They hadn't played in two years.

Wimbledon circa 1937 courtesy wordpress.com. 

In 1884, Wimbledon added a ladies' singles tournament.  Maud Watson walked away with the first trophy.  In the early 1900's, Wimbledon graduated from being an all-England tournament to a world-wide tournament.  In 1922, the tennis classic outgrew its Worple Road surroundings and moved to its present location on Church Road.  The first televised Wimbledon came in 1937, one of the years that British player Fred Perry won the coveted trophy.  The 1950's many of the tennis stars turn pro, but Wimbledon was only for amateurs.  The tournament's popularity started to slip.  Then in 1968, Wimbledon welcomed professionals and regained its status as the world's top tennis tournament.

Wimbledon 1957 courtesy www.nytimes.com.

Today, Wimbledon tennis players play on a grass court just like they did back in 1877.  They play by the same rules.  Spectators still dress up.  Since 1953 guests have munched on strawberries while they watch the players lob the ball back and forth.  A royal box houses members of the royal family, a long-standing tradition.  Competing players are expected to bow or curtsy when Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles is present.  This year, for the first time since 1937, a British man won Wimbledon.  His name is Andy Murray.  Italian Marion Bartoli took home the women's trophy.  

Andy Murray circa 2013 courtesy images.sportsworldreport.com.

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