The Championships, Wimbledon
The full name of these Tennis Games is The Championships, Wimbledon, though it is popularly known as Wimbledon only. One of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, it is the oldest tennis competition in the world and considered by many to be the most prestigious. The Championship has been held at the All-England Club in the London suburb of its name since 1877, and is the only Grand Slam that is still played on grass. Steeped in tradition, the games take place over 2 weeks in late June and early July during the British summer, and are hugely popular.
The private All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was founded on 23 July 1868, in Wimbledon. Originally just the All England Croquet Club, the racquet sport was added in 1876 and the club’s name was changed accordingly. The first Lawn Tennis Championship was held in 1877 to commemorate the name change, and a new code of laws was drawn up for the event. The rules of today’s games remain very similar to this, with changes to details such as the height of the posts and net.
In the inaugural Championship the only event was the Gentlemen’s Singles Tournament, which was won by Spencer Gore. The price of a Final ticket was 1 shilling, and about 200 spectators bought them. Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles were added to the proceedings in 1884, with Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles being introduced in 1914. Before 1922, the previous champion was not required to play in any other games except the final, when they would defend their title, and before 1968 only top-ranked amateur players could contest the Wimbledon title. The Open Era of Grand Slam tournaments changed this and allowed professional players to compete.
The Championships are comprised of 5 main events, 5 junior events and 5 invitation events. The 5 main events are the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Singles and Doubles games, and the Mixed Doubles contest. The Junior Events are the Boys’ and Girls’ Singles and Doubles, as well as the Disabled Doubles games, with no Mixed Doubles held at this level. Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles, Senior Gentlemen’s Invitational Doubles, Ladies’ Invitational Doubles and Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Wheelchair Doubles make up the invitational events. Most matches are best-of-3-sets, while the Gentlemen’s Singles and Doubles are best-of-5-sets. If the score reaches 6-6 in any set except the last of a match, a tiebreak game is played.
As the oldest tennis tournament in the world, it makes sense that Wimbledon has many traditions attached to it and that these are maintained with both pride and nostalgia. For example, although the All England Club no longer offers Croquet the word has been kept in the title, and men’s and women’s games are still referred to as gentlemen’s and ladies’ tournaments.
The British Royal Family has a long history with The Championships, with a Royal Gallery at the grounds, and players are still required to bow or curtsey if the Prince of Wales or the Queen of England is present. Other traditions, such as serving strawberries and cream to spectators and using local schools to supply ball boys and girls, add to the sense of history and heritage of these games.
The Championships Today
The All England Club facilities have been greatly expanded and now even boast a museum, bank and box office. A new retractable roof was installed in 2009, ending the long era of rain stopping play. This is still considered the premier tennis tournament in the world, and future plans to maintain this status are firmly in place. In 2016, Wimbledon will be held from the 27 June till the 07 July.