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Serving Up An Ace Day Out At Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club

Matt Crisp June 5, 2024

The Wimbledon Grand Slam Tennis Tournament will be taking place in a few week’s time from 1 to 14 July, and it is more than just another event on the British sporting calendar. It’s the world’s oldest tennis tournament, and for many professionals, the opportunity to play there represents the pinnacle of their achievements.

This all adds to the prestige, glamour and excitement of the occasion, and it is embedded into the cultural as well as the sporting history of the country. Not only will spectators have the opportunity to witness some of the world’s best tennis players in action, but they will have the chance for some celebrity and royalty spotting in the crowd.

The venue is also renowned for its superb hospitality facilities, so you can enjoy first class refreshments including the legendary strawberries and cream with a glass of Pimms. 

There’s also the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum with a shop and café open daily between 10am and 5.30pm, which includes an interactive gallery featuring original objects donated by top players over the years. You can learn about the evolution of tennis fashions from the Victorian era and take in a behind the scenes tour of the world-famous grounds.

It’s well worth hiring a coach and booking your tickets for a group tour, even if the golden tickets for this year’s tournament have already been snapped up. Here is a look at the history of the tournament and what makes it so special today.

The beginnings

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club was established in 1868 and it hosted the inaugural Wimbledon Championship in 1877. 22 men entered the tournament, which attracted 200 spectators, although the rackety stands could only accommodate 30 people. There was only one event, the men’s singles, which was won by local man Spencer Gore.

The following year, Gore lost his title to Frank Hadow, a native of Sri Lanka. Hadow did not return to defend his title the next year, and for the following two years it was claimed by the Rev. John Hartley, the only clergyman to ever win Wimbledon.

Tennis continued to grow in popularity, and over the next few years, the tournament expanded to include the Men’s Doubles and the Ladies Singles. Maud Watson became the first women’s champion in 1884, beating her sister Lilian to win the title.

In 1913, the Ladies Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added to the line up, but the outbreak of World War One caused a four-year hiatus. Sadly, New Zealander Tony Wilson, four times Mens’ Champion prior the outbreak of the war, was killed in active service in 1915. 

The tournament continued to expand during the 1920s, moving from its original home in Worple Road to Church Road, the site of the current iconic tennis club. The French dominated the tournament in the 1920s, with a series of victories in the mens’ and ladies’ events.

In the 1930s, home winners returned as Fred Perry, a native of Stockport in north west England, won three successive titles between 1934 and 1936. There would not be another British winner of the mens’ title until Andy Murray in 2013. 

Perry was from a humble background and considered an outsider in the middle class world of tennis when he first appeared on the scene, but he overcame prejudices and went on to have a successful post-tennis career as a broadcaster and clothing designer. He was also noted for a series of high-profile romances, including with the actress Marlene Dietrich.

The second World War interrupted the tournament for another six years during the 1940s. During the 1950s, Austrialains dominated the mens’ event, whilst Althea Gibson became the first black player to win a singles Wimbledon title in 1957.

In 1968, the first Open Wimbledon that was open to both amateur and professional players was held. This drew the world’s top players back to the tournament, cementing its status in the global tennis calendar. 

Today, Wimbledon maintains its reputation for tradition and prestige, with its meticulously maintained grass courts and strict dress code. However, it has also moved with the times and introduced technological innovations such as the retractable roofs on Centre Court and No.1 Court, which have finally put an end to the frustrating ‘rain stops play’ scenarios. 

Wimbledon has hosted the best tennis players in the world, as legends including Roger Federer, Serena and Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic and of course Andy Murray have graced the famous grass courts.