The Wimbledon Championships is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world today and the only grand slam still played on grass. But if you go back in history, it had a very humble and rather unremarkable beginning. It started as a minor sideshow in 1875 at the All England Croquet Club based at Worple Road, Wimbledon. The club was founded in 1868 at the height of a croquet craze. Over time, when lawn tennis superseded croquet, the club went through a few name changes and is today known as the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
The person responsible for introducing lawn tennis at the club was Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, a British army officer who is regarded as the founder of lawn tennis. At that time, the sport was in its infancy and was called Sphairistike. He set one lawn aside for the sport, leaving the rest for croquet. Soon the game grew in popularity and the club changed its name to The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.
The first tennis championship at the club was held in 1887 and it was a men’s singles tournament. It was held to raise money for the pony-drawn roller for the croquet lawns. At that time the serves were made underarm. Spencer Gore, the winner of the year and possibly the first Wimbledon champion, is reported to have said that “lawn tennis will never rank among our great games.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Originally, the nets were at a height of 4 feet 9 inches (1.45 meters). In 1878, they were lowered to 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 meters). By the early 1880s, as croquet faded from popularity, tennis became the primary activity of the club. In 1882, the club went through another name change, dropping croquet altogether, and became the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
The club introduced Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles in 1884 and Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles in 1913. In 1922, the club moved to the larger ground in Church Road, Wimbledon where it remains today. The move was prompted by the popularity of the Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen, who won 31 tennis championships between 1914 and 1926.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club, now popularly known as the All-England Club, currently has 19 grass courts, 5 red clay courts, 3 continental clay courts, one American clay court and five indoor courts. There are also 22 Aorangi Park grass courts, which are used as practice courts by the competitors and also during the championships. The club holds the Wimbledon Championships over two weeks in late June and early July every year and attracts an attendance of 450,000 people.
The Centre Court is the main court used at the Wimbledon Championships. From its humble beginnings, this court has grown and improved over time. It now boasts a see-through, retractable roof to ensure the tournament can preserve that outdoors feel, even in the – sometimes – unpredictable British weather! With about 16,000 seats, it makes the Wimbledon Centre Court one of, if not the best, places to watch the stars of tennis compete.
So far, we have painted a picture of Wimbledon that displays nothing but elegance, sportsmanship and an all round different class of event. In most ways, this is entirely true, but when it comes time to queue for Wimbledon tickets, it is just like every other event. Fans from all over the world will camp out in the hopes of securing premium tickets on the day of the event. Of course, this isn’t completely unorganized – it is Wimbledon after all! Each person will receive a card, which allocates them a place in the queue. While queuing might sounds like a nightmare to a lot of people, it is part of the enjoyment and tradition of this illustrious event, and a lot of fans do it yearly as part of the overall experience! Fortunately, as our Wimbledon travel packages include debenture Wimbledon tickets, this is one tradition Roadtrips’ guests won’t need to worry about!
The Wimbledon dress code is world renown. It isn’t flamboyant, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The all-white dress code for players was designed to ensure that nothing distracted from the players’ skills and the match at hand. In some ways, it levels the playing field, ensuring competitors are judged solely for their talents.
So, you might find yourself asking “what to wear to a tennis match as a spectator?” Business casual is typically a safe bet. There are no jerseys and no team colors, so take the opportunity to get dressed up a bit and look smart whilst enjoying the best that the sport of tennis has to offer.
Wimbledon traditions are part of the fun and excitement of this event. There is a certain etiquette. Even when it comes to the playing surface, Wimbledon is the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that use grass courts – which is unique in this day and age. They are certainly determined on staying true to their origins, and this only adds to the atmosphere and prestige of the tournament. Everything is carried out in quite a respectful manner – from the silence of the spectators between points to the acknowledgement of the Royals by the players – it is almost as if the tournament has remained in a different era, and you can expect to be part of a thrilling experience.
Aside from the famous etiquette of Wimbledon, who can attend and not try the famous strawberry and cream combination? You can enjoy in the knowledge that no birds will be swooping in to snatch a strawberry – as the resident hawk, Rufus, keeps them at bay!
Royal Box and Celebrities
A staple of the event is the Wimbledon Royal Box where, you guessed it, members of the Royal family watch the action from the best viewpoint in the stadium. Aside from the Royals, this box plays host to celebrities from the world over; athletes, actors, politicians and musicians all enjoy the exclusivity of the Royal Box.
Wimbledon is steeped in history. The traditions themselves are famous, and the level of talent is unmatched. Of course, this event can be about so much more than the Centre Court, the Wimbledon attire and the food traditions. The Wimbledon tournament offers the chance to experience the great city of London, to stay at its finest hotels and to take in some amazing tours.
Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you create the perfect Wimbledon trip!