The History Of Wimbledon
Wimbledon - or The Championships, Wimbledon, to use its full title - is recognised as being one of the oldest tennis tournaments in the world. It is also regularly cited as the most prestigious.
So as we approach the 142nd edition of the tournament - which will take place from Monday 1st to Sunday, 14th July at the All England Club in South West London - the time is apt to examine the roots of this great sporting showpiece and track how it has developed over the years.
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Wimbledon’s Humble Beginnings
Last year, Wimbledon welcomed almost half a million spectators from all over the world. But back in 1877 when the inaugural tournament was held, things were very different. The total attendance for the Gentlemen's Singles Final, the only competition at that time, is believed to have been around 200.
Back then, lawn tennis was very much a cutting edge sport. In fact, the rules were still being defined only months before The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club held the first Wimbledon, which was won by Spencer Gore, an aristocrat who also played cricket for Surrey. Over the next few years, the event would grow steadily, adding the Ladies' Singles, Men's Doubles, Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles to its schedule. However, as with the other tennis Grand Slams, Wimbledon would remain an amateurs-only tournament until the start of the 'Open era' in 1968, when professionals entered the fray.
A Guaranteed Final Berth
The current Wimbledon singles title holders, Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber, might very well have preferred playing at Wimbledon prior to 1922. That's because back then, the champions were only required to play in the Final, against the player who had earned the right to face them by coming through the field. That would have left plenty of time for the defending champ to stroll the grounds of the All England Club, bask in England summer sun, and perhaps sample some strawberries and cream... happy days!
Wimbledon To The World
With the start of the Open era, came the transition of Wimbledon to the international spectacle which we look forward to in 2019. Australia put its stamp firmly on the tournament from 1968 onwards; Rod Laver and John Newcombe became multiple men's champions, while Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish which is awarded to the winning lady.
The 1970s saw the emergence of Bjorn Bjorg, the Swede known for his ice-cool demeanour, who took home five Men's Singles titles on the bounce between 1976 and 1980. Meanwhile, the American ladies came to the fore, with Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert becoming multiple winners. In 1977, Britain had a winner of its own, as Virginia Wade took the Women's Singles crown. Little did British tennis fans know that they would have to wait 36 years for the next homegrown singles titleist, who would be Andy Murray.
Elite Players’ Domination Of Wimbledon
Whether it's the characteristics of the grass surface which lend themselves to certain skills, or the way the tournament can awaken a competitive edge in some players - Wimbledon in the modern era has been dominated by multiple winners in both the men's and women's draw. These legends of the sport have not only established their legacy through Wimbledon but have also helped write the story of an event which continues to transcend tennis.
Following Bjorg's quintuple, several players have made themselves synonymous with Wimbledon - of the men, Roger Federer (Switzerland) has taken the title an unmatched eight times and counting, Pete Sampras (USA) won the tournament seven times from 1993 to 2000, Boris Becker (Germany) has three titles to his name, while current champion Novak Djokovic (Serbia) will be going for an amazing fifth title in 2019. Of the leading ladies, Martina Navratilova (USA) triumphed an incredible nine times between 1978 and 1990, and her countrywoman Serena Williams is going for Wimbledon number eight this year. Then there is Steffi Graf, who mirrored Sampras's dominance of the 1990s, claiming the Venus Rosewater Dish on seven occasions.
From Wimbledon 'Garden Party' To State-of-the-Art Stadia
Wimbledon in the early days at the All England Club has been likened to a 'garden party', attended by a few private members. That all changed as the All England Club developed over the years, and the most remarkable example of the venue moving with the times was in 2009 when the redeveloped Centre Court was unveiled. Holding 15,000 fans, the world's fourth biggest tennis stadium boasts a retractable roof which shuts and allows play to continue during inclement weather, or can be extended by a few feet in order to provide sunshade to spectators.
Now as we look forward to Wimbledon 2019, which players will write their name in the history books? Will we see some familiar faces on Centre Court come Finals Weekend, or is it time for a new guard to break through? You can find all the latest odds for Wimbledon along with the world’s other top tennis tournaments right here at Bet UK.
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*All odds from Bet UK’s online betting markets correct at the time of writing.
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