July 01, 2016
What comes to mind when we think of tennis and Wimbledon? Andy Murray, strawberries and cream and British Heritage? But, where did it all begin?
This Monday we saw the beginning of 2016’s Wimbledon Championships, which will run until the 10th July. Looking back, it is remarkable to think the first tennis championships budded from small garden-party games to the huge worldwide event it is today.
Tennis originates from the 13th Century French handball game ‘jeu de paume’, meaning ‘game of the palm’, as the ball was originally hit with the palm, until it later became an indoor racket-and-ball game called real or royal tennis. This then developed into lawn tennis which soon became extremely popular in the late 19th Century. The All England Club which lies on four acres of meadowland just outside of London, was founded to promote lawn sports such as croquet, but as tennis became increasingly popular, the club decided to make a new addition to their facilities: tennis lawns.
In 1877, The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, announced they would be holding a ‘lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs’. Players registered and the tournaments started with 21 male players, which were reduced to 3 for the semi-finals. The Lady’s Singles were then developed in 1884 and we have been enjoying Wimbledon Championships ever since!
Many of the rules that were put into place in the first tournaments in 1877 by The All England Club actually still stand strong today. For example: scores are based on a clock face (15, 30, 40), allowing one server fault, and the player who wins six games wins a set and so on.
Each year, the Wimbledon tournaments commence on the Monday that falls between 20th and 26th June. There is a tradition that no games take place on the ‘Middle Sunday’, as this is planned as a day of rest for the players. This tradition has been disrupted however, on three occasions, when rain unfortunately forced play (typical British summer weather!). Although a rest day is a tradition, you can’t deny that determination is a strong attribute of the championships’ players; in 2008, the Men’s Final lasted 7 hours, ending in pitch black darkness, when the players were able to enjoy a well-deserved cup of tea!
Another tradition that springs to mind when talking about tennis is the white dress code. In the 19th Century, the tennis uniform was plain: white long-sleeved shirts and trousers for men and full-length corseted white dresses and hats for women (doesn’t sound too comfortable does it?!). In the 1920s and 1930s, shorts, vests and shorter skirts became prominent on the lawn, and this new outlook on sport clothing provided players with more comfort and ease of movement whilst holding the tennis racket and most importantly, promoted a sense of individual personality.
Last but certainly not least, we wanted to acknowledge the part ball boys and girls play in the Wimbledon Championships. Every year, ball boys and girls play a crucial role in the running of Wimbledon, collecting the tennis balls quickly to make the tournament flow as efficiently as possible. Since 1969, ball boys and girls have come from local schools, having an average age of 15. Prospective candidates are nominated by their Head Teacher and must undergo a series of written and fitness tests before being selected! So, whilst watching the tournaments this year, let’s all appreciate the hard work put in by the players, whilst not forgetting the contribution of the young boys and girls in the championships too!
Fun fact: On average, throughout the Wimbledon Championships each year, it is estimated there are 140,000 portions of English strawberries, 10,000 litres of dairy cream and 330,000 cups of tea and coffee consumed!
Love Eleanor and the One Day Team x