30067 – Wimbledon

March 10, 2010

Since the first Tennis Championships in 1877, Wimbledon has grown from its roots as a garden-party tournament to a Grand Slam event with a following of millions around the world.

Barely 200 people turned up to see the very first matches 135 years ago, but now nearly half-a-million people make their way to the famous All England Lawn Tennis Club just outside London to watch the two weeks of play. Add to that the millions who watch the television pictures that are beamed around the world and you have one of the greatest sporting events of the year.

And it isn’t just the kudos of playing in the world’s premier tennis event that brings the sport’s greatest onto the grass courts – the prize money, which wasn’t introduced until 1968, now totals more than twelve million pounds.

In 1877 the only event staged was the Gentlemen’s Singles, now there are five major titles, the Men’s Singles, the Ladies’ Singles, the Men’s Doubles, the Ladies’ Doubles and the Mixed Doubles.

But the rules haven’t changed much, except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.

What has changed are the fashions. From gentlemen in flannel trousers and ladies in full-length dresses we now have the men in the briefest of shorts, bandanas and baseball caps to ladies in the shortest and flimsiest dresses imaginable.

And to crown it all, the famous Centre Court now has a retractable roof to protect spectators, players – and the grass – from the worst the British summer weather can throw at it.

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