Famed for its green grass, white clothing and the Club colours of purple and green, Wimbledon is proud of its traditions. Its sporting heritage combines the best of the old with innovative solutions designed to meet the demands of the modern game.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which is responsible for staging the world's leading tennis tournament, is a private Club founded in 1868, originally as 'The All England Croquet Club'. Its first ground was situated off Worple Road, Wimbledon.
In 1875 lawn tennis, a game introduced by major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier and originally called Sphairistike, was added to the activities of the Club. In the spring of 1877 the Club was re-titled 'The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club' and signalled its change of name by instituting the first Lawn Tennis Championship. A new code of laws, hitherto administered by the Marylebone Cricket Club, was drawn up for the meeting. These have stood the test of time and today's rules are similar except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.
The only event held in 1877 was the Gentlemen's Singles which was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.
The lawns at the Worple Road ground were arranged in such a way that the principal court was situated in the middle with the others arranged around it; hence the title 'Centre Court', which was retained when the Club moved in 1922 to the present site in Church Road, although it was not a true description of its location at the time. However, in 1980 four new courts were brought into commission on the north side of the Grounds, which meant the Centre Court was once more at the centre of the tournament. The opening of the new No.1 Court in 1997 emphasised the description.
By 1882 activity at the Club was almost exclusively confined to lawn tennis and that year the word 'croquet' was dropped from the title. However, for sentimental reasons, it was restored in 1899 and the Club has been known as 'The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club' ever since.
Enter the Ladies
In 1884 the Ladies' Singles was inaugurated and, from an entry of 13 players, Maud Watson became the first champion. That same year, the Gentlemen's Doubles was started, with the trophy donated by the Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club after the end of their doubles championship, played from 1879 to 1883.
As the popularity of Wimbledon increased, the facilities for spectators were improved with permanent stands gradually replacing temporary accommodation. By the mid-1880s crowds were flocking to see the prowess of British twins Ernest and William Renshaw who, separately and as doubles partners, won 13 titles between 1881 and 1889. The boom in popularity of the game in this period became known as the 'Renshaw Rush'.
For a period in the nineties public affection for Wimbledon waned, but in 1897 the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie, began their 10-year rule of the courts and soon capacity crowds reappeared.
By the turn of the century Wimbledon had assumed an international character and in 1905 May Sutton of the United States became the first Champion from overseas when she won the Ladies' Singles. She repeated her success in 1907, the year when Norman Brookes of Australia became the first Gentlemen's Singles champion from overseas. Since that year, only two players from Great Britain, Arthur Gore and Fred Perry, have managed to win the Men's Singles while there have been five British Ladies' Champions since Wimbledon moved to Church Road — Kitty McKane Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade.
A New Home
Prior to the First World War the facilities at Worple Road were expanded to meet the ever-growing demand of the public and a move to larger premises was planned. This was not achieved until 1922 when the present ground in Church Road was opened by King George V. The foresight of building the present stadium, designed to hold 14,000 people, did more to popularise the game worldwide than anything that has happened to date.
The new ground, which many thought would turn out to be a 'white elephant', was financed partly from the accumulated reserves of the Club and partly by the issue of Debentures. Misgivings about the future popularity of The Championships were dispelled when applications for tickets in the first year were such that they had to be issued by a ballot — a system that has been adopted for every Championship since.
The move to Church Road coincided with a break in tradition, whereby the Challenge Round was abolished in favour of the holder playing through each round.
Each year during the twenties, France produced at least one singles champion. Towards the end of Suzanne Lenglen's reign the famous 'Four Musketeers' — Jean Borota, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste — appeared on the scene and during the next ten years won six Singles titles and five Doubles titles between them. Britain's Kitty McKane (Godfree) won the Ladies' Singles in 1924 and 1926 and a year later Helen Wills of the United States started her conquest.
Wimbledon continued to thrive in the thirties. Bill Tilden returned at the age of 38 to gain his third crown and in 1931 Cilly Assem registered Germany's first win in the Ladies' Singles. The following year over 200,000 spectators were present for the first time.
The years from 1934 to 1937 were a golden era for British tennis, when a total of 11 titles were captured, including three singles in succession by Fred Perry and two by Dorothy Round. During the same period Great Britain successfully defended the Davis Cup three times in Challenge Rounds staged on the Centre Court. The years just before the Second World War belonged to the United States. Donald Budge won all three events in 1937 and 1938, Helen Wills Moody captured the Ladies' Singles for the eight time and Alice Marble brought a new dimension to ladies' tennis with her serve and volley game.
During the Second World War the Club managed to remain open despite a severe curtailment of staff. The premises were used for a variety of civil defence and military functions such as fire and ambulance services, Home Guard and a decontamination unit. Troops stationed within the vicinity were allowed to use the main concourse for drilling. Another familiar sight around the ground was a small farmyard consisting of pigs, hens, geese, rabbits, etc. In October 1940 a 'stick' of five 500lb bombs struck Centre Court, resulting in the loss of 1,200 seats.
With the war in Europe over, signs of normality began to return to Wimbledon during June and July 1945, when a series of matches between Allied servicemen took place on the old No. 1 Court, which had escaped enemy action. During August the final stages of the United States European Championships were played and Charles Hare, an Englishman serving in the US Army, became champion.
Early in 1946 the decision was taken to resume The Championships that summer. The monumental task of organising the meeting in so short a time was entrusted to Lt. Col. Duncan Macaulay, the newly appointed Secretary. With unlimited enthusiasm he overcame a multitude of problems created by the rationing of almost every commodity, available only by licence, permit or coupon. Much of the war damage was cleared and repairs carried out in an attempt to get the ground back to normal — a situation not achieved until 1949 when building restrictions were eased.
The Post-War Period
The American dominance of Wimbledon continued well into the fifties. Outstanding among an array of champions were Jack Kramer, Ted Schroeder, Tony Trabert, Louise Brough, Maureen Connolly and the late Althea Gibson, the first black winner.
From 1956 until the early 1970s, the Gentlemen's Singles was virtually the property of Australia as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe became household names. The sequence of American wins in the Ladies' Singles was not broken until 1959 when Maria Bueno of Brazil triumphed. In the 1960s, Margaret Smith became the first Australian to win the event, while Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones revived the British interest.
The expansion of air travel in the 1950s meant more and more overseas players were competing at Wimbledon and other tournaments throughout the world, but with this new era came an epidemic of what had become known as 'shamateurism — the receiving of financial assistance in excess of amounts permitted by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the authority in charge of the rules of lawn tennis and the governing body of the game worldwide.
The need for reform was evident. The initiative for reform came from the then Chairman Herman David who in late 1959 put forward a proposal to the Lawn Tennis Association that The Championships be made open to all players. The following July the ITF rejected this move and several years followed in which argument persisted at all levels of the game. In 1964 the Club tried to persuade the LTA unilaterally to declare The Championships 'open' but support was not forthcoming.
In August 1967 an invitation tournament (sponsored by the BBC to mark the introduction of colour television) was held on the Centre Court with eight players taking part — all professionals. Most of these players had won honours at Wimbledon in their amateur days but had forfeited the right to play there on turning professional. The segregation of the two categories was soon to come to an end.
In December that year the Annual Meeting of the LTA voted overwhelmingly to admit players of all categories to Wimbledon and other tournaments in Britain. Faced with a fait accompli the ITF yielded and allowed each nation to determine its own legislation regarding amateur and professional players. In 1968, Rod Laver and Billie Jean King became the first Wimbledon Open Champions. The total prize money that year was £26,150.
1973 was a sad year for Wimbledon as 81 members of the Association of Tennis Professionals boycotted the meeting following the suspension earlier in the year of Nikki Pilic by the Yugoslavian Lawn Tennis Association. Despite the absence of so many players, attendance reached over 300,000. Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia and Billie Jean King won the singles titles.
In recent years long-standing records have been broken. In 1980 Bjorn Borg of Sweden became the first player to win the Gentlemen's Singles five times in the post-challenge round era; a feat replicated by Roger Federer between 2003 and 2007. In 1985 Boris Becker, aged 17, became the youngest player, the first unseeded player and the first German to win the Gentlemen's Singles. In 1987 Martina Navratilova of the United States became the first player to win the Ladies' Singles six times in succession and in 1990 she attained the all-time record of nine victories in the event. Pete Sampras of the United States registered his seventh win in 2000 and in 2001, Goran Ivanisevic became the first wildcard to win the Gentlemen's Singles. In 2009, Roger Federer surpassed Sampras's record of 15 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon, defeating Andy Roddick to win his sixth Wimbledon title, and 16th Grand Slam singles title. In 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut contested the longest tennis match in history, eventually ending 70-68 in the fifth set after 138 games, and 11 hours and five minutes over three days.
In 1977, The Championships celebrated their centenary. On the opening day 41 of 52 surviving singles champions paraded on the Centre Court and each received a silver commemorative medal from HRH The Duke of Kent, the President of the Club, to mark the occasion. On the second Friday, The Championships were honoured by the presence of HM The Queen, who presented the Ladies' Singles trophy to Virginia Wade on Centre Court, together with a special trophy to mark Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee. As part of the celebrations the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and the Kenneth Ritchie Library were opened.
The centenary of the Ladies' Singles Championship was celebrated in 1984. The highlight of The Championships was the parade on the Centre Court of 17 of 20 surviving champions, who each received a unique piece of Waterford Crystal from HRH The Duke of Kent.
The 100th Championships in 1986 were celebrated in a variety of ways, including a special dinner party for those who had made significant contributions over the years, and the formation of the Last 8 Club. 1993 marked the 100th Ladies' Championships and the occasion was suitably commemorated.
The occasion of the Millennium was celebrated on the first Saturday when 64 Singles Champions, Doubles Champions four or more times, and Singles Finalists at least twice, paraded on Centre Court.
2011 sees the celebration of the 125th Championships.
The Ever Changing Scene
Over the years the Club has constantly been aware of the need to provide facilities and ground improvements compatible with the pace and demand of modern day sport. Seldom has a year gone by without alteration to the Grounds or some organisational change taking place. In recent years the momentum has increased and major works programmes have provided improved facilities for the players, spectators, officials and media.
In 1979 the roof of the Centre Court was raised one metre to provide room for another 1,088 seats. The same year a new Debenture Holders' Lounge was constructed on the north side of the Centre Court. In 1980 the Members' Enclosure was made into a permanent building. The following year the old No.1 Court complex was rebuilt and enlargements to the North and South Stands increased the capacity of the court by 1,250.
Aoragni (Cloud in the sky) Park was brought into the perimeter of the Club's grounds in 1982 to give more room during The Championships.
The East Side Building of the Centre Court was opened in 1985. This vast operation provided over 800 extra seats and additional media commentary boxes, new accommodation for the administration staff, a redesigned Museum and an improved Tea Lawn. In 1986 a new two-storey pavilion in Aorangi was constructed.
In 1991 the Centre Court North Building was extended northwards to provide greater accommodation for the Debenture Holders' Lounge, Museum offices, stores and Library and Club facilities.
A mammoth operation in 1992 replaced the Centre Court roof by a new structure, supported by four pillars, instead of 26 giving 3,601 seats a perfect view, instead of a restricted one.
Wimbledon in the 21st Century
Wimbledon is acknowledged to be the premier tennis tournament in the world and the priority of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which hosts The Championships, is to maintain its leadership into the twenty-first century. To that end a Lng Term Plan was unveiled in 1993, which will improve the quality of the event for spectators, players, officials and neighbours.
Stage one of the Plan was completed for the 1997 Championships and involved building in Aorangi Park the new No. 1 Court, a Broadcast Centre, two extra grass courts and a tunnel under the hill linking Church Road and Somerset Road.
Stage two involved the removal of the old No.1 Court complex to make way for the new Millennium Building, providing extensive facilities for the players, press, officials and Members, and the extension of the West Stand of the Centre Court with 728 extra seats.
Stage three concludes this year. The construction of a new Championships entrance building, housing Club staff, museum, bank and ticket office at Gate 3 left the Centre Court east side empty and allowed development to provide better facitilies for the public. The seating capacity was increased from 13,800 to 15,000 and a ground-breaking retractable roof was erected over Centre Court. Court 2 was opened in 2009, and 2011 sees the completion of Court 3 and Court 4.
Gentlemen's Singles Championship
The Gentlemen's Singles Trophy was first presented by the All England Club in 1887. It replaced the Field Cup (1877-1883) and the Challenge Cup (1884-1886) which were both won by William Renshaw after twice winning gentlemen's title three times in succession. The All England Lawn Tennis Club spent 100 guineas from the profits of the 1886 Championships to purchase a trophy. The Club was not prepared to risk losing a third Cup to a future three-times Champion so the decision was taken that the new trophy would 'never become the property of the winner'.
The Cup, which is made of silver gilt, stands 18 inches high and has a diameter of 7 1/2 inches. The hallmark indicates a date of 1883. The Cup has a classical style with two handles and raised foot. The lid is formed with a pienapple on the top and there is a head wearing a wingled helmet beneath each handle. There are two decorative borders with foral work and ovolo mouldings on the bowl of the Cup and the handles.
The inscription on the Cup reads: "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World".
Around the bowl are engraved the dates and names of the Champions. Although H.F. Lawford was the first Champion to win the Cup in 1887 the decision was taken to engrave all the Champions' names from 1877. In 2009, there being no space left to engrave the names of the Champions, a black plinth with an oranamented silver band was designed to accompany the Cup.
From 1949 to 2006 all Champions received a miniature replica of the Cup (height 8 1/2 inches). From 2007 all Champions have received a three-quarter size replica of the Cup bearing the names of all past Champions (height 13 1/2 inches).
Ladies' Singles Championship
The Ladies' Singles Trophy is a silver salver, sometimes referred to as the 'Rosewater Dish' or 'Venus Rosewater Dish' which was first presented to the Champion when the challenge round was introduced in 1886.
The 50 guineas trophy was made in 1864 by Messrs Elkington and Co. Ltd of Birmingham and is a copy of an electrotype by Caspar Enderlein from a pewter original in the Louvre.
The salver, which is made of sterling silver, partly gilded, is 18 3/4 inches in diameter. There is a central boss surrounded by four reserves. The remainder of the surface is decorated with gilt renaissance strapwork and foliate motifs in relief against a rigid silver ground.
The theme of the decoration is mythological. The central boss has a figure of Temperance, seated on a chest with a lamp in her right hand and a jug in her left, with various attributes such as a sickle, fork and caduceus around her. The four reserves on the boss of the dish each contain a classical god, together with elements. The reserves around the rim show Minerva presiding over the seven liberal arts: astrology, geometry, arithmetic, music, rhetoric, dialectic and grammar, each with relevant attribute. The rim of the salver has an ovolo moulding.
From 1949 to 2006 all Champions have received a miniature replica of the trophy (diameter 8 inches). From 2007 all Champions have received a three-quarter replica of the trophy, bearing the names of all past Champions (diameter 14 inches).
Over the years the Club have received many enquiries from people who possess salvers made to a design identical to that of the Ladies' Singles Plater. Some have been made in silver and others in copper or tin. Sinces these salvers are 'electrotypes created by electric deposition of copper on a mould, it is reasonable to assume that Elkingtons made many. However, only one salver has been used since 1886 as the trophy for the Ladies' Singles Championship. There is no truth in the story that Queen Victoria donated the trophy to the Club.
Gentlemen's Doubles Championship
The Gentlemen's Doubles Trophy is a silver challenge cup for the Gentlemen's Pairs' competition. The Gentlemen's Doubles was played at Oxford from 1879 to 1883 but when it moved to Wimbledon the Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club presented the trophy to the All England Club in 1884.
Ladies' Doubles Championship
The Ladies' Doubles Trophy is an elegant silver cup and cover, known as The Duchess of Kent Challenge Cup, presented to the Club in 1949 by HRH The Princess Marina, President of the All England Club.
Mixed Doubles Championship
The Mixed Doubles Trophy is a silver challenge cup and cover presented to the All England Club by the family of the late S.H. Smith. S.H. Smith won the doubles title in 1902 and 1906, in partnership with the late F.L. Riseley.
Wimbledon has played host to some of the greatest Champions in the game of tennis, far too many to list here. Here are some of the most prolific...
GENTLEMAN'S SINGLES CHAMPIONS
Singles Champion 1934, 1935, 1936
Mixed Doubles Champion 1935, 1936
Fred Perry was unique in Wimbledon's rich history: the first Englishman for 25 years to capture the gentlemen's singles and the only player to win the final in straight sets three times. The son of a Labour Member of Parliament and born in the northern town of Stockport, Perry came to tennis via table tennis, at which he became a world champion. His first tilt at the Wimbledon title was in 1929, a month after his 20th birthday, when he qualified and went on to win two rounds in the main draw. By the time the 1934 Championships came round, Fred was already the star of a British Davis Cup team launched on a four-year domination of the competition, and went into Wimbledon as second seed behind the Australian, Jack Crawford. The final was an anti-climax as Perry routed Crawford 6-3 6-0 7-5, at one stage reeling off 12 games in succession. The unhappy Crawford double-faulted at match point and Perry had won his first Wimbledon in just an hour and ten minutes, since in those days there was no sitting down or breaks between the change of ends.
He sailed through the 1935 field, defeating his old adversary Menzel, this time in straight sets in the quarter-finals, then coming through in four sets against Crawford. The final was even easier, with Fred dropping only ten games against the German baron, Gottfried von Cramm, in a 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory. By the time the 1936 Championships came round, Perry had lost his US and French titles, beaten in five sets in Paris by von Cramm. Realising by now the only way to make money from his name and abilities was to turn pro, he had determined to do so if he clocked up his hat-trick of Wimbledon wins. It turned out to be by far the easiest of the three. Only in the semi-finals did he drop a set, to the fast-rising young American, Don Budge, before coming up once more against the German aristocrat, von Cramm. After an opening game which went to ten deuces and 24 points, von Cramm started to grimace as the champion piled the pressure on his forehand and it was all over in 40 minutes, 6-0 6-1 6-1, the fastest Wimbledon men's final since 1881.
Singles Champion 1961, 1962, 1968, 1969
Doubles Champion 1959
Mixed Doubles Champion 1959, 1960
By the time Rod Laver made his final appearance at Wimbledon in 1971 he had been Champion four times and Runner-Up twice. On the broader world stage he had eclipsed all argument about his abilities by winning the Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and again in 1969. Laver won Wimbledon for the first time in 1961, winning the final over the American Chuck McKinley in under an hour. The following summer Laver came into Wimbledon an even stronger favourite after winning the titles of Italy, France, and Germany. At Wimbledon he won each match in straight sets with the exception of the quarter-final, where he lost the first set to the Spaniard Manuel Santana. Later in 1962, Laver signed a professional contract for £50,000. Increasingly, the forward thinkers in tennis wanted an end to a situation where the game created big-name "amateurs" only to see them leave the traditional framework for upfront rewards in the professional game. The British fought hard and long for change, none more so than the All England Club, and in August 1967, there was a significant development in the staging of a one week eight-man professional event on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. Not only did Laver win the tournament against Ken Rosewall in the final, but the wheels were turning rapidly towards an open game. In December 1967, the Lawn Tennis Association voted to delete all reference to amateur and professional players and by the following April, when the British Hard Court Chanmpionships were staged at Bournemouth, Open tennis became a fact.
In the new era of the game Laver, now approaching his 30th birthday, did not have things all his own way. Rosewall stopped him in the French final, and at the US Open Laver lost in the fourth round to the South African Cliff Drysdale. Only at Wimbledon did Laver record a Grand Slam title win. Laver had to beat five Americans on the way, including Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe, who would become champions in 1972 and 1975. In the final he beat another Australian left-hander, Tony Roche, and won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Laver took Wimbledon by the throat in 1969. He was in truly dominant form, having won the Australian and French titles, and he beat Drysdale, Ashe and John Newcombe in his last three matches.
Singles Champion 1967, 1970, 1971
Doubles Champion 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974
John Newcombe was the last player to win The Championships as an amateur, the year before the game went 'Open' in 1968. He again reached the final two years later, bowing to the superiority of a rampant Rod Laver. In 1970 he regained the crown and safely defended it the following year. But Newk, with his famous Mexican moustache, was not just a singles player. He also collected six doubles title at The Championships, five in partnership with Tony Roche, and the other with Ken Fletcher, all part of a doubles record that he admits, he is probably more proud of than his singles – bearing in mind he also won five Australian, three US Open and three French Open doubles titles. No mean feat. A gifted serve-and-volleyer, Newcombe had the perfect game for grass, always advancing quickly to the net where he was quick to kill off any point. He was equally devastating overhead and, when playing doubles with Roche, their combined efforts provided a wall for opponents to try to penetrate.
Newcombe believes that the surface is what makes Wimbledon special and the tournament should continue to be played on grass. "It must never change from grass because it provides players with a whole new contest for them to challenge. Tennis at the end of the day is a game and it should be played because of one's love for the game."
Singles Champion 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
Though his modern-era record of five Wimbledon Singles Championships has been overtaken by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg remains at the pinnacle of the all-time greats of The Championships by virtue of two statistics: those five successive victories between 1976 and 1980 and the fact that he also pulled off in three consecutive years the most difficult "double" in tennis, victory on clay at the French Open and on grass at Wimbledon. Becoming champion in quick succession on such alien surfaces has been achieved before, most notably by Rod Laver in his Grand Slam years of 1962 and 1969, but a steady period of years elapsed before someone managed to repeat Borg's Channel Slam. Andre Agassi won both Roland Garros and Wimbledon – but in his case seven years separated the two achievements, before Rafael Nadal, then Federer, and then Nadal managed the acheivement three years in succession in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In nine tilts at the Men's Singles between the years of 1973 and 1981, Borg won 51 matches and lost four. Between his 1975 quarter-final defeat by the eventual champion, Arthur Ashe, and his loss in the 1981 final to John McEnroe, Borg won 41 consecutive singles at The Championships. In an astonishing sequence Borg demolished seven opponents, culminating with Ilie Nastase, without dropping a set to win the 1976 Championships. It was only the fourth time a man had done that at Wimbledon, and it has not been accomplished since. In 1977 he trailed Mark Edmondson by two sets in the second round before sweeping the next three, and in the semi-final his close friend Vitas Gerulaitis was a break up in the fifth set before succumbing to lack of belief, since he had never beaten Borg.
In 1978 he trailed on the opening day by two sets to one against Victor Amaya before finding his rhythm, having newly arrived in London from triumph in Paris. Two years later Vijay Amritraj led Borg two sets to one in the second round, and Borg was taken to a fourth set tie-break before prevailing. Beneath that headband worn severely low on the forehead, the will to win was strong as ever.
It was needed in the 1980 final against McEnroe, a match nominated by many as Wimbledon's greatest ever. Having lost the opening set 6-1 to an all-out McEnroe assault, Borg took the next two 7-5, 6-3 and had two Championship points at 5-4 in the fourth. But McEnroe averted disaster and went on to level the match in Wimbledon's most memorable tie-break, which he won 18-16, saving five more match points. That renowned mental quality saw Borg through a testing 8-6 fifth set for his fifth straight Wimbledon title.
Singles Champion 1981, 1983, 1984
Doubles Champion 1979, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1992
John McEnroe won the Wimbledon singles crown three times, an impressive effort that puts him near the top of the honours board as one of The Championships' most successful men's players. But what places him above them all is what he brought to Centre Court: charisma, talent, attitude and purity of shot that made him unforgettable. His behaviour was often far from exemplary, often inexcusable. He pushed the envelope, as his fellow Americans are wont to say. McEnroe has even admitted that a default or two early in his fiery years at The Championships might have helped him; taught him more about self control and less about raging. Umpires and referees also would have preferred a more tranquil McEnroe. Another attraction was, of course, the style of his game. It was sublime. His delicacy, born of flexible hand and quick brain, amazed crowds and opponents alike and the variety of his play was different from the many one-trick power-players of today.
He performed in arguably the most famous Wimbledon Final, in 1980 against Borg, winning a titanic 20-minute, fourth-set tie-break, before losing the fifth 8-6. Then he returned 12 months later to defeat the Swede and claim his first Wimbledon title. But most people, even if they are not tennis fans, have heard of John Patrick McEnroe. You can't say that about a lot of sports personalities.
Singles Champion 1985, 1986, 1989
Sunday 7 July 1985 will be etched into one man’s memory as the day that changed his life forever. On a sunny afternoon, and with the world looking on, this swashbuckling, strawberry-blond powerhouse – all tight shorts and big thighs – thundered down yet another unreturnable service to become Wimbledon’s youngest ever men’s singles champion at 17 years and 227 days. “It was my own personal lunar landing,” he said. Boris Franz Becker had arrived. Anyone who had followed the teenager’s journey to become the first German and the first unseeded player ever to win The Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club were under no illusions that they were witnessing the coming of age of an international superstar. Becker’s brand of uninhibited tennis made him an instant crowd favourite the world over, his performances full of raw power and emotion. “Boom Boom” as he affectionately became known was soon packing stadiums wherever he went, fans eager for a “Becker dive” or to witness his celebratory “Becker Shuffle” in the flesh.
That four-set victory over South African Kevin Curren in the 1985 Wimbledon final marked the beginning of an incredible adventure for the 6ft 3” German. With a first Grand Slam trophy on the mantelpiece back home in Leimen, West Germany, he quickly climbed the rankings to establish himself as one of the best players in the world. Some 14 years later, when he ended his career on that same Centre Court, his “living room” as he lovingly referred to it, he had amassed six Grand Slam titles as part of a total haul of 49 singles trophies, three ATP end-of-season championship titles, two Davis Cup winners medals, an Olympic gold, over $25 million in prize money and, for a 12-week period, the thrill of calling himself the world No.1.
In many ways, it was his second Wimbledon title in 1986 that cemented his place among the world’s elite and gave him the belief that he truly belonged at the top of the game. Having taken SW19 by storm 12 months earlier, this time Becker had to shoulder the burden of expectation on the journey to his second successive final where he inflicted a straight-sets defeat on Czech Ivan Lendl. “In terms of finding out whether I was a really good tennis player I think ‘86 proved it to everyone – and to me,” reflected Becker in later life. Most would choose 1989 as Becker’s golden year, a 12-month period that saw him pick up another two Grand Slams, five singles titles in total and end the season with an impressive 64-8 win-loss record. He completed a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles with victory over his great rival, Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, and later that summer collected his only US Open title by outplaying Lendl once again in a four-set thriller.
Singles Champion 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
With seven Wimbledon Championships - 14 Grand Slam titles in all – Pete Sampras has one of the most outstanding records of any of the men's Champions. Although the records and statistics are the dry proof that Sampras was king in his time at the All England Club, sport is not just about numbers. His whole life was devoted to achieving greatness and then hanging on to it. For six years between 1993 and 1998 his every waking moment was consumed with the thought of winning and maintaining his position as world No. 1. He did it, too. During that spell, he won five of his Wimbledon titles together with three US Open and two Australian Open trophies. But it was here at Wimbledon that he felt most at home. Here he was in his comfort zone, here he had a head start on any opposition. The mere fact of playing the great Sampras reduced all but the best to tatters and gave him a few points in the bag before the match had even begun.He won here when he was injured, he won when his form was at its lowest and he won when his critics had written him off. Put Pete on Centre Court and he was unstoppable. On one leg and in a blindfold and he was still unstoppable.
Then there were the occasions when Pete was in his pomp. The 1999 final against Andre Agassi was possibly the greatest display of grass court tennis that Wimbledon has ever seen. Agassi was at his peak. And in the first set he had the temerity to manufacture three break points on the Sampras serve. That was it. That was the moment Sampras moved from champion to genius. He snatched back the break points and then took off. For a couple of minutes Agassi shook his head and tried to work out what had happened but by then the first set was gone and he was a break down in the second. It was not that Agassi was playing badly, it was just that Sampras was sublime.
He was back the next year for his last Championship victory at Wimbledon, beating Pat Rafter in an emotional rollercoaster of a final.Even the tendonitis that had almost felled him in the early rounds was shaken off as Sampras wrote his own chapter in the history books. It carried his tally of Grand Slams to 13, breaking Roy Emerson's record and establishing Sampras as one of the truly great figures of the game.
Singles Champion 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Roger Federer first made the Wimbledon crowd sit up and take notice in 2001 when he defeated Pete Sampras in an epic five-setter. This would be the only time that these two legends, with 13 Wimbledon titles between them, would meet on the Tour, though they have played exhibitions and attended many events together since. Though he lost in straight sets to Mario Ancic the following year, the Swiss maestro's dominance of The Championships was just beginning. He captured his first title in 2003, dropping only one set en-route to his maiden Grand Slam title, defeating Mark Philippoussis in the final. 2004 saw his true potential confirmed as he secured the Australian and US Opens and his second Wimbledon to make it three majors in one year – an feat he would repeat in 2006 and 2007. From 2003 – 2007, there was no living with Federer on grass, but Rafael Nadal began to edge ever closer, taking him to four then five sets in the 2006 and 2007 finals before that final in 2008…The prophets of doom were rubbing their hands with glee as Nadal defeated his nemesis in a five-hour, five-set, two-rain-break edge-of-darkness epic. But with Nadal sidelined by a knee injury in 2009, Federer finally secured his career Grand Slam with a win on the Roland Garros clay (the one title which notably eluded his friend Pete Sampras) and reclaimed his Wimbledon crown, defeating Andy Roddick 16-14 in the final set of another fitting finale.
The story of course goes on. Though he "only" won the Australian Open in 2010, Federer is still going strong and is aiming to add Olympic singles gold in SW19 in 2012 to his already bulging trophy cabinet. He has the most Grand Slam wins (16 at the time of writing), 285 weeks to his name as world No.1 (just one week behind Sampras' record), reached 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals or better (a record which surely will never be approached, let alone beaten) and even has Olympic gold in the doubles and a Hopman Cup win to his name.
Singles Champion 2008, 2010
The newest addition to the book of Wimbledon legends is one of the fiercest and most ferocious competitors the game has ever seen. Rafael Nadal, a young buck from Mallorca who was taught to play with his left hand rather than his right by his omnipresent Uncle Toni, made his Wimbledon debut in 2003, and became the youngest man to reach the third round at Wimbledon since Boris Becker in 1984. A stress fracture ruled him out of 2004, and in 2005 he made it only to the second round. But, returning in 2006, and this time as the world No.2, the Mallorcan native made it all the way to his first Wimbledon final. Losing to Roger Federer in straight sets, the young Spaniard learnt his lesson, taking the world No.1 to five sets the following year, Federer's first five-set match at Wimbledon since 2001.
The breakthrough had to come eventually. On the back of his fourth consecutive French Open title and a 23-match-winning streak that included the Queen's title, Nadal took Federer's Wimbledon crown from him, flashbulbs exploding at 9.10pm as he triumphed 9-7 in the fifth set. The second Spaniard to win Wimbledon, and the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back since Bjorn Borg in 1980, Nadal ended Federer's record of five conesuctive Wimbledon titles and 65 straight wins on grass.
Ruled out of Wimbledon 2009 with a knee injury, the Spaniard returned in 2010, winning his second Wimbledon title against Tomas Berdych.
LADIES' SINGLES CHAMPIONS
Singles Champion 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925
Doubles Champion 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925
Mixed Doubles Champion 1920, 1922, 1925
Suzanne Lenglen won six Wimbledons and was never beaten in competition at the All England Club. She also won six championships of her native France and was such a magical attraction in her revealing dresses and flowing tulle headbands that she revitalised and reformed the game in the seven years of her dominance until turning professional, disappearing from the then strictly amateur scene before dying of leukaemia, aged only 39, in 1938. Lenglen was only 20 when she made her initial visit to Wimbledon for the 1919 Championships, the first to be held after the Great War. Despite making her acquaintance with grass court tennis, she swept to the final, or the Challenge Round as it was then known, without dropping a set. Her opponent, Dorothea Lambert Chambers, the defending champion and a seven-time Wimbledon winner, was, at 40, exactly twice her age.
Aided by another first in women's tennis, sips from a brandy flask provided by her father between sets, Lenglen outlasted Chambers 10-8, 4-6, 9-7. The measure of Lenglen's subsequent advance to the stage of invincibility was shown at Wimbledon a year later, when against the same opponent she won 6-3, 6-0. In 1925, she won Wimbledon for the loss of a mere five games. Lenglen's last Wimbledon in 1926 ended in turmoil. Having progressed serenely into the third round, Lenglen was not informed of her starting time and kept the Queen Mary waiting for an hour. When she was booed for a perceived insult to the monarchy, Lenglen decided to withdraw. It was her farewell, and a wretched one, from a tournament she had dominated so effortlessly.
Singles Champion 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1935, 1938
Doubles Champion 1924, 1927, 1930
Mixed Doubles Champion 1929
Helen Wills Moody, who set a record of eight singles titles at The Championships, was the premier player of the pre-war era. The quiet and reserved American, who was born in Berkeley, California in 1905, was dubbed Miss Poker Face by the media, with whom she had little rapport. In truth, it was her opponents who should have been left with straight faces as Wills Moody embarked on the most incredible run of success. Between 1927 and 1932 she did not lose a set, never mind a match, annexing five Wimbledons, four US and four French titles. It was not until the 1933 Wimbledon final that Dorothy Round managed to take a set off her.
Angered by the furore which followed her failure to explain a back injury more fully that caused her to default from the US Championships, she never again played the US event but, having had lengthy treatment from her father, a doctor, she continued to garner honours at the All England Club, winning on both of her subsequent appearances, in 1935 and then finally, at the age of 32, in 1938. On both occasions her opponent was again "the other Helen", Jacobs. But they were very different finals. In 1935 Jacobs led 5-2 in the third set of a gripping contest and actually had a match point, only to fluff an easy volley and then watch helplessly as Wills Moody swept five games in a row. Miss Poker Face was so moved by this extraordinary comeback that she kissed and embraced the startled umpire. Three years later Jacobs managed to collect just four games in a decidedly one-sided contest, the fourth time she had lost to Wills Moody in a Wimbledon final. It was the Great Helen's farewell to a tournament in which she had lost a total of four sets in all the years of Wimbledon participation.
Singles Champion 1963, 1965, 1970
Doubles Champion 1964, 1969
Mixed Doubles Champion 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1975
When a young Margaret Smith made her first trip to Wimbledon in 1961, she was heralded as the best woman player yet to emerge from Australia. By the time she made her final appearance at The Championships in 1975 she had amassed a record that remains unequalled: 62 Grand Slam titles in all, including 24 singles, 19 doubles, and 19 mixed doubles titles. Seeded number two at her first attempt in 1961, she fell to the British player Christine Truman in the quarter-finals. The next year, as top seed, she was beaten in the first round by the Californian Billie Jean Moffitt. The setback was temporary; in 1963 Smith captured the Wimbledon singles title for the first time, beating Moffitt in the final. In 1964 she beat King in the semis but lost to Bueno in the final. She turned the tables the following year, beating Bueno to take the title in 1965. It was to be the start of a five year absence from the Wimbledon final. In 1966 Smith lost to Moffitt (who was now Mrs King) in the semi-final and in 1967 she took a year away from the game after marrying international yachtsman Barry Court.
At Wimbledon in 1970, it was King, once again, who shaped up as her toughest rival. The two women moved inexorably towards a final that is regarded as one of the greatest played on Centre Court. Court was nursing an injured ankle and knew the only way to approach the match was to rush the net as much as possible in hopes of winning as quickly as she could. The strategy was sound but even so the two set final kept the women on court for two hours and 27 minutes. Court prevailed 14-12, 11-9, but the result might have been very different. In the first set King broke serve four times. Each time Court pulled her back. In the second set Court had a match point at 7-6 and four more at 10-9 before finally nailing down her third, and arguably most significant, Wimbledon victory. Twice previously – in 1962 and 1965 – Court had failed to win the much predicted Grand Slam, falling both years at the Wimbledon hurdle. This time she arrived in New York with the first three Grand Slam titles in hand. She claimed the US Open crown with a three set defeat of the American Rosie Casals. The Slam was in the bag. Court won a further three Grand Slam singles titles, though she would never again hold the Ladies' Singles trophy aloft at SW19. Her final appearance at The Championships was in 1975, when she lost to Evonne Cawley (nee Goolagong) in the semi-final.
Billie Jean King
Singles Champion 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975
Doubles Champion 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979
Mixed Doubles Champion 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974
Billie Jean King has, quite correctly, been called "the most dynamic and prolific winner ever to play at Wimbledon" in the official history of The Championships. Between 1966 and 1975, her Wimbledon domination was virtually absolute. She reached eight Ladies' Singles finals and won six of them. Her final victims were Maria Bueno (1966), Ann Jones (1967), Judy Tegart (1968), Evonne Goolagong (1972 &1975) and Chris Evert (1973). The losses were to Mrs Jones in 1969 and Margaret Court the following year. That 1970 classic, in which Mrs Court staggered off a 14-12, 11-9 winner, remains a record for the most games in a Wimbledon women's final. Mrs King also shares the record for most games in a Ladies' Doubles final (38). Partnered by her great friend and fellow pioneer Rosie Casals in the days before the advent of the tie-break, they defeated Bueno and Nancy Richey 9-11, 6-4, 6-2 in 1967.
Billie Jean competed for the last time at Wimbledon in 1983 when, aged 39, she reached the semi-finals before falling to the teenager, Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. It was her worst defeat ever at The Championships, and there exists a famous picture of Mrs King taking one last, lingering look over her shoulder as she made her last exit from Centre Court. In the 22 years she played at Wimbledon from her 1961 debut, Billie Jean lost just 41 matches in singles and doubles, having amassed 95 singles, 74 doubles and 55 mixed wins for a total of 224, an incomparable total. In 1967 and again in 1973 she won Wimbledon's Singles, Doubles and Mixed titles, a feat only achieved three times in the Open era of tennis, and she captured a total of 39 Grand Slam titles, including all four singles crowns.
Singles Champion 1974, 1976, 1981
Doubles Champion 1976
Chris Evert made her debut at The Championships in 1972, as the No. 4 seed. In a celebrated clash of youth the 17-year-old lost in the semi-finals to Australia's Evonne Goolagong, the defending champion, in three tight sets. Although victory was on that occasion denied, the Wimbledon stage had welcomed one of its most enduring players. Armed with a trend-setting two-fisted backhand and nerves seemingly made of steel, Evert would compete at The Championships each year until 1989. During that time she contested no less than 10 Wimbledon finals, and won three of them. Aside from a shock third round loss to fellow American Kathy Jordan in 1983, she never failed to reach the semi-finals. It is a sterling record for a slightly-built baseliner raised on the clay courts of Florida.
Umpteen years after she last graced the turf on Centre Court, several records set by Evert during her career remain intact. She boasts a 90 per cent match winning percentage; the most French Open crowns (seven), and longest winning streak on a single surface (125 matches won on clay, between 1973 and 1979). She took home at least one Grand Slam singles title a year for 13 years on the trot – a record that looks increasingly secure while today's stars struggle with injury. Fittingly, she is tied in fourth place with Navratilova on the Grand Slam Singles register, with 18 titles.
Singles Champion 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990
Doubles Champion 1976, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986
Mixed Doubles Champion 1985, 1993, 1995, 2003
Martina Navratilova won a record number of nine singles titles, spanning three decades and involving some of the fiercest rivalries in women’s tennis history. Generation-hopping with such success is difficult to achieve. And she entered a fourth decade at the 2003 Championships when she become the oldest ever Grand Slam champion at 46 years 261 days after winning the Mixed Doubles title with Leander Paes. Earlier in the year she become the first player in the Open era to win every Slam event available when she won the 2003 Australian Open Mixed Doubles title also with Leander Paes (ie. Ladies' Singles, Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles in all four Grand Slam events). In total she has won 58 Grand Slam titles. Navratilova's victory at the 2003 Championships alongside Paes also meant that she equalled Billie Jean King's record number of 20 Wimbledon titles.
But what makes Navratilova “greatness” are less tangible factors. She has humility, honesty and vulnerability. People can relate to those traits which are often disguised or discarded by other superstars. She is an approachable icon with a smile that lights up a court or a room.She said after her doubles triumph with Paes: "I didn't think about winning when I first started playing, I just wanted to play. I just thought about competing, see how good I can still play." That's pure Navratilova.
Singles Champion 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996
Doubles Champion 1988
Germany's Steffi Graf won the Wimbledon Singles crown seven times in a stellar career that included a Golden Grand Slam in 1988. The player of her era, Graf dominated the women's game for over a decade to win 22 singles Grand Slam titles. That's four more than Martina Navratilova collected, though the ex-Czech totalled many more when you bring her doubles achievements into the equation. While a keen admirer of Wimbledon champions Martina Navratilova – "I think her game is perfect" – plus Jimmy Connors' "fighting qualities" and John McEnroe's "touch and feel", she didn't expect to make much of an impact at SW19 for a few years to come.
And she was right. She won The Championships for the first time in 1988, having reached the final of all the five previous Slams, losing just two of them. That year was to prove her greatest year. She not only made the Grand Slam – winning all four majors in a calendar year, only the third woman to do so – she turned it into a Golden Slam by taking the Olympic title when tennis returned to the Games in Seoul. She reigned as world No. 1 for a record 377 weeks and in total won 106 tour titles, all contributing to her US$21,895,277 prize-money fortune. She was named World Champion by the International Tennis Federation on seven occasions, another record.
Her last appearance at Wimbledon was at the 1999 final, when she lost in straight sets to Lindsay Davenport. She refused to confirm it would be her last Wimbledon and when later asked why she hadn't, she simply replied: "It was Lindsay's day."
Singles Champion 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008
Doubles Champion 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009
She may not be the best player in her own family, but when it comes to Wimbledon, Venus just about holds the bragging rights over her younger sister. With five titles to Serena's four, and, considering that her three defeats in the final at the All England Club all came from Serena, Venus has to date been the Williams' Wimbledon champion.
Venus's stand out year was 2000 when she won the US Open, Wimbledon and the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. Her victory over Lindsay Davenport at the All England Club made her the first female African American champion since Althea Gibson. Further victories over Justine Henin (2001), Davenport again (2005) and from match point down, Marion Bartoli (2007) and Serena (2008), established the elder Williams as one of the dominant forces on the lawns of SW19, and she isn't finished yet.
Singles Champion 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010
Doubles Champion 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009
Mixed Doubles Champion 1998
The younger of the two Williams sisters made her first impact at Wimbledon in 1998, winning the mixed doubles title alongside Max Mirnyi. Few could imagine what she would go on to achieve. Missing the 1999 tournament because of injury, in 2000 Serena swept all the way to the semi-finals, only to fall foul of her sister Venus. In 2001, Jennifer Capriati was her conqueror, this time in the quarter-finals. Serena seemed to be going backwards. But all that changed in 2002. Arriving at Wimbledon on the back of her second Grand Slam title, at the French Open, Serena came past first Amelie Mauresmo and then sister Venus, winning the title without dropping a set. Taking the world No.1 ranking, she went on to complete 'the Serena Slam' - holding all four Grand Slam titles at once.
Having won Wimbledon again in 2003, Serena suffered a surprise loss to Maria Sharpova in the 2004 final, lost in the third round to Jill Craybas in 2005, and missed the 2006 tournament entirely. With rumours swirling about her absence from the game, Serena entered the 2007 Australian Open ranked just 81 in the world, and pulled off one of the performances of her career to win the title. Although her success in Melbourne did not translate to Wimbledon, exiting the tournament at the hands of Justine Henin, the following three years saw the Williams sisters reclaim their hold on the Venus Rosewater Dish. A finalist in 2008, Serena won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
Records and Statistics