Article from Caroline Mudie on Wimbledon

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Pyworthy History Group

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can resume our meetings as planned but in the meantime another offering to keep us going!

10 Facts about the Wimbledon Tennis Championships you may not know!

Following on from my sports theme from last month, this month I thought I would bring you something about another world-renowned sports event that has been cancelled this year due to the ongoing situation with the Coronavirus pandemic.   The 134th Wimbledon Tennis Championship’s, which should have been held this year 2020, will now be held next summer instead. So for those of you who will miss the sound of rackets hitting balls, the roar of the crowd and the sight of strawberries and cream being consumed in huge quantities, here is a little something to keep you satisfied until next year!

Facts about the tennis championships at Wimbledon that you may not know.

  1. The All England Club started its journey to world renown not as a Tennis Club but as a Croquet Club in Worple Road, Wimbledon.  Believed to be more of a money spinner, and the need for a pony drawn roller for the croquet lawn, tennis made its debut and rapidly grew in such popularity that the Club eventually became most famous for its tennis tournaments.   It was not until 1922 that the club moved to the present site in Church Road.
  2. Amid the many immaculate grass tennis courts at Wimbledon there is still a Croquet Lawn today, a nod to the history of the club. For a short time, the Club dropped the word Croquet from its title but restored it again in 1899.
  3. The inaugural Tennis Championship was held at the club in 1877. About 200 spectators paid a 1/- (a shilling) to watch the only final, the gentlemen’s singles, won by Spencer Gore a rackets player who honed his skills whist studying at the prestigious Harrow School. The winner received a 25-guinea trophy.
  4. One famous player in the early years was a young American called Dick Williams. Whilst being an entertaining and flamboyant player, Williams had quite a remarkable claim to fame. As well as being a decorated war hero, he was also a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Williams had been in the water so long following the sinking that he could barely feel his legs and was warned by a Doctor on the rescue ship Carpathia that his legs may have to be amputated. Williams was having none of it and reportedly walked the decks of the Carpathia to help the circulation return to his limbs.   He went on to win the Gentlemen’s Doubles in 1920 with fellow American Chuck Garland.
  5. King George V1 had been a competitor in the Gentlemen’s Doubles in 1926. Playing with his mentor Sir Louis Greig, the future king and his partner were easily outplayed by opponents Gore and Barrett. However, the Duke of York remains the only Royal to ever take part in the Championships.
  6. 1937 was a momentous year for the club. It was the first time the Championships were televised.   Broadcast for the previous 10 years had been on the radio and people were not convinced the TV broadcasts would be at all popular. Little did they know!
  7. During World War 2 the club cancelled the championships and its grounds became the home to a small farm.   Rabbits, pigs and hens then inhabited the grassy courts.  
  8. On 11 October 1940 the club became victim to German bombing and part of Centre Court was destroyed.   In fact, repairs to the stadium did not take place until 1949 due to post war rationing. Since those days Centre Court has changed beyond recognition!
  9. Amazingly prize money has only been awarded to winners since 1968, the year that professional tennis players could take part. In that year, the winner of the men’s singles won a mere £2000, and the ladies £750.   In 2017 winners of both the men’s and the ladies the singles received an incredible £2.2million each for their trouble!
  10. In 2017 fans consumed 33 tons of strawberries and 2,200 gallons of cream! What is going to happen to all those strawberries this year one wonders? Hopefully preserved as ‘Wimbledon 2020 Conserve’!

To find out more visit https://www.wimbledon.com/   https://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-wimbledon     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Championships,_Wimbledon


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