Wimbledon Park Heritage Group
Wimbledon Park Heritage Group

History of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

From Wikipedia we have: 'The club was founded in 1868 at the height of a croquet craze as the All England Croquet Club, and held its first croquet competition in 1870. Its original ground was situated off Worple Road, Wimbledon. Croquet was very popular there until the then-infant sport of lawn tennis (a game introduced by Major Walter Compton Wingfield a year or so prior, and originally called "Sphairistike") was introduced in 1875, when one lawn was set aside for this purpose. The first tennis Championships in men's singles were held in 1877, to raise money for a pony-drawn roller for its croquet lawns, when it changed its name to The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. That year at Wimbledon serves were made underarm. The champion, Spencer Gore, opined that "Lawn tennis will never rank among our great games." In 1878 the nets were lowered from 4 feet 9 inches (1.45 m) at the posts, to 3 feet 6 inches. In 1882, croquet was dropped from the name, as tennis had become the main activity of the club. But in 1889 it was restored to the club's name for sentimental reasons, and the club's name became The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
'In 1884, the club added Ladies' Singles and Gentlemen's Doubles, and then in 1913 Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles. For the 1908 Summer Olympics, the venue hosted the tennis events. The early club colours of blue, yellow, red, and green were found to be almost identical to those of the Royal Marines so they were changed in 1909 to the present Club colours of dark green and purple. The popularity of Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen was largely responsible for forcing the club to move to larger grounds at its present site in Church Road, Wimbledon, in 1922, where its first Championship was "plagued by rain each day". The current Centre Court dates from that year. It has been improved and extended on several occasions. Most recently a sliding roof was added in time for the 2009 Championships. In 1928 the old No. 1 Court opened on the west side of Centre Court. During World War II the club remained open with a much smaller staff, and was used for fire and ambulance services, British Home Guard, and a decontamination unit, and troops stationed nearby drilled on the main concourse. In October 1940 five 500 pound bombs struck Centre Court, demolishing 1,200 seats. The old No. 1 Court was replaced with the current No. 1 Court in 1997, and the Broadcast Centre was built at the same time. Shortly afterwards, the Millennium Building, which houses facilities for players, press, officials and members, was built on the site of the old No. 1 Court.'

The AELTC and People’s Monday, 9 July, 2001

It would be hard to think of another occasion where Wimbledon Park and the greatest tennis tournament in the World so fully complimented each other. When the tournament starts, cricket at the Wimbledon Club stops (but we continue to play tennis, thank goodness!), and play at the Golf Club stops. This is all in aid of providing space for parking and hospitality marquees during the Championships fortnight. A week after the tournament has finished, we are all back to normal.
But 2001 was special. The weather was absolutely ideal for the first ten days and then the rain came. It wasn’t the drenching deluge which one regularly experiences, but the intermittent type of misty rain. Perfect for walking, but awful for tennis. With grass courts, the necessity is to keep them dry and as Centre Court had no roof then, play stopped.
As a result, the final for the Men’s Singles Championship was postponed from the Sunday, to the Monday, which meant that there were no corporate clients to take up the highly prized seats of Centre Court because everyone had gone back to work! The All England did the smart thing by offering 10,000 seats to the general public at £40 each. I have to tell you that a Men’s Final ticket would cost you thousands of pounds if you tried to buy one the day before the match, so this was an incredible opportunity for all of the dedicated tennis fans who happened to be in London at that time.
08:30 Monday morning and Wimbledon Park is filled to capacity with the longest conga line I have ever seen. By 10:00, the 10,000 prospective ticket holders were in the Park, and we started the walk to our destination, Centre Court.
The weather was perfect. At noon, Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter came on court and battle commenced. It didn’t end until three hours later and only after Goran had blown four match points and then with the crowd nearly in tears, finally took the last set 9-7.
The final score was 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7.
I have never been to a tennis match with so much emotion and so much spectacle. The mix between two wonderful champions fighting for the great prize, and a Centre Court filled with the wildest tennis enthusiast ever assembled, really produced an astonishing day.
For further information regarding the All England Lawn Tennis Club and their wonderful Tennis Museum (open through the year, but check times) and how to get tickets to the Championship, go to the following website: www.wimbledon.org
I hope you enjoy these many views of People’s Monday and that great match, and I do apologise for running out of film 30 minutes from the end!
Sim Comfort
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