Profile | Wimbledon

It's quite simply the most prestigious tournament in tennis

Centre Court at Wimbledon
Centre Court at Wimbledon | Matthew Goulding

By Stephen Higgins | 5 July 2018

Name The Championships or Wimbledon

Dates July 2-15

Established 1877

Surface Grass

Tour ATP & WTA

Tier Grand Slam

Prize-money £34 million total for the 2018 event. The men's and women's singles champions will each get £2.25 million.

Location The All England Lawn Tennis Club is situated in south west London, SW19 to be precise.

How can a writer sum up Wimbledon in an article?

For many, the word tennis immediately evokes The Championships with its manicured grass courts, rain delays, all-white clothing, strawberries and cream, Henmania and so on.

While today’s professional game has a variety of prestigious events across the globe and three grand slam tournaments to keep it company, Wimbledon is a unique and special fortnight in the calendar.

With over 140 years of history, it’s no wonder that Wimbledon is thought of as the ‘traditional’ grand slam. However, it is more revolutionary than you might think.

View of Centre Court from outside
Image |Backinpompey

The only major still played on grass is actually central to how tennis marries an illustrious past with a complex future.

Wimbledon is an event that boasts a highly restrictive dress code while maintaining the best digital strategy around. It partners with a 178-year-old drinks company in Pimm’s and then serves their chief beverage with a paper straw to protect the environment.

The All England club’s stately appearance belies its place as the battleground for some of the sport’s greatest clashes - both on and off the court.

Centre Court has been the background to monumental rivalries like Borg-McEnroe, Navratilova-Evert and Federer-Nadal. Its manicured court has also given one-time slam winners like Pat Cash (1987), Jana Novotna (1998), Goran Ivanisevic (2001) and Marion Bartoli (2013) the moments of their lives.

And then there’s the longest match in the history of tennis, when John Isner overcame Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 after 11 hours of action at the 2010 Championships.

Beyond the baseline, Wimbledon was the major where in 1973, 81 ATP players boycotted the draw to protest the suspension of colleague Nikola Pilic. In 2007, it succumbed to years of pressure and became the final major to offer equal prize-money to both singles champions.

In the ongoing battle for audiences, The Championships has embraced the rapid changes in broadcasting be it radio commentary (1927), TV coverage (1937), colour TV (1967) and streaming with the British Broadcasting Corporation a steadfast partner.

With total prize-money worth £34 million for the 2018 tournament, a deal with the BBC until at least 2024 and that priceless aura intact, Wimbledon has never been more pivotal to the sport.

Past Winners

Wimbledon mens trophy
The men's trophy at the All England Club's museum |Timelapsed

As an event that has always taken place on grass, Wimbledon’s roll of honour understandably contains a surplus of competitors with deft volleys, booming serves, sharp footwork or sometimes all three.

Spencer Gore, the first men’s champion in 1877, apparently invented volleying so baseliners can blame him for all that back court scurrying. The remaining years of the 19th century saw William Renshaw and Lottie Dodd dominate the singles events with seven and five titles respectively.

It should be noted that until 1921, the men’s and ladies singles champions had only to play one match to retain their title. During that period, the holder of the trophy would face the winner of the ‘All Comers’ competition in a challenge round to decide the overall victor.

Given the difficulties in travelling before airplanes, it wasn’t until 1905 when May Sutton of the United States became the first non-British singles champion at the All-England Club. Homegrown players dominated the early years of Wimbledon but have become a rarity since the end of World War One.

Kitty McKane Godfree (1924, 1926), Fred Perry (1934-36), Dorothy Round (1934, 1937), Angela Mortimer (1961), Ann Jones (1969), Virginia Wade (1977) and Andy Murray (2013, 2016) are the only British Wimbledon singles champions since 1918.

In the early post war years, Suzanne Lenglen, Jean Borotra, René Lacoste and Henri Cochet helped France conquer London’s most famous lawns before the Americans took over.

The United States has produced the most Wimbledon singles champions in history outside of Great Britain with 57 female and 33 male winners.

Their heroines include Helen Wills Moody, Althea Gibson, Maureen Connolly, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, the Williams Sisters and nine-time champion Martina Navratilova.

On the men’s side you’ll find legends such as Bill Tilden, Don Budge, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and seven-time winner Pete Sampras.

The 21st century has seen the men’s roll of honour take on a European flavour with Andy Murray (twice champion), Spain’s Rafael Nadal (2), Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (3), and the incomparable Roger Federer (8) the landlords of Centre Court.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams has maintained some American Exceptionalism in South London with seven singles titles to her credit between 2002 and 2016.

Recent Champions

Serena Williams strikes a backhand at Wimbledon
Serena Williams was champion in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016. |boonkia

Year Men's Women's
2017 Roger Federer Garbine Muguruza
2016 Andy Murray Serena Williams
2015 Novak Djokovic Serena Williams
2014 Novak Djokovic Petra Kvitova
2013 Andy Murray Marion Bartoli