All about Tennis
Tennis is one of the world’s most popular sports and this month ‘the Championships’ takes place at Wimbledon in south-west London. Read on for fascinating facts about the game of tennis and the history of Wimbledon. Plus, how to start playing tennis yourself.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It was first held in 1877 at the All England Club in Wimbledon. In that year a mere 22 players took part, all men, with just one event The Gentleman’s Singles. There were 200 spectators and tickets cost a shilling. ‘The Championships’ at Wimbledon has now become world-famous.
Every June for two weeks the best tennis players from all over the world gather to grunt, sweat and dream of going home with the winner’s cup. Perfect to drink Sunny D from. It’s not just the prized silver cup though. This year the All England Club will award a staggering £26.75 million in prize money.
Women were not allowed to play at the first Wimbledon match. It wasn’t until 1844 that the first Ladies’ Singles was held. Maud Watson was the winner, aged just nineteen. The Ladies' Double and Mixed Double Tournament was introduced in 1913.
Wimbledon rules stipulate that all players must be dressed entirely in white. This rule is strictly forced by the umpire. In 2013 Roger Federer was told he must change his trainers because they had bright oranges soles.
Other essential ingredients of the Wimbledon experience: strawberries and cream, queuing (see below), ball girls and boys, rain, the royal family, 50,000 tennis balls, and (maybe) plenty of refreshing Sunny D to keep the players on top form.
At Wimbledon the nineteen tennis courts are covered in grass. It’s the best looked-after grass in the world, with a team of 28 tending to its every need. New grass is planted every year. It is lovingly fed and watered, and then cut to a height of exactly 0.8mm. During the tournament the grass is cut every day. There are no matches played on ‘Middle Sunday’. This is not for the benefit of players, but so that the grass can be watered and given some extra TLC!
Of course anyone can watch Wimbledon on tv but nothing beats being there in person. There is a ballot for tickets each year, which opens in August. If you’re not lucky enough (or rich enough) to get tickets in the ballot, you can join ‘The Queue’. This is an occasion in itself, with people queuing all day. See the website for more information.
“Anyone for tennis?”
If you fancy giving tennis a go, your local park or sports centre may have a tennis court. You can hire a racket and balls, or buy a second –hand one. Check out Tennis for Free. They provide free coaching in local communities across the UK. All ages are welcome from 3 to 103! They also help to make tennis courts available for free in parks and sports centres. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) also has loads of useful information about how to get started as a tennis player. If you’re a girl aged 5-8 check out Miss Hits.