|Wimbledon is a summer carnival against an olive-green setting., the gaiety of a Parisian mirage stealing across the lawns and narrow avenues. Even the men discard the dull shades of the City, whilst women become feminine in waves of fluttering silk. The members of the original All-England Croquet Club at Worple Road, Wimbledon, the forerunners of this international gathering, would have raised their eyebrows in astonishment.|
THE Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships have a tremendous appeal. Invariably the weather is kind and lives up to its calendar reputation. The ground can accommodate 30,000 people each day the Centre Court alone holds 15,000. Even so, seats are as rare as gold, and as costly if bought from the men who loiter near the main entrance. The interest is understandable, for victory at Wimbledon is still the most coveted honour. Forest Hills cannot hold a candle to the glamour of the Centre Court.
The standard of play is always high. The draw produces a situation pregnant with possibilities. There are the usual upsets no Wimbledon runs entirely to form but when the Doherty gates close for another year it is clear that the champions are worthy of their titles. The verdict never changes. Wimbledon remains the finest organized sporting event in the country. The scoring, for instance, on the Centre and Number One Courts is done by means of electrical scoreboards controlled by an operator who receives the score from the umpire over the internal telephone system and transmits it to the Scoreboard by means of a machine, which combines the properties of a typewriter and an adding machine. As far as I know they are the only electrical scoreboards in existence for the purpose of recording tennis scores. Even the balls used during the championships are placed in refrigerators on the courts when not in use, to prevent warping of their rubber foundations by the sun.
From the spectator's point of view, Wimbledon provides an object-lesson that an all-court game does not happen by accident. There is nothing haphazard about the stroke production of players like Trabert, Hoad, Seixas, Drobny, Brough, Hart and Connolly. Every detail is under control. Nothing is left to chance. The rhythm of the swing, footwork, balance and weight distribution are impeccable. To study players such as these is equivalent to watching the full range of tennis as played by maybe some forty nations. Yet few take advantage of the lessons that can be learnt. The reason is simple. The majority of spectators are only affected by the excitement of the hour. The score-board registers their reactions. They watch the players, appreciate their skill, possibly identify the strokes, but fail to note the techniques that went into their execution.
Maureen Connolly is an ideal player to study. She has no idiosyncrasy. Her movement and balance are perfect. Her left arm is always poised to balance the movement of her right arm and racket. Her transference of weight is done with such perfection of timing that it is imperceptible to the eye except as a graceful step forward. Then, take the service of Rosewall. The whole action of throwing up the ball and swinging the racket is performed in one simple movement. There is no question of the Australian looking to see where the ball is. The rhythm is known by heart. The timing is automatic. The cannon-ball service of Trabert is worth noting as it zooms flat straight down the middle, picking the chalk off the centre line . . . the real service of a champion.
|Wimbledon, England: "Little Mo" takes Wimbledon. 17-year-old Maureen Connolly of San Diego, CA walks off with the Wimbledon court with her trophy, July 5th after chopping down three time Wimbledom winner, Louise Brough, 28, of Beverly Hills, Ca, 7-5, 6-3, at the Wimbledon tennis tournament finish. "Little Mo" is the youngest women's Wimbledon Chapion since 1887, when 15 year old Lottie Dod won the title.|
For fourteen days the finger-prints of style are on view. There is no rigid standardization, for the lawn tennis stroke is essentially individualistic. Allowing for idiosyncrasies, it is interesting and instructive to note which fundamentals are observed by the leading players of each year. A well-worn truism heads the list. Every player watches the ball intently. No one is caught with the head up as the swing develops. There is no attempt to pin-point the spot where the ball is going to be hit, to locate an opponent before the ball hits the racket-strings.
Footwork comes next. Generally speaking, it is correct to say that the weight should go forward into the shot. That is true of the majority of players, but there have been exceptions. I have seen Seixas, Bergelin, Washer and Larsen over-run the ball with the resulting cramped swing. Not only that, but at times the shot was played off the wrong foot. With lesser players such a stroke would be fatal. Such is the expert's control of footwork and body placement that individualistic improvisation kept the weight in the shot even though the player was caught on the wrong foot. The same can be said about the adage to hit with the body sideways to the net. The advice is sound and should be followed, but such are the Wimbledon styles that no fixed ruling can be made. One feature is common to all the competitors. None appears flurried or hurried in their shot-making. They position themselves for the stroke without the onlooker appreciating the perfection of footwork, timing and anticipation involved. The top-speed rushing and untidy racket-work of the average player is missing.
We in this country tend to linger with a utilitarian phase of the game. A vociferous school of thought argues that a player's stroke-equipment can be limited to a powerful service and a useful net game. Bludgeoning threatens to oust artistry. Science is neglected for speed and power. A few exceptionally-equipped players may make the grade at Wimbledon and Forest Hills, but the majority of these hit-and-run specialists are lop-sided in their technical equipment. Net attack and a stronger service are only part of an all-court game. Nothing can replace an armoury of sound ground shots as Hoad, Trabert, Hart, and Connolly have so often demonstrated.
During the Wimbledon Championships the question is often asked as to how the champions of today compare with those of the past. Such comparisons are difficult and general agreement almost impossible. Jack Kramer has been hailed by some as the world's best player, and his matches in the World Professional Championships tended to support that view. He won at Wimbledon in 1947 against Tom Brown, but against that must be placed his failure in 1946. No sooner has the claim been made than someone will mention Frank Sedgman and put forward arguments of equal strength. But for all-round excellence I doubt whether Big Bill Tilden has ever been equalled. For ten years he never knew defeat in championship or Davis Cup match. He had the build of a champion, huge in stature, but with the agility of a much lighter man. His drawing-power was extraordinary. Like Ben Hogan in golf and Don Bradman in cricket, his personality seemed to over-awe opponents before a ball was struck.
Vines was perhaps the hardest striker of a tennis ball within living memory. He was one of the few players who mastered the art of the unbroken rhythmic swing. His timing was complete, and from start to finish was a perfect example of mind and muscle co-ordination. Fred Perry was outstanding, but his game lacked the finished completeness of Tilden and Vines. He fell short of inspired greatness, and although his game was technically, almost mechanically, correct, it lacked the divine fury of the natural genius. Rene Lacoste was indefatigable. If history is to remember the Frenchman by one stroke, the choice would probably fall on his back-hand. It embodied the essence of stroke-execution. Lacoste studied his opponents with the thoroughness of a boxer piercing a guard with scientific accuracy. Few men on the Centre Court have shown such calm confidence. His successes in the Wimbledon Singles of 1925 and 1928 were those of a master technician.
Henri Cochet was different. His game was as enigmatic as his personality. Reflecting the insouciance peculiar to France, Cochet was the opportunist of the courts, capable of bringing off the miracle shot and equally capable of playing a stroke that would make a parks player blush. Another man who won two Wimbledon Singles Championships was Gerald Patterson. He is also remembered as winning the Mixed Doubles with Mile. Suzanne Lenglen. His service at times was as fierce and accurate as Tilden's. Donald Budge was prominent in the years immediately preceding the war, but his domination did not coincide with a vintage period. Greatness in 1938 would have been known by a less flattering description in 1930. Bunny Austin comes under the same heading with one difference. His service was one of the most laboured I have seen on the Centre Court.
As for the women, Suzanne Lenglen used to loom above all others of her sex on the courts until the coming of Maureen Connolly. The French player was the embodiment of graceful perfection, a legend in her own lifetime. Those who saw her Wimbledon successes will recall the sheer artistry of her game. Time alone will show whether the American girl will surpass her unique record. Helen Wills Moody recaptured something of Mile Lenglen's impersonal greatness, but her game was on a lower plane. And the same can be said of Helen Jacobs, save that her strokes bore a more pugnacious stamp. Kay Menzies likewise touched the hem, and in her instance the emphasis was on feminine charm. In complete contrast Alice Marble personified masculine vigour in her shot-making. Her successors in this respect have been Pauline Betz, Margaret du Pont, Louise Brough, and Doris Hart.
More recent thumbnail impressions recall the boredom of Hoad and Rosewall, the effervescence of Huber, the exuberance of Billy Knight, the courage of Drobny, the sartorial smartness of Budge Patty, the concentration of Tony Trabert, the flashing Latin smile of Mary Weiss, the rich suntan of the competitors, the arrogance of certain officials, the short-sightedness of linesmen that at times suggests mental astigmatism, the ageless youthfulness of Borotra, the magic of the Bath buns that only tempt at Wimbledon, the television commentaries that presume the viewer can locate the ball when invariably it cannot be seen, Maureen Connolly's youthful exuberant approach to the business of winning as with a brisk, meaningful prance she careers with tossing head up and down the court. Nor must I forget the fashions. Wimbledon is a summer carnival against an olive-green setting, the gaiety of a Parisian mirage stealing across the lawns and narrow avenues. Even the men discard the dull shades of the City, whilst women become feminine in waves of fluttering silk. The members of the original All-England Croquet Club at Worple Road, Wimbledon, the forerunners of this international gathering, would have raised their eyebrows in astonishment.London Season, Louis T. Stanley [As Written].
The Wimbledon Championship - a brief history
How did Wimbledon come about? Allthough the origin of something that resembled today's tennis are not exactly recorded in history, a similar type of handball game was played in Egypt, Greece and throughout the Roman Empire.
It wasn't until the the 12th century that we find reliable reference to tennis. French monks had devolved an early indoor variation of tennis and played it regularly in their monasteries as a favourite pastime and later introduced it to England. The word "tennis" derives from the French tenez, meaning "take it" or "play."
Henry VII. and Henry VIII. were both enthusiasts, built hundreds of courts throughout the country. By 1500, the tennis racket had evolved from the all-wood model to a better version with wooden handle and head strung with sheep gut. During 1600, tennis became the national game in France as Paris alone came to boast over 1,000 courts for play.
After a decline in thelate 17th century, tennis was 'rediscovered', in 1858, Major T.H. Gem and J.B. Perara marked out a court in Birmingham adapting the game to open-air play on grass.
Fifteen years later, in 1873, British army officer major Walter Wingfield created a variant of tennis in which only the server could score, he also added a new set of basic rules. Walter 'new' game was originally called "sphairistike" the greek term for "playing ball" in which players hit a ball with wooden rackets over a net set up on an hourglass-shaped grass court. Months after Walter changed the 'unpopular' name sphairistike to the more appropiate english term of lawn tennis. In 1868, The All England Croquet Club was founded off Worple Road, Wimbledon; this was later to become known as 'Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis'.
The club soon took an interest in the sport., in 1877, in front of just a few hundred spectators the first Wimbledon lawn tennis tournament was held as a charity to raise money, at the same time a set of final new rules were introduced, tennis had finally come of age.
|Victorian Era Wimbledon - Men's Singles History|
|Victorian Era Wimbledon - Women's Singles History|
|1900||B. Bingley Hillyard|
|1899||B. Bingley Hillyard|
|1898||C. Cooper Sterry|
|1897||B. Bingley Hillyard|
|1896||C. Cooper Sterry|
|1895||C. Cooper Sterry|
|1994||B. Bingley Hillyard|
|1889||B. Bingley Hillyard|
|1886||B. Bingley Hillyard|