Posted on 09 September 2014.
Every year, Wimbledon draws thousands of visitors to its current location, each person trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite player. Even celebrities make it a point to be in the stands as some of the competition heats up. But outside of the hype often associated with the tournament, there are interesting facts the make up how Wimbledon started, how it is currently run and some of its more notable participants through the years.
The first Wimbledon was held back in 1877. Instead of the various matches offered today, there was only one thing to see, the men’s singles. Only 22 men participated that first year and Spencer Gore took home the prize. About 200 spectators were in attendance. It wasn’t until seven years later that men’s doubles and women’s singles were added to the list of competitions taking place.
15-Year Olds Set Records
Charlotte Dod, also known as Lottie, was the youngest player to win a single’s event at Wimbledon. At only 15 years old, she took home the prize back in 1887 only three years after women’s singles were introduced to Wimbledon. But tennis wasn’t her only sport of choice. At the 1908 Olympics, she medaled in archery, went on to play on the British national field hockey team and became a British amateur golf champ. Decades later, Martina Hingis became the youngest doubles champion, also at age 15.
Becker Leaves His Mark
Fast forward to 1985 and Boris Becker joins the elite record breakers of Wimbledon. At only 17, he was the youngest men’s single champ. But that wasn’t enough. At the same time, he was also the first unseeded champ and the first German champ. Becker currently coaches World No.1 player Novak Djokovic.
Most of the time, Wimbledon keeps going regardless of what is going on in the world. Only twice have the games been suspended. Once the games were interrupted from 1915 to 1918 during World War I. From 1940 to 1945 the games were interrupted. This time, the culprit was World War II.
Even Bombs Can’t Keep Wimbledon Down
During World War II, many areas of Europe were devastated by destruction. Wimbledon was no different. The Centre Court was hit with several bombs in October of 1940. A total of 1200 seats were destroyed. With the war over, play resumed in 1946, but it took nine years from the time it was hit to repair Centre Court.
And The Heavens Opened Up
Delays because of weather tend to be frustrating for both players and fans. Several years were spent debating whether a retractable roof would be a good move. After the games in 2006, the roof was removed, and the following year, there was no roof at all! Finally, in 2009, the retractable roof was revealed. It currently takes about ten minutes to close the roof but because the climate of the space needs to adjust, it sometimes takes almost an hour before anyone can play again. Currently, Centre Court holds 15,000 spectators.
To date, only one person has ever been disqualified from the games and it wasn’t a pretty sight to say the least. After losing his temper during a doubles match in 1995, Ten Henman smashed a ball away out of frustration with his current situation. Unfortunately, the ball made contact with the face of a young ball girl named Caroline Hall. Hemnan later apologized publicly for the incident.
Ball Boys and Ball Girls
Today, being a ball boy or girl at Wimbledon is a coveted job. Around 750 applications are accepted each year but only 250 are chosen to be a part of the tournament. They begin training in April after having worked through the first six portions of the online training. These individuals are, on average, 15 years old and receive payment for their work over the course of two weeks.
In recent years, Wimbledon has tightened the belt of its dress code, insisting that players wear mostly white. Some players have scoffed at this idea, including Andre Agassi, who refused to play for two years as a way of protesting. In 2013, Roger Federer was told that he needed to change his shoes because the soles were a different color. This past year, the rules became even stricter as colors like ivory or off-white were no longer considered acceptable. This ten-part decree made waves in the tennis world with everyone, players and fans, taking a side.
Billie Jean King has 20 title wins to her name at Wimbledon. With six singles, ten doubles and four mixed doubles to her credit, it comes as no surprise that her name became associated with winning. She also stands out for her win against Bobby Riggs in 1973. Riggs had been one of the top players in the world in the 1940s and was an avid promoter of the sport. He arranged the first Battle of the Sexes and played against Margaret Court, ultimately emerging victorious. The second match was against King, who beat Riggs, and it made a huge impact on her both professionally and personally.
In 2006, Billie Jean King was quoted as saying that Martina Navratilova was the greatest player who had ever lived. Coming from someone with King’s record, this spoke volumes. She set a record at Wimbledon, winning the singles title nine times, six of those consecutive wins. Along with King, Navratilova has 20 Wimbledon wins to her credit.
At times, it seems that tennis is synonymous with Wimbledon. In 2014, over the course of all thirteen days of championships, attendance was recorded at almost a half a million people. The games are televised all over the world and people come from countries everywhere just to be a part of the competition as well as the festivities.