Right after his semifinal win against Tsonga at the 2010 Australian Open, Federer had joked that Britain had been searching for a male Grand Slam champion for about 150,000 years. In fact it’s “only” 75 years: Fred Perry was the last to win a Slam in 1936 (he won Wimbledon and US Open that year).

Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon:

Fred Perry statue

The last British woman to win a Slam is Virginia Wade: Wimbledon in 1977. Not only was 1977 the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Wimbledon Championships, but it was also the 25th year of the reign (the Silver Jubilee) of Queen Elizabeth II.

Virginia Wade was born July 10, 1945 in Bournemouth, England, where her father was vicar of Holy Trinity Church. The family moved to South Africa in 1946, before Virginia was 1. After finding a racquet while cleaning out a closet at age 9, she played tennis “every single minute I wasn’t obliged to do something else.”
When Virginia was 15 the family moved back to England. By age 16 Virginia was considered the most promising junior player in England, and she qualified to play in the Championships at Wimbledon. She continued to play at Wimbledon every year through 1987–26 years in all.
Virginia won 55 pro singles titles, including 3 Grand Slam tourneys (1968 US Open, 1972 Australian Open, 1977 Wimbledon).
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Wimbledon Museum: Serena Williams

The Wimbledon Museum features a Fashion zone: from long white skirts and flannel trousers through frilly knickers to the contemporary style of Serena and Venus Williams. A full section is dedicated to Ted Tinling, tennis most famous fashion designer.

Wimbledon Museum: Ted Tinling

Extract from Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court :

“Born in 1910, Ted did practically every job there was in tennis, although bizarrely will be best known for a pair of lace pants. As a teenager he used to go to the French Riviera in the winter, for reasons of ill-health. While there, he umpired matches and soon shot to prominence as Suzanne Lenglen‘s favourite umpire. Although he never told me his history, he was a good tennis player himself, taking part in tournaments while in the south of France.

He became a master of ceremonies at Wimbledon, escorting the players onto court for their matches. During the war, he went off to the intelligence service, and returned to find himself horrified at the state of women’s tennis. Their attire that is. So appalled was he at the functional outfits worn by the 1940s champions Louise Brough and Margaret Osbourne that he set about designing prettier, more fashionable items.
However, the outfit that he made for Gussie Moran, which she wore in 1949, proved a step too far. The panties had half an inch of lace trim showing, and with the 84-year-old dowager Queen Mary due to attend, the All England Club committee went into a minor panic. She did not in fact attend, but the damage had been done, and Tinling was thrown into exile. He was not seen in Wimbledon for 20 years, which I think says more about the committee at the time than the pants. No pants can be that outrageous, although one committee member was said to have bellowed at Tinling:

You have put sin and vulgarity into tennis!

Pics of Gertrude ‘Gussie’ Moran (AP photo)


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Wimbledon Centre Court

1991 is the year Agassi made his comeback at Wimbledon after a 3 year boycott, the year another German (Michael Stich) won the Championships, but it’s also the year of the first Middle Sunday in Wimbledon history.
In his book Holding Court, Chris Gorringe then All England Club chief executive tells the story behind the first Middle Sunday, “the best and worst day of his life.”

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Rudyard Kipling‘s words are boldly displayed in the All England Clubhouse, there to inspire players as they wend their way from the dressing rooms down to Centre Court. As I stood staring up at them in 1991, during the wettest Wimbledon in history, they has a striking resonance. The weather conditions had just forced us into scheduling an extra day’s play for the Middle Sunday of The Championships – but right now we had no tickets, no security, no catering, no umpires, no groundstaff, and no precedent to follow. Whether triumph of disaster lay ahead – who knew?

The worst start to The Championships

“It had been an absolutely dreadful start to the tournament. We had no play on the first Monday, and intermittent rain throughout Tuesday. Wednesday was even worse with just 18 matches played, and by the end of Thursday, things were dire. For the players, it was a terrible ordeal. It took Stefan Edberg, the defending champion, 73 hours to finish the first round match:

Thank God it’s over. I haven’t even been able to eat a decent lunch for four days

And he was on of the lucky ones – at least he had made it onto court. We were almost a third of the way through the tournament and yet had completed only 52 out of 240 scheduled matches. It was no surprise then, to find myself, chairman John Curry, Michael Hann, chairman of the order of play sub-committee, referee Alan Mills and Richard Grier, Championships director, gathered together during yet another rain delay, looking at the feasibility of play on Sunday – something that had never been done before.”

On Friday evening the decision was made to play on Middle Sunday for first time in Wimbledon history.

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Wimbledon Centre Court roof

If you are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at Wimbledon, Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court is a must-read. Gorringe tells the story of his 26 years journey as All England Club chief executive. The book is full of anecdotes about legendary players (McEnroe, Sampras, Borg to name a few), but also describes in details the structure of the Club, the organization of the Championships, and Wimbledon’s Long Term Plan.
A few pages are of course dedicated to the Centre Court roof, which has been the real star of the 125th Championships so far.

Enjoy of few extracts of Holding Court:

“When we had first laid out the LTP (Long Term Plan) in the 90s, a retractable roof had been possible in as much as the technology was available, but what had not been proved to our satisfaction was that you could have a sliding roof that would work for grass court tennis. We had not seen a roof design that would: retain the grass at a quality that would withstand two weeks of play, and that would not make it sweat and be slippery; that would provide the right ambiance for the spectators; and that would allow grass to grow for the rest of the year.”

Australian Open roof vs Wimbledon roof

“We did not have all the answers, but certain members of the media and our committee wanted it as they had be to the Australian Open and seen the roof in action there.
However, the Australians had a different set of circumstances. When they moved from Kooyong’s private members’ club to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park), in order to finance the set-up, the main centre court had to be a stadium design, not just a tennis arena. They needed the stadium to be used for as many days a year as possible, for concerts or whatever, which meant adding a roof but saying goodbye to grass. Once grass is taken out of the equation, the addition of a roof becomes very much easier.
Theirs is infinitely heavier than ours, is not translucent in any way, and is presumably specially designed in order for it to work well for concerts or musical events: there is no escape of noise or light through their roof. As well as having the roof over the main stadium at Melbourne Park, they have also built an adjacent stadium – again another multi-purpose building with a roof on it.”

Wimbledon Centre Court roof

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