New Wimbledon Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The inauguration of a new large stadium at Wimbledon, England, allowed more spectators to enjoy tennis tournaments and helped to popularize tennis worldwide.

Summary of Event

The largest-capacity tennis facility in the world was opened in Wimbledon, England, in 1922, in the culmination of what had already been a long history of tennis tournaments at Wimbledon. The All England Croquet Club was established in 1868 on Worple Road in Wimbledon, a community near London. In 1875, because the club was losing members, lawn tennis was added to the club’s offerings. Tennis became so popular that the name of the club was changed in 1877 to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. To celebrate the name change, a tennis tournament was held. In that initial men’s singles tournament, Spencer Gore Gore, Spencer overcame twenty-one other entrants. Approximately two hundred spectators paid a shilling each to watch the tournament finale, producing more income than the club had hoped to raise to purchase a new roller to maintain its lawns. Wimbledon tennis stadium All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Sports;tennis Tennis [kw]New Wimbledon Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated (June, 1922) [kw]Wimbledon Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated, New (June, 1922) [kw]Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated, New Wimbledon (June, 1922) [kw]Stadium Is Dedicated, New Wimbledon Tennis (June, 1922) Wimbledon tennis stadium All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Sports;tennis Tennis [g]England;June, 1922: New Wimbledon Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated[05580] [c]Sports;June, 1922: New Wimbledon Tennis Stadium Is Dedicated[05580] George V Lenglen, Suzanne Patterson, Gerald

Tennis had become so popular at the club by 1882 that the word “croquet” was dropped from the name. However, it was restored in 1899, primarily for reasons of maintaining tradition; the organization then became known as the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. The tournament, which became an annual event, expanded in 1879 with the addition of men’s doubles, and again in 1884 with the addition of a separate tournament for ladies’ singles competition; the first woman singles winner was Maud Watson. Watson, Maud Women’s doubles competition was added in 1913, as was a tournament for mixed doubles. The tournament truly became international in 1905, when May Sutton Sutton, May of the United States became the first champion from overseas when she won the ladies’ singles tournament. The first man from overseas to win was Australian Norman Brookes, Brookes, Norman who took the men’s singles title in 1907.

Because of the popularity of the tournament, the club improved and enlarged its spectator accommodations over the years. Prior to the onset of World War I, the club had a plan to move its tennis facility to a new location, but this was not achieved until 1922, when it opened a new concrete stadium on Church Road in Wimbledon, not far from the center of London. The club had purchased the grounds in 1920 after its attempts to purchase land adjoining the old tennis facility had failed. King George V and Queen Mary attended the inaugural event at the new forty-two-acre expanded facility, where they were seated in the Royal Box at the south end of the stadium. Royal support ensured that tennis would become the national sport of Great Britain and that Wimbledon would be recognized as an international sporting institution.

The new stadium, which took two years to build, seated fourteen thousand people at Centre Court—by far the largest-capacity tennis facility in the world. The new club grounds were financed partially by the accumulated reserves of the tennis club and through the issuance of debenture bonds. Although the club built the enormous stadium in large part because of public pressure from the large numbers of fans who could not be accommodated at the old grounds, many who lived in the vicinity of the stadium initially thought it was larger than needed. They were soon proven wrong, however, when there were so many applications for tickets to the first year’s tournament, the tickets had to be sold through a lottery system. The continued popularity of the annual event ensured that the lottery system remained in use.

In the period immediately after 1922, the Wimbledon tournament experienced its greatest growth and became the most important tennis event in the world. By 1932, annual attendance exceeded two hundred thousand. The gates at the main entrance to the facility, the Doherty Memorial Gates, were donated in 1931 by William Doherty in memory of his two younger brothers, who dominated the Wimbledon tournaments early in the twentieth century with nine singles championships and eight doubles championships.

The tournament’s move to the new stadium on Church Road coincided with a change in how the finalists were selected. Prior to 1922, the previous year’s winner was automatically eligible for the next year’s championship match. In 1922, however, the format was changed so that the reigning champion had to play through every round. Gerald Patterson of Australia and Suzanne Lenglen of France were the first singles champions in the new stadium. Both won later Wimbledon championships as well, and Lenglen, a beautiful and graceful woman, sometimes known as the diva or prima donna of tennis, went on to become the first female international sports celebrity.

The courts at the old grounds had been arranged in such a way that the main court was situated in the middle and so was named Centre Court. With the move to Church Road in 1922, the Centre Court name was kept for the main court, where the championship matches were played, although the court was not located in the center of the facility. In 1980, with the building of four additional courts on the north side of the grounds, Centre Court was again truly in the center. Wimbledon’s Centre Court is never used other than during the two weeks of the annual tournament.

During World War II, Wimbledon’s annual tournaments were canceled, and the premises were used for military functions, with troops stationed on the grounds. In October, 1940, a huge German bomb struck Centre Court and wiped out twelve hundred of the stadium’s seats. The tournaments resumed in 1946.

Significance

The building of the Wimbledon tennis stadium with such a large seating capacity has been credited with doing more to popularize the game of tennis worldwide than anything else before or since. The name Wimbledon quickly became synonymous with tennis. Although by the end of the twentieth century the seating capacity at Wimbledon’s Centre Court was smaller than that at the newer stadiums where tennis’s other “grand slam” tournaments (the U.S. Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open) were played, in 1922 it served as the model for all future tennis tournament facilities. The Wimbledon tournament became the most prestigious event in tennis, typically hosting players from more than sixty countries each year and watched by millions of television viewers in addition to the many spectators at the stadium. Wimbledon tennis stadium All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Sports;tennis Tennis

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barrett, John. Wimbledon: The Official History of the Championships. New York: HarperCollins Willow, 2001. Written by a tennis journalist and former Davis Cup captain, this book chronicles the history of the Wimbledon tournament. Includes many photos.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Max, Robert. Wimbledon: Centre Court of the Game. London: BBC, 1981. Covers the history of Wimbledon. Includes many statistical appendixes that illustrate how the tournament has grown over the years.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Medlycott, James. One Hundred Years of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. London: Hamlyn, 1977. An illustrated history of the Wimbledon championships.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Robyns, Gwen. Wimbledon: The Hidden Drama. London: Purnell Books, 1973. Explains much about the history of the Wimbledon tournament and why the Wimbledon championship is the most coveted tennis title in the world.

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