there is a tennis playground

Wimbledon and Grass Court Tennis

The magic of Wimbledon stems from its longevity and the natural life in its principle component  –  grass!

It is difficult to get too excited about a handful of clay or a surface of acrylic paint  –  but grass and a lawn are living and breathing  – they must be cut, rolled, watered and generally pampered. The All-England Croquet Club was founded in 1868 in Wimbledon.

Then an outer London suburb reached, in those times, by horse and carriage, bicycle and the new railway to Wimbledon. The game of tennis as we know it today was invented or put together by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield and he patented his version of Lawn Tennis in 1874.

This was based on an hour-glass shaped court, the net being shorter than the baselines. The net was 5ft high at the posts dipping to 3ft 3in in the middle. He had boxed sets comprising equipment and the rules which he sold for around 10 guineas (one guinea being 21 shillings).

Walter was an eccentric and flamboyant character who had just retired from life as a cavalry Major  –  he was fascinated by the racket and ball games beginning to become popular as garden recreation.

The newly formed Wimbledon Croquet Club in 1875 set aside space for a grass tennis court and, in conjunction with the Marylebone Cricket Club, produced a simpler set of tennis rules and a rectangular court layout.

In 1878 the net post height was reduced to 4ft 9in and finally in 1882 reduced to todays 3ft 6in and the centre tape to 3ft. The game of Real (Royal) Tennis goes back several hundred years to the 16th century in France and was a royal sport only for the nobility to play.

It was probably derived from games they played in castle courtyards with a type of ball bouncing off a courtyard wall. Much of the tennis nomenclature derives from French and the scoring system resembles the face of a clock divided into 15, 30, and 45 later changed to 40.

This announcement appeared in 1877 on 9 June in a sporting publication called ”The Field”: The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9th and following days.

Entrance fee £1. 1. 0d. Two prizes will be given  – one gold champion prize to the winner, one silver to the second player. This was the world’s first lawn tennis tournament. The final of this tournament was watched by some 200 spectators.

The US Open can accommodate today over 20,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Grass and clay courts were the two principal surfaces for many years. The three Grand Slams Australian, United States and Wimbledon were played on grass the fourth Roland Garros being on clay.

The US Open, played in New York at Forest Hills Club, had continual problems in trying to maintain quality grass courts. The high humidity of the area caused moss to grow  –  this killed the grass and also made the courts slippery.

The tournament moved to Flushing Meadows tennis centre to be played on acrylic hard courts in 1978. Wimbledon has used the latest R&D in grass technology and changed the variety of grass used in 2002 from a mixture of 70/30 Rye and creeping red fescue to 100% Perennial Rye.

This has resulted in a slighter higher and slower bounce and made the game more interesting for spectators. The serve and volleyer have to be more versatile and work a little harder!

The Grasscourt season has now expanded from 5 weeks to 6 weeks with Wimbledon starting a week later  –  3 July  –  16 July 2023 with play on the middle Sunday.

The proposed grasscourt schedule for 2023 is:-

Stutgart, Germany                       –                   2023.06.05 – 2023.06.11

Hertogenbosch, Netherlands    –                       ”   .06.05 –      ”  .06.11

Queens Club, London, UK          –                       ”   .06.12-       ”  .06.18

Halle, Germany                            –                       ”   .06.12-       ”  .06.18

Mallorca, Spain                            –                       ”   .06.18-       ”  .06.24

Eastbourne, UK                            –                       ”   .06.19-       ”  .06.24

Wimbledon Qualifying, UK        –                       ”   .06.26         ”  .06.29

Wimbledon, London, UK            –                       ”   .07.03         ”  .07.16 

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