Wimbledon and Grass Court Tennis

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

Major Walter Clopton Wingfield: The Inventor of Modern Tennis

Grass and lawns require cutting, rolling, watering, and pampering, making them more exciting than clay or acrylic surfaces. The All-England Croquet Club was founded in 1868 in Wimbledon.

Major Walter Clopton Wingfield: The Inventor of Modern Tennis

Then an outer London suburb reached, in those times, by horse and carriage, bicycle and the new railway to Wimbledon. Major Walter Clopton Wingfield invented tennis as we know it today and 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, an eccentric and flamboyant character, had recently retired from life as a cavalry Major. Moreover, he became captivated by the emerging popularity of racket and ball games played as garden recreation.

The Evolution of Tennis Courts: From Hour-Glass Shaped to Rectangular Layout

In 1875, the newly formed Wimbledon Croquet Club set aside space for a grass tennis court and, with the Marylebone Cricket Club, created simpler rules and a rectangular court layout

The net post height was reduced to 4ft 9in in 1878 and to today’s 3ft 6in in 1882. The center tape was also reduced to 3ft. Real Tennis dates back several hundred years to the 16th century in France and was exclusively played by the nobility.

It likely originated from castle courtyard games using a ball bouncing off a 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.

The World’s First Lawn Tennis Tournament: The Birth of Wimbledon

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. 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.

Surfaces of Tennis: Grass, Clay, and Acrylic Hard Courts

Grass and clay courts were the two principal surfaces for many years. Players compete on grass courts in the Australian Open, US Open, and Wimbledon, while Roland Garros takes place on clay.

Moreover, the US Open, played in New York at Forest Hills Club, had continual problems in trying to maintain quality grass courts. Additionally, 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.

As a result, 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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