Why Wimbledon is so important for tennis
Australia's Bernard Tomic returns a backhand (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
In today’s world of men’s and women’s tennis, the game’s history and traditions are constantly ignored and replaced by more modern and glamorous events. Except for Wimbledon.
The first of the Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon began in 1877 played on grass. Four years later, the US Open was established, also adopting the grass surface.
Ten years later, the French Open began and, in 1905, the Australian Open with both new tournaments following suit and adopting the grass surface. That’s all four majors using the grass court as their playing surface.
However, things changed and 1912 marked the first year of red clay in action at the French Open, which brought about the US Open’s brief three-year stint with har-tru clay. (An American designed clay, that is harder and made of crushed stone.) Years later it made the famous switch to hard courts in 1978.
With the Australian Open and Wimbledon now the only grass court Grand Slams remaining, the Australian Open succumbed to pressure when it opted out of the surface in 1988. At that time, it changed surface to hard rebound ace, as it switched venues from Kooyong to Melbourne Park. It switched again in 2008 to the more TV-friendly blue-coloured Hard Plexicushion.
This left Wimbledon as the last man standing; it was the only significant tournament that showed off tennis’s great history and traditions to the sporting world.
Unfortunately, Wimbledon today is almost like a museum showcasing the sport’s past. In 2012, only seven out of 64 tournaments on the ATP calendar are played on grass.
Wimbledon is the only one of those seven that can boast any decent following other than the Olympics which will be hosted by the All England Club. All of the other five grass court tournaments are 250 events, the lowest tier event on the ATP calendar.
The story is not much different on the Women’s side with only 5 grass court tournaments on the WTA schedule this year out of 57 tournaments, including Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Statistics don’t lie and we must all face the sad fact that the grass court is a dying breed. This is evident in todays playing styles. The days of serve and volley greats such as Pat Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe’s is well and truly behind us.
Nowadays, base-liners who rarely move forward such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are dominating the men’s game with levels of baseline play never seen before.
This is why Wimbledon is so important. Without Wimbledon the world would never see a glimpse of the serve and volley style play that dominated tennis for over a century. It is also vitally important in recognising where modern tennis came from.
Wimbledon’s famous grass courts take us back in time to what tennis used to be like.
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