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Fabulous Wimbledon

Once a year, shortly after the finals, the Chairman invites friends to play and socialize, who, like himself, have worked diligently to make the Championships unforgettable. (Singles Champions are made Honorary Members, and they enjoy the same privileges as Members.)
Any day you might see Virginia Wade, the 1977 champion, or Christine Janes, who reached the '69 final, using a wooden framed racket, and Kitty Godfree, the 1924 and 1926 Champion, who played on her 90th birthday. It is truly a tennis center. Mrs. Godfree, you will learn, is the only player to beat Helen Wills Moody at Wimbledon. Fred Perry is Britons’ tennis hero and Kitty Godfree was their heroine. She was made a Club Vice-President in 1986.
And of course, the Wimbledon Museum and the Wimbledon Shops are accessible. At the Museum, you can view a nearly real-life portrait of Chris Evert, who is truly one of the all time greats. Between 1972 and 1989, the year she retired, Chrissie won Wimbledon three times and was runner-up six times. Unfortunately, Chrissie's career paralleled Miss Navratilova's, who denied her in five finals. What a great rivalry it became.
Besides the fact that they were magnificent players of their own style of play, spectators saw the two basic styles of playing the game, which spawns more stroke variety -- Chrissie traversing the baseline and Martina stalking the net. Chrissie won the U.S. title six times, the French Championships seven times, more than any other woman and the Australian twice. During a six year run, she won 125 consecutive matches on clay. In all, she played 1450 professional matches losing only 146. And every new player wanted to develop a two-fisted backhand.
Jimmy Conners, who played in the same time span as Chrissie, also had a great deal of influence on players developing the two-fisted backhand.
Do they really play croquet at Wimbledon? Yes, the Royal, ancient and lethargic game of croquet is played within the grounds. Each year a tournament is staged to decide the Club Champion. Professor Bernard Neal, I'm happy to report, has won the Club title twenty-four times in the last twenty-six years (up to 1989). The kindly professor has also won the National Championship. You might say, "He brandishes a tricky mallet -- or is it a sticky wicket."
Does 'Love' mean 'Nothing' in tennis? Yes, but only in tennis. Most of us hackers play for love, but we add a dash of vengeance and a pinch of spite. Another theory is that the word 'Love' comes from the French word l'oeuf (egg), which was used in scoring Royal Tennis, a game the British acquired from the French. It’s the forerunner of today's tennis. How often have you had the pleasure of staring daggers across the net and shouting sarcastically at the villain on the other side, who’s run you all over the court like a pet monkey, "There goes your goose l'oeuf?"
"The very first Wimbledon tournament of 1877 was drastically different in size and spectacle from the event we know today. The final of the men's singles (the only event) attracted just 200 spectators, who each paid a shilling to watch the proceedings. The total gate from the entire Championship was £10.
Nowadays, around 355,000 people pour into the grounds to watch the 448 matches in the five other Championship events plus 357 other contests spread over the 18 courts.
Who was Fred Perry? He was the second child of cotton spinner Sam and Hannah Perry. Frederic John Perry learned to play tennis and become a legend while he still breathed and an English household word. Between 1933 and 1936 he would win three Wimbledon singles titles, the American Championships three times, and the Australian and French Championships once. During his short tenure as an amateur player, he led Britain to four successive Davis Cup victories, in which he won over such notable Wimbledon Champions as Henri Cochet, Ellsworth Vines, Sidney Wood and Jack Crawford. Perry holds the distinction of being the last Englishman to win a grand slam event. Yes, the well went dry for England sixty-one years ago. I think they should give him the title of Sir Frederic John Perry if they haven't already done so.
Has Wimbledon always been at its present Church Road Address? No! No! No! Wimbledon's original site was a four-acre plot near the railroad tracks on Worple Road.
The game's popularity developed slowly. In the beginning, it was more social than physical, since both genders participated. Well, after the match, some lighter physical activity probably transpired.
Over the time span of 1903 to 1919, spectators’ interest was cultivated with the arrival of several flashy players, namely Miss May Sutton from the USA, Norman Brooks from Australia, Anthony Wilding from New Zealand and England's own Dorothea Lambert Chambers, who won the title seven times. With spectators coming back, Centre Court seating capacity was increased to 7,000 seats, and the first year after the war, in 1919, the demand for tickets were so great a ballot was held.
In 1921, Mlle Suzanne Lenglen, from the south of France, burst upon the scene. She would dethrone Mrs. Lambert Chambers with a sensational display of stroking consistency. She won the final set, of an obviously tough match, 9-7, and the popularity of women's tennis was catapulted to astronomical heights. With mesmerizing gracefulness, Suzanne Lenglen swept through the competition, and her popularity escalated exponentially with each acrobatic stroke she performed to such an extent that the police had difficulty controlling the crowds. "If I had not seen her play, I would never know how beautiful tennis can be," said Ted Tinling. And 'The Lenglen Trail', i.e., Queue, started reaching from Wimbledon Station to Worple Road.
A year later American 'Big Bill’ Tilden arrived with his thundering serve, and the public's fascination for the sport was further inflamed. The All England Club's founding Fathers were quick to grasps the purport of what their eyes revealed, and they started looking for a larger site for The Lawn Tennis Championships. Their search found approximately 13.5 acres of farming land along Church Road and the rest is history.
And finally it seems that "Queuing" started in 1921; the lottery in 1919; and the scheme for financing improvements, by issuing debentures, was first instituted in 1913.
What woman held the record for the most titles at Wimbledon before Billie Jean King won her 20th? Elizabeth Ryan won 19 titles, 12 doubles, 6 with Suzanne Lenglen and 7 mixed doubles, but no singles titles. Suzanne Lenglen, who commentator and historian Bud Collins nods the best woman player of the 20s, stole her thunder in 1921, and Mrs. Helen Wills Moody, Bud's choice for best of the 30's, denied her in 1930. With this in mind, my plethora of surmise about her singles ability could be wrong. Maybe she was just unlucky or born ten years too soon.
Now, having tread upon this path of great individual achievements, allow me to detail Billie Jean King's. And I'll follow that with the next two most winning women at Wimbledon:

Billie Jean King won 6 singles, 10 doubles and 4 mixed doubles titles for a total of 20.

Martina Navratilova won 9 singles, 7 doubles and 3 mixed doubles titles for a total of 19 (Let's not count her out yet. She won the 1995 mixed doubles title, so she now has 20 wins.)

Suzanne Lenglen won 6 singles, 6 doubles (all with Miss Ryan) and 3 mixed doubles titles for a total of 15.

Only a few men have performed comparably. Willie Renshaw captured six consecutive single titles between 1881 and 1886, while beating Earnest, his twin brother, three times. Nobody talks about Willie's record these days except commentator, historian and hacker Bud Collins, who wrote somewhere that when Borg was playing for his sixth title, the one Gentleman John McEnroe denied him, he was asked if he knew who Willie Renshaw was. Borg stoically replied while his heart beat only once, "Yes, I know who Mr. Renshaw was."
Willie won the Singles Championship again in 1890 and the twins combined to win seven doubles titles making Willie’s 14 titles makes him the all time most wins. Earnest's tally is a mere eight, having won only one singles title, no thanks to his brother. Do you suppose he harbored ill feeling toward Willie? When I started playing the game at forty-nine, it took me four years before I could beat my brother Ben. And I know how bad I always felt after Ben kicked my tail.
Another great brother team, Reggie and Laurie Doherty, followed the Renshaw twins. Laurie would win five consecutive singles titles and team with Reggie to win five consecutive double titles plus three additional doubles titles making him the second most winning male player of all time with 13 titles. Laurie Doherty's remarkable accomplishment, winning five consecutive singles and doubles titles, is nonpareil. It took until 1997, 91 years later, for the Woodies to equal the Doherty's feat in doubles play. And Borg's fifth title came 74 years later.
Interestingly, in the Renshaws and Dohertys days mixed doubles was not offered. Should it have been, it is conceivable that their title tally might have been higher. Mixed doubles started in 1913. Allow me this chauvinistic viewpoint. Take away the ladies mixed doubles titles and their tallies become, King 16, Navratilova 16, Ryan 12 and Lenglen 12. Now, the men of yore compare better. But Mrs. King and Miss Navratilova's accomplishments loom taller than the Empire State Building.
In the new millennium that followed, no such dominance occurred. I know you are thinking, "thank God," not predisposed to hearing about more records, so, I will only mention that John McEnroe, who won eight titles, three singles and five double titles, edges all players in the new century. And, although a few brothers like the Gullickson twins, Mayers and the Jensens have played together, none have enjoyed such great success. But I doubt if the Dohertys and Renshaws were half as colorful as the Jensens.
When Martina, at age 33, won her ninth singles title in 1990, whose record did she break? Eleven years after Californian Helen Wills Moody held up the winner’s trophy for the first time, she held it up again for the eighth time in 1938. She was a super cool baseliner who was super-tough in the Grand Slam events. She was the first 'Ice-Maiden' and then God created Chris Evert. "Records are made to be broken, and I'm just surprised that this one has lasted so long," Evert told John Parsons (Daily Telegraph).

When was the All England Club founded? 1868. … Yes, it's here to stay.
It’s been said by experts that McEnroe and anyone would be a winning team. Get this! John McEnroe and Hackney McTrite (anyone) would be the best doubles team in the world.

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Comment by Mark / The Mayor on February 4, 2009 at 9:09am
Great post! You are making me get all excited for July about 5 months too soon!
I can't wait to see what transpires this year... on the Croquet grounds.
"...the Royal, ancient and lethargic game of croquet is played within the grounds." Very nice.
M

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