Wimbledon has seen many changes over the course of its life, from the demise of the wooden tennis racquet to the introduction of Hawk-eye. Here is our list of the five changes that have had the greatest affect on the Championships.
5. The tie-break
By the 1970s sport and television had become co-dependent, but one major problem was keeping games to some sort of schedule. In 1970 tennis introduced the tie-break – the first player to seven with a two point break. This greatly reduced the length of matches, making the tournament and schedule easier to plan. The tie-break was first used at Wimbledon in 1971 and the most famous tie-break was won by John McEnroe against Bjorn Borg in the 1980 men’s final.
4. The roof over Centre Court
When the roof is closed for the first time, probably at some stage during the 2009 Championships, it will mark another major development in Wimbledon’s history. The roof will allow play on Centre Court no matter the weather, which means the fans will always have something to watch, the TV will have something to broadcast, the media will have something to report and the Championships are no longer beholden to grey skies.
3. The Open era
In 1968 the Grand Slams abandoned the rule banning professionals. This meant players could now earn a living by playing tennis and still compete in the major tournaments; as more players turned pro it led to a torrent of new money flowing into the game and improvements in player fitness and standards.
2. BBC comes to Wimbledon
Play was televised for the first time in 1937 when matches were transmitted by the BBC from Centre Court for up to half an hour each day of the meeting. Last year some 762.1 million homes globally had access to part of the 11,509 hours of Wimbledon broadcast. Television has made a tennis tournament in a corner of London one of the world’s major sporting events.
1. Invention of the lawn mower
Prior to this invention the only way to maintain a sports field was by letting animals graze on it or to cut it with a scythe. Lawn mowers allowed the proper cultivation of a grass tennis court. How many goats and cows would it take to keep 18 grass courts to Wimbledon’s high standards? In fact, you could argue that Wimbledon owes its life to the lawn mower: according to Tim Harris in ‘Sport – Almost everything you ever wanted to know’ in 1877 the All England Club staged the first Championships to raise money for a new mower.