Five cool things we found in the Wimbledon library


1. When Wimbledon was bombed.
This was in the official announcements section of the 1946 programme for The Championships:

“On the night of Friday, 11th October, 1940, a ‘stick’ of five 500-pound bombs straddled the club grounds. The first bomb demolished the club tool house. The second bomb of the ‘stick’ fell on the roof of Centre Court. The third bomb fell in Church Road at the club N.E. entrance and the last two produced two bunkers in the Wimbledon Park Golf Club. The damage to the Centre Court means a loss of 1,200 seats.
2. Cricket once took precedence.

“22 gentlemen entered their names for the first tournament and one C.F. Buller, an old Etonian, withdrew. Since it was not finished by Thursday, play was held over until the following Monday. Such had been laid down in the prospectus, for it was the weekend of the Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord’s. It was inconceivable then, as it was for many years, that this highlight of the social season could be ignored,” that was written about the first Wimbledon in a history of the tournament that appeared in the Centenary Programme of 1977.

3. If practice makes perfect then the opposite is true, even 111 years ago. This is from the Wimbledon review in the July 2, 1898 edition of The Field – The Country Gentlemen’s Newsletter:

“The weather today was everything that could be desired, there being practically no wind, and the light was decidedly good. The Messrs Doherty had very little difficulty in retaining the Double Championship, defeating their opponents – Messrs Nisbet and Hobart – three sets in succession, their combination was very much superior; and, indeed, this was hardly to be wondered at, considering that Messrs Nisbet and Hobart had never previously practiced together.”

4. The food and drink areas were not always managed so effectively.
This was written in The Pastime: The Lawn-Tennis Journal, the Football Journal and the weekly record of Athletics, Cycling and Aquatics on July 7, 1886:

“One more grumble and we have done. After the conclusion of the matches on the centre court, or on one of the lower courts, there is invariably a rush to the refreshment rooms. Spectators stroll across in rear of the two courts near them, and thus greatly annoy the players and interfere with their games”.

5. Arguments about the ‘greatest match of all-time’ are as old as tennis itself.
From Peter Wilson’s preview to the tournament in the 1981 official programme  (cost £1.50).

“Talking about that match [the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, which featured the famous ‘tie-break’], while I’m certainly prepared to admit that it was one of the truly memorable finals I can’t agree with those who claim that it almost qualified as the greatest. Nor do you have to go back to the long-white-flannels-for-men era to find one which was the equal of last year’s cliffhanger: Recall the Borg-Connors final of 1977.”

Visitors to Wimbledon can view the Kenneth Ritchie Library, which contains one of the most outstanding collections of tennis books and periodicals. Here is more information about arranging a visit.

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