Creation of the Grand Slams – Wimbledon and the US Open
There are four international tennis tournaments that take precedence in world tennis and they are the celebrated grand slams or majors of the sport- the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
The tennis grand slams are the most valuable tournaments on the circuit and carry the largest prize funds of the professional game. Successful players are further rewarded by double ranking points that count towards the year end ranking and they remain the only tournaments where the men have to contest the best of 5 sets.
All these tournaments, bar one, the Australian Open, have been contested by the greats of the game since the late 1800’s and all of them still ooze the prestige and status they enjoyed way back then.
The Wimbledon Championships
The Wimbledon Championships kicked off at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877 but this time around only the male tennis player’s battled it out for the crown of Wimbledon. The organisers managed to entice close on 200 smartly dressed spectators to the maiden clash and at a shilling a pop it must have felt as though they had hit pay dirt!
Spencer Gore, an old Harrow man and an accomplished cricketer for Surrey, picked up the maiden title by thrashing his hapless opponent, William Marshall, in three easy sets but it was the twin Renshaw brothers, William and Ernest, who dominated the Championships for well over a decade.
The first foreigner to claim the grass court crown was the legendary Norman Brooks from Australia. He claimed the singles title in 1907 & 1914 and went on to be knighted for his distinguished service to the game. The trophy for the men’s singles champion at the Australian Open is named after this ground breaking tennis player who was instrumental in the formation of the Australian Open in 1905.
The Watson sisters, Maud and Lillian, contested the final of the first ever ladies singles event at the Wimbledon Championships in 1884 and it was the younger of the two, Maud, who claimed the kudos!
The US Open
The precursor to the US Open, the US National Men’s Singles Championship, was first contested at Newport, Rhode Island in 1881 and local boy, Dick Sears obliterated his rival, William Glyn 6-0 6-3 6-2. Sears went on to set an all-time record of seven, successive titles, a record that still stands today.
But the tournament only really donned the mantle of an international competition in 1926 when Frenchmen Rene Lacoste and Jean Borotra battled it out for the title. The fabulous Fred Perry became the first Englishman to win the US Open in 1933 and he went on to claim the title again in 1934 and 1936!
The inaugural ladies event was held in Philadelphia six years after the maiden men’s singles event and local Philly filly, Ellen Hansell, bludgeoned her way to a dominant victory over her American rival, Laura Knight 6-1 6-0.