Who Invented Wimbledon?
Who invented Wimbledon? No, it wasn’t the wombles. When we speak of Wimbledon, we all know that rip-roaring rallies and super smashes lay ahead. But how exactly did the legendary tennis tournament declare game, set and match, and become the world’s most important location for hitting unstoppable aces?
Join Jaques of London, as we give a nod to our own legacy and ask, who invented Wimbledon?
How Did Wimbledon Start?
The origins of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament are surprisingly less based in tennis than they are in another popular garden game. Nowadays, it would be hard to imagine anything other than aggressive grunts, backhand slices and precise lobs gracing the hallowed grounds. But once upon a time, tennis at Wimbledon was little more than an afterthought.
Did you know, Jaques of London played a key role in bringing the Wimbledon Tennis Championships to life? Long before tennis made its way onto the famous grass courts, the centre stage of SW19 was home to another popular lawn game, Croquet.
It was of course John Jaques II who was famed for bringing croquet to our shores during the world-renowned Great Exhibition of 1851. This giant showcase of the countries greatest in industry and culture would see more than a third of the countries population pass through, making croquet the latest pastime to excite the masses.
When Did Wimbledon Begin?
By 1868, croquet had grown to such a degree that 6 sporting gentlemen felt fit to open the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. By 1875, a single court had been set aside in order for Tennis to be given a space to shine – although it was known by the less welcoming name of ‘Sphairistike’ – perhaps a sign that croquet was still the national craze of choice.
However, things would soon change and the true inventors of the Wimbledon tournament as we know it would steal a march on croquet, knocking their balls out of place in the quest to make tennis the nation’s next favourite game. It would only be another 2 years before the first full competitive tournament would be held, with it’s winner, Spencer Gore declaring that, “Lawn tennis will never rank among our great games.”
Unfortunately for John Jaques II, this would not be the case. The popularity of tennis erupted in the following years, with the introduction of women’s matches, double tournaments and mixed competitions, making croquet a distant memory of the newly founded Church Road site, where the tournament is still held to this day. By 1882, the word croquet was removed from the club name altogether.
When Wimbledon Meant Tennis
By 1932, Wimbledon was already a national treasure, with the tournament playing host to 200,000 eager tennis attendees. Fortunately, this wouldn’t be the end of the John Jaques tale when it comes to rackets, bats, nets and balls. The man responsible for bringing croquet to a nation excited for new leisure activities, may have seen his creation diminished by the emergence of an all-new lawn game, but he certainly wasn’t finished making an impact on fun.
But, for now, tennis had won the match. Despite the uncertain proclamations of its very first champion, 2021 will mark the 134th edition of the tournament, where professionals such as Boris Becker, Billie Jean King, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Pete Sampras have brought thousands to their feet in the elation of centre court.
For more fascinating sporting facts, keep an eye on Jaques of London in the coming month. With the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in full swing, we will be taking a look at the origins of some of the countries most popular, traditional games.
And of course, as the world’s oldest games manufacturers, don’t be surprised to see the Jaques name pop up along the way. So, the next time you wonder who invented Wimbledon, look no further than the gaming legacy of Jaques of London.