Perhaps the top tennis championship in the world, Wimbledon is a British institution and one of the iconic places in London. The history of Wimbledon begins with the formation of the All England Croquet Club in 1868. The club embraced “lawn tennis” in 1875, and as the croquet craze died down, tennis became the predominant activity of the club and the “croquet” part of the name was dropped but added back for sentimental reasons in 1899. The club moved to its current location on Church Road in 1922 to accommodate the growing crowds. Little did the founders know that Wimbledon would become even bigger.
Centre Court is the main court at Wimbledon and the name derives from the original Worple Road location, as Centre Court was surrounded by the other tennis courts. The new stadium was designed to hold 14,000 people and was opened by King George V. By World War II, the Championships, Wimbledon were put on hold, but the club was kept open with a small staff. Unfortunately, Centre Court was one of the sites in London that fell victim to the Blitz in 1940. While 1,000 bombs fell on the borough of Wimbledon during the war, it was the one on 11 October 1940 that struck a corner of the competitors’ stand. Wimbledon wouldn’t be able to fix it until 1947 thanks to postwar rationing and the championship was still played on Centre Court even though it meant 1,200 seats were unavailable.
One of the greatest features of Centre Court is its retractable roof. When Wimbledon moved to Church Road in 1922, the championships suffered from a great deal of rain. After enough decades in which matches were postponed due to poor weather, the decision was made to have a retractable roof installed after the 2006 championships. The new roof took approximately three years to build and was finally finished in 2009. For any match in which the roof needs to be deployed, the match will stop while the roof extends over the court, a process that takes around ten minutes. The scoreboard at Centre Court is another of its primary features. The first was a rudimentary scoreboard with panels inserted by hand and lightbulbs used to keep score. This was replaced with a dot matrix scoreboard in the 1980s and an LED scoreboard in 2008, both of these keeping roughly the same aesthetic as the original. The Centre Court is also home to the Royal Box, used primarily for the Royal Family and their guests.
Built two years after Centre Court, No. 1 Court was constructed in 1924 and was attached to the west side of Centre Court. Smaller than Centre Court, No. 1 could hold 3,250 people originally and was eventually expanded to 7,328. The smaller and more intimate atmosphere of No. 1 made it a favourite of players, possibly due to cheers echoing so loudly that Centre Court patrons might think they were at the wrong match. By 1997, demands upon the tournament meant that the original No. 1 was demolished and a new No. 1 built in Aorangi Park that had a seating capacity of 11,432. In 2013, Wimbledon announced that retractable roof would also go over No. 1 Court, work on which began this past year and is expected to be completed in time for the 2019 championships.
Additionally, Wimbledon has a total of 22 grass courts, 8 American clay courts, and 5 indoor courts. The club complex has 16 permanent ground staff, which increases to 24 during the championships. The grass courts are only available from May to September, but Club members and LTA-sponsored players can use the remaining courts year-round. As the institution of Wimbledon continues, you can only expect the courts to change to meet demand new technologies that will help to maintain the popularity of tennis all over the world.