The Complete History of Tennis: Part 3

We finished our last post on the History of Tennis at the turn of the century, the turn of the nineteenth century that is.

The year 1900 was not only a fun time for those celebrating the ability to use a whole new number to define their century, it was also a remarkably important moment in the history of tennis.

The very first David Cup match was held. A far cry from the long winded tournament we know and love today. It was but a single event, played between the USA and England – under the guise of Great Britain at the time. Despite being played on their home soil, the Brits were unable to hold the Americans at bay, losing rather embarrassing 3-0.

The David Cup in itself has an interesting story, but we will take a look at that at another time. 

Tennis

Wimbledon Records Are Not Made to be Broken

The years passed smoothly, and before people knew it, 1905 was upon them, and a new tournament was born. The Australian Open was held for the very first time, although it was called the Australasian Open back then, which was just as well really, for in 1906 and 1912 the tournament was held in New Zealand.

The sixth year of the century was not merely content with giving us what would become the lead Grand Slam event of the season. It was also a record setting year to two other reasons, both of which are planted into the annals of Wimbledon history.

The first event was in the Men’s doubles where the Doherty brothers won a record breaking eighth Wimbledon title. Made extra special no doubt by the fact that they were two local boys, born and raised in the town. 

Tennis ball on a clay court

Records Continue to Build

The second record came just a few days later – assuming the competition followed the same or similar format as now, when May Sutton claimed victory in the Women’s Singles competition, making her the very first international winner of the crown.

This was followed by another record setting year in 1907 when Mr Norman Brookes won the tournament, earning the Australian the distinct honour of being the first international male winner of the tournament.

With records of nationality out of the way, the tournament turned its attention to matters of age. In 1908 Charlotte Sterry claimed victory in the women’s championship, and at the age of 37 years and 282 days. Even more interesting than this is the fact that she remains the oldest female winner to this day. As matters would have it, in 1912, at the age of 41 she finished runner up in the tournament - the sixth time for her as an individual player.

Tennis Ball Stuck in a Fence

Will They Ever Be Beat?

Oddly enough, the number 41 does come into play the year after Sterry etched her name into the record books. In 1909 Arthur Gore claimed the male title at the age of 41 years and 182 days. Much like Sterry, this record still stands. Gore also came close to beating his own record when aged 44 he lost in the final of 1912, having suffered a similar fate in 1910.

Writing this and looking at how long these records have stood, I find myself hard to convince that they will ever be beaten. The modern game, the evolution of player abilities and the constant generation of the ‘next big thing’ through academies and programs, not to mention the sheer number of games the players need to play through, and the power and speed with which it is all done, the chances of a player making it to those ages at all, let alone getting to and competing in finals, is just absurd. 

Tennis Balls on Racket

And So the Grand Slam was Born

The early 1900’s were a very influential period in establishing modern tennis. To round off the article, and in essence the formulation of the tennis world we know now, the year of 1912 saw the creation of the quartet, the grand slams that are so fiercely contested today. The International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) came into being. Their first and primary order of business was the creation of the Grand Slam, four Major events that formed part of a cycle, the beginning middle and end of the season. 

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