How To Bet On Wimbledon
Making money betting on Wimbledon requires discipline and the ability to identify betting value. Our detailed Wimbledon betting guide will show you how to increase your chances of making a profit at Wimbledon this year.
Betting On Wimbledon: An Introduction
Tennis is the second most popular sport among sports bettors in the world behind soccer – and for good reason: Not only is it an exciting spectator sport featuring some of the most high profile athletes on the planet, it comes with an unbeatable range of betting markets, and lends itself extremely well to live streaming and in-play betting.
The sheer volume of events played internationally means a sports bettor can get some online tennis action 24 hours a day. However, the real betting fun is to be had during the prestigious two-week long Grand Slam events; the US Open, the Australian Open, Roland Garros and of course Wimbledon. The Wimbledon tournament dates will vary from year to year, but from the last week in June to the first week in July, if you love tennis and sports betting, your focus will surely be on action played out on those famous grass courts.
- Betting On Wimbledon Online
- Wimbledon Tournament Format And Seeding
- Wimbledon Betting Odds Explained
- Wimbledon Value Bets
- Wimbledon Betting Explained
- Wimbledon Betting Strategies
- Wimbledon Betting Spreadsheet
- Wimbledon Bookmakers
- Wimbledon Special Offers And Free Bets
- Wimbledon Live Streaming Options
- Wimbledon Betting Tips
- History Of Wimbledon
1 - Betting On Wimbledon Online
Wimbledon: Rarely does just one word conjure up so much sporting imagery. It’s two weeks of English summer when time stands still. It’s pristine grass courts, players clad completely in white, antiquated stands packed full of absorbed fans including major and minor celebrities, the ridiculously rich and even Royalty. It’s Virginia Wade receiving the winner’s trophy from the Queen in 1977, and Andy Murray breaking down in tears when he became Britain’s first male winner for 77 years. Wimbledon is strawberries and cream, the Royal Box and rain delays. It’s Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Evert and Navratilova. It’s “Boom Boom Boris” and “Pistol Pete”. It’s Goran Ivanisevic proving God exists. It’s Borg vs McEnroe in the greatest final ever, and it’s Federer vs Nadal in an even greater one.
Wimbledon is also the single biggest sports betting event on the tennis calendar, an excuse for top bookmakers like William Hill, Stan James, bet365 and Paddy Power to go into overdrive with Special Offers, Free Bets and Enhanced Odds. It’s also an opportunity for you the punter to make a lot of money in a short period of time by cashing in on these offers with the help of bettingexpert and their team of top tennis tipsters.
2 - Wimbledon Tournament Format And Seeding
The Wimbledon schedule features a 128-player main draw for both the men’s and women’s singles events. For many years, Wimbledon relied on its own seeding committee but from 1975 it has adhered to the rankings provided by the ATP for the men’s draw and the WTA for the women, while retaining the right to alter them slightly in their own accordance, often seeding players who have historically performed well on grass a place or two higher than their official world ranking. For example, when defending champions Pete Sampras and Roger Federer had surrendered their world no.1 spots however temporarily to Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal respectively, they were still top seeds at Wimbledon. Originally the top-16 ranked players were seeded, but that figure was raised to the top-32 in 2001 across all four slams.
The object of a seeding system in tennis is to keep the best players in the tournament for as long as possible in order of their ranking. Therefore, a player ranked in the top four cannot face a player ranked inside the world’s top-ten until the last-16 of the tournament, a player in the top-eight until the quarterfinals, and a fellow top-four player until the semis.
Doubles and Junior Events
The doubles competitions (men’s, women’s and mixed) all have 64 pairs in the draw, so while they contain the same amount of players in total, they play one round less. The top-16 doubles pairings are seeded. While the doubles events lack the coverage that the singles gets, doubles matches are often hugely entertaining and feature star pairings like the Bryan twin brothers Bob and Mike, the most successful doubles team in history, with 16 majors including three at Wimbledon. Andy Murray’s brother Jaime is also an exceptional doubles player who has been ranked no.1 in the world.
The boys and girls junior events are for players aged 18 and under, and feature 64-player draws. The juniors gives fans a peak into the future of tennis, and over the years players like Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer have won the boys event, while in recent seasons the girls juniors has featured names like former world no.1 Caroline Wozniacki, Wimbledon finalists Agnieszka Radwańska and Eugenie Bouchard and top British prospect Laura Robson lifting the winners trophy.
Watch Out for Upsets
The great news for sports bettors is that even with the help of the Wimbledon seeding committee, there are still upsets-a-plenty at Wimbledon, especially in the first week. Historically Court 2 was known as the “Graveyard of the Champions” and over the years Wimbledon champions such as Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Virginia Wade, Pete Sampras, Pat Cash, Richard Krajicek, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe all bit the dust in the opening week there.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal has suffered several upset defeats, none more dramatic than his second round loss to world no.100 Lucas Rosol in 2012. In 2014 Rafa was again stunned when he lost to 19-year old Aussie Nick Kyrgios in four thrilling sets in the fourth round. Kyrgios was ranked no.144, but unlike Rosol, he has lived up to the hype that win suggested and become a top-20 player.
Both Rosol and Kyrgios are tall players (6’5” and 6’4” respectively) who serve big and go for their shots, and while the courts at Wimbledon are not as fast as they were in the mid-90s, these kind of players can still spring upsets, especially against baseliners who like to play from the back of the court.
Recent Wimbledon Champions
|Year||Men's Champion||Ladies Champion|
|1996||Richard Krajicek||Steffi Graf|
|1997||Pete Sampras||Martina Hingis|
|1998||Pete Sampras||Jana Novotna|
|1999||Pete Sampras||Lindsay Davenport|
|2000||Pete Sampras||Venus Williams|
|2001||Goran Ivanisevic||Venus Williams|
|2002||Lleyton Hewitt||Serena Williams|
|2003||Roger Federer||Serena Williams|
|2004||Roger Federer||Maria Sharapova|
|2005||Roger Federer||Venus Williams|
|2006||Roger Federer||Amelie Mauresmo|
|2007||Roger Federer||Venus Williams|
|2008||Rafael Nadal||Venus Williams|
|2009||Roger Federer||Serena Williams|
|2010||Rafael Nadal||Serena Williams|
|2011||Novak Djokovic||Petra Kvitova|
|2012||Roger Federer||Serena Williams|
|2013||Andy Murray||Marion Bartoli|
|2014||Novak Djokovic||Petra Kvitova|
|2015||Novak Djokovic||Serena Williams|
3 - Wimbledon Betting Odds Explained
If you want to make money betting on Wimbledon tennis, you must understand what betting odds are. Betting odds reflect the probability of a given outcome occurring, which is often referred to as the implied probability. For example, let's say that Andy Murray is at odds of 1.75 to win an upcoming Wimbledon match. In this instance, according to the bookmakers, Murray is regarded as a 57.1% chance of winning the match. The implied probability can be calculated as:
|Implied probability||=||1 / decimal odds|
Understanding betting odds is important to tennis and Wimbledon betting as it is to betting on any other sport. If you truly want to make money betting on Wimbledon tennis, it's crucial that you understand betting odds and their implied probabilities.
For more advice on betting odds and what they mean take a look at these articles:
4 - Wimbledon Value Bets
The most important thing when it comes to betting, well, the most important thing if you want to make money betting, is to only place bets in instances where you have identified betting value. What is betting value? A value opportunity is when you consider the chances of a given outcome to be greater than the probability implied by the bookmaker's odds.
Determining betting value requires a simple calculation:
|Value||=||(Decimal Odds * Your Assessed Probability) - 1|
So as an example, if we are offered odds of 1.75 (with an implied probability of 57.1%) for Andy Murray to win a Wimbledon match and we consider the likelihood of that outcome to be 65%, then we have a value betting opportunity because our assessed likelihood is greater than that implied in the bookmaker's odds.
For more information on betting value and tennis staking strategies, read the following articles.
5 - Wimbledon Betting Explained
Few sports offer more betting markets than tennis, and these markets will increase during a slam event, particularly Wimbledon. Tennis is also perfectly suited to the popular on-the-go trend of live-betting while using live streaming. In an increasingly mobile world, this means sports bettors can keep up to speed with all the Wimbledon betting odds, Wimbledon results and the Wimbledon schedule, as well as watching the Center Court action while on the road via their phone, tablet or laptop.
Below are just a handful of the most popular among the exciting range of betting markets that will be available during Wimbledon fortnight:
Wimbledon Winner Outright Bets
In a Grand Slam event like Wimbledon that features multiple competitions within the framework of one tournament, an outright bet is a wager on the overall winner of a trophy. That trophy might be for the winner of the men’s or women’s singles or doubles events, a juniors competition or even one of the masters events.
Historically, checking the Wimbledon odds on the men’s or women’s singles and then placing a wager on the winner is almost as commonplace as backing a winner in the Grand National.
Because grass is the surface that is least played on during a season (just seven tournaments, six of them warm-up events for Wimbledon) in comparison to hard courts and clay, the pool of players with a proven track record on the surface is small - likewise the pool of players with the potential to play well on grass. This makes it much easier to choose an outright winner for an event at Wimbledon.
Look to the form of the top-5 seeds on grass. Do they have any grass-court trophies to their names? Have they won at Queens Club or Halle – the two ATP 500 tournaments that are the traditional warm-up events for Wimbledon. Have they performed well at SW19 in the past? What do the tipsters at bettingexpert think? Be sure to check the Wimbledon men’s outright odds and Wimbledon women’s odds before placing your outright bet.
The most popular mode of tennis betting is to make a bet on the outcome of an individual match, e.g., Player A to beat Player B, or Doubles Team A to defeat Doubles Team B. At Wimbledon, always look for the past-history of a player or team on grass, and whether you choose to back a favorite or the underdog, always look for A) a valid reason why you are making that bet, and B) value in the bet.
In the opening week at Wimbledon there will be occasions when a defending champion, former winner or main contender will come up against a player who is out of their depth on grass, and a one-sided pasting will ensue. You want to bet on the bookmakers favorite in such a match, but there is no value in the regular Match Betting odds. This is where Handicap Betting comes in.
In Handicap Betting, you are predicting that a player – let’s say in this case the favorite – will lose no more than 8 games in a five-set match, envisioning a scoreline of 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, which translates to a -8.5 handicap.
Alternatively, you may think the match will be closer, yet still end in three sets, in which case you would predict that the underdog would win more than eight games (+8.5 handicap.) Handicap betting can also be used for the amount of sets you think a match will last.
On clay or hard courts, Correct Score betting – i.e., predicting the exact outcome of an individual set – is a tough call, as there are far more one-sided sets. Because of the speed of the surface and the unpredictability of the bounce, on grass there is a higher incidence of the server holding serve, and sets tend to end 6-4, 7-5 or 7-6. On clay you will see a lot of 6-0 and 6-1 sets, as the serve is rarely a factor. On a fast hardcourt where the bounce is true throughout the match, a set could either be one-sided or tight. On grass, sets always tend to be closer. Therefore while Correct Score set betting remains something of a lottery, it is less so in matches at Wimbledon.
Set betting is selecting the player you think will win a match, then predicting how convincingly they will win that match in terms of sets won and lost. For example, if this is a men’s singles match, you are predicting whether the set scoreline will be 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 to the winner. If you believe your pick will dominate the match with relative ease, you would choose 3-0 for a straight-sets victory. If you believe that your pick might have some trouble with their opponent, you would choose a 3-1 scoreline. If you envision this match will be a hard struggle but you still see your guy coming through, you would most likely choose a 3-2 scoreline.
In Set Betting as in all tennis betting, have a sound theory for your wager. What is the head-to-head record between the two players or doubles teams involved? Head-to-head records will reveal an awful lot about how two players match up. If there are no examples of prior meetings between the two on grass, look to how their matches on hard courts played out.
You can find the head-to-heads of all players on the ATP and WTA websites. Simply look for one of the players, and on their profile page you will see the head-to-head option.
6 - Wimbledon Betting Strategies
No matter the sport, when it comes to betting it makes sense to have a sound strategy in place tailored to that particular discipline. Because tennis is played on three radically different surfaces, three separate betting strategies are needed. Those strategies need to be adapted further if the event in question is a Grand Slam.
Past Record In Slams/Wimbledon
In the 26 seasons between 1990 and 2015, only eleven players have won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles trophy, less than any other slam during that time period.
It takes a certain type of player to win a slam, Wimbledon in particular. Luckily for sports bettors, players rarely have one-off great seasons at Wimbledon. Winners often win more than one trophy, and even those that don’t win tend to go deep in the tournament in successive seasons, making them good options for Match Betting.
If you like a particular player in a bet, ask yourself these questions; what is their previous record in slams? How have they performed at Wimbledon? A quick check on the ATP or WTA websites will provide you with the answers you need.
How Does A Player Perform On Grass?
In general Wimbledon winners – particularly the men – fit a distinct profile. If we stick to post-1968 and the open era, great champions include Rod Laver, John Newcombe, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. All six of these players possess excellent serves and are exceptional volleyers. Because grass is a fast surface, it lends itself to fast servers, and because of the irregularity of the bounce and comparative strangeness of the surface, removing a rally from the equation by virtue of a point-winning volley is always a good option to have.
However the conundrum is that one of Wimbledon’s greatest ever champions – Bjorn Borg – and some of its more recent winners – Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, are baseliners. These players all have solid serves and can volley when required, but prefer to play their tennis from the back of the court. Andre Agassi, winner in 1992 and runner-up in 1999 was another baseliner who in theory should have struggled at Wimbledon but in practice was a contender whenever he played there.
The bottom line is, if a player is good enough - and just as importantly - if they enjoy the whole Wimbledon grass court experience, they will be in with a shot at lifting the trophy. While Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal will be top contenders at Wimbledon for the foreseeable future, double-slam winner Stan Wawrinka, hard-hitting Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga and the supremely talented but erratic Grigor Dimitrov all have the skills to take the title. Young players to look out for include Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Jack Sock and teen sensations Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz.
Which Seeds Are Vulnerable On Grass?
Historically, great clay-court players rarely transfer their skill-set to grass. As surfaces go, clay and grass are at extreme opposites, with one favoring the super-fit baseline retriever, and the other more suited to the super-fast serve-volleyer. While the two greatest clay-court players in history – Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal – adapted amazingly well to grass, a whole host of other great clay-courters over the decades like Manolo Orantes, Guillermo Vilas, Thomas Muster, Gustavo Kuerten, Juan Carlos Ferrer and more recently Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer have struggled to make an impact at Wimbledon.
The disparity is less so among the women, and most top female players adapt equally well to both clay and grass. All of the great women players of the open era have won both the French Open and Wimbledon, including Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
While the modern tennis player is adept on all surfaces, they are naturally inclined to favor one over another. For many years, the country with the most players ranked in the top-100 of the ATP rankings is Spain. Spanish, Italian and South American players are taught the game on clay courts, and spend their formative years on the red dirt. This means that since the open era there has been eleven winners from Spain, Italy and Latin America at Roland Garros, but those combined nations have produced only one Wimbledon champion – Rafael Nadal.
Therefore if a seeded player from Spain, Italy or Latin America comes up against a big-serving underdog in the opening week of Wimbledon, an upset might well be on the cards!
Check Head-to-Head Matchups
When wagering on Wimbledon, one of the easiest ways to get a handle on a tennis bet - whether you are looking at a Match Bet, Handicap, Correct Score or Set Betting - is to check the head-to-head of the two players or the two doubles teams involved. To do this you need to log onto the ATP or WTA website, enter the name of one of the players in the match, and when their profile page appears, scroll down to the head-to-head option, then add the name of the second player. If the players have met before you will see all of the results, scorelines and stats of their matches, when and where they took place and what surfaces those matches were played on. You can see at a glance who has got the better of their encounters, if they were hard-fought or easy matches, average games per set etc.
If there are some corresponding grass-court fixtures between them you can get an insight into how a match between these two at Wimbledon might go. If there are no grass meetings but they have played on another fast surface like a hard court, use that as a reference. If you are still in doubt, check bettingexpert’s tennis tipsters for advice.
Best Tennis Stats Sites
If you're looking for tennis stats to help your Wimbledon tennis betting analysis, here's our top five sites for tennis betting stats:
2016 Wimbledon Schedule Of Play
|Monday, June 27th||First Round|
|Tuesday, June 28th||First Round|
|Wednesday, June 29th||Second Round|
|Thursday, June 30th||Second Round|
|Friday, July 1st||Third Round|
|Saturday, July 2nd||Third Round|
|Sunday, July 3rd||No Play|
|Monday, July 4th||Round of 16|
|Tuesday, July 5th||Women's Qtr Finals|
|Wednesday, July 6th||Men's Qtr Finals|
|Thursday, July 7th||Women's Semi Finals|
|Friday, July 8th||Men's Semi Finals|
|Saturday, July 9th||Women's Final|
|Sunday, July 10th||Men's Final|
7 - Wimbledon Betting Spreadsheet
Keeping a record of your tennis betting is crucial to being a long term profitable tennis bettor. Only through keeping track of each of your bets can you see where you are going right, and in which situations you are showing poor discipline and making errors of judgement. To assist you with this, we've developed the bettingexpert Tennis betting spreadsheet. It's free and you can download it now.
It's easy to use. Simply enter the tennis tournament you are betting on, the date, the bet description, your stake, the odds and the bookmaker you placed the bet with. Once the event has been completed, select either Win, Loss or Refund from the Result options and the spreadsheet will calculate your profit or loss plus your running profit/loss and your overall golf betting ROI.
8 - Wimbledon Bookmakers
There are few annual sporting events that rival Wimbledon for the amount of betting traffic it generates during its two week run. Wimbledon is big business for all of the major European bookmakers, and the good news is, as they are all vying for your attention, there will be an abundance of Free Bets, Special Offers and Enhanced Odds wagers to take advantage of.
Before opening your Wimbledon betting campaign, you’ll need to select a bookmaker that’s up to the task. Here are a few suggestions of what to look for.
Tennis Betting Markets
For Wimbledon you need a bookmaker that’s already geared toward Wimbledon tennis betting, and has an excellent selection of tennis betting markets that they can easily expand on during Wimbledon fortnight. Most of the top UK based bookmakers like bet365 and Paddy Power do a first rate job covering tennis, but by using an odds comparison site, you may find even more tennis markets covered by rivals such as Betfair and Bet Victor.
Always use a reputable online bookmaker. For Wimbledon betting, use the top European based bookmakers (bet365, William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfair, Ladbrokes, Bet Victor etc.) who are legally licensed in their own countries. If in any doubt, stick to the bookmakers listed on bettingexpert and you won’t go wrong.
Quality of Odds
The odds in a bet determine how much you will win from a successful wager, so be sure to choose a bookmaker that consistently provides odds that are among the very best available.
Because games in a tennis match last on average 3-5 minutes, In-Play betting during a tennis match is a lot of fun, and with a basic knowledge of the sport and the players on the court – can be highly lucrative.
Because of the speed of the grass courts at Wimbledon, service breaks happen less often than they do on clay for example, so you can bet with consistency on the server, which will only add to the tension when you go for broke and back a player to make that decisive set-winning break of serve!
9 - Wimbledon Special Offers & Free Bets
Wimbledon is a very big deal in the annual sports betting calendar, and there are always a ton of Special Offers, Enhanced Odds and Free Bets to be had during Wimbledon fortnight. If you are already affiliated with an online bookmaker, you may have to align yourself with several more, as these offers don’t come around as often as they do in a football season for example, and should be capitalized on.
Expect to see online bookies adverts asking you to “Sign up for £20 and get £50 in Free Wimbledon Bets!” or “Sign up to our Mobile App today and get a £50 Free Wimbledon Bet!“ If Murray is playing Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, you will see “Get Enhanced Odds of 10/1 on Murray Beating Djokovic” etc. On finals day, you will even get enhanced odds on the Wimbledon odds-on winner selection.
If these bets, odds and offers are with reputable bookmakers it’s a no-brainer that you cash in on as many of them as you can. After all, it’s free money, and with bettingexpert’s Wimbledon tipsters help, you will most likely be winning a lot more of it!
For the latest Wimbledon bookmaker offers, check the bettingexpert Free Bets page.
10 - Wimbledon Live Streaming Options
If you are a UK resident, you have been spoiled rotten over the years by the superb Wimbledon BBC coverage. Let’s face it, the BBC do an excellent job with their annual coverage of the Wimbledon championships. But if you are living outside the UK, you will have to rely on the satellite TV coverage provided by the country you live in, and that will never be as concise as the BBC’s coverage. However there is an alternative; bet365 Wimbledon Live-Streaming.
In 2015 bet365 signed an exclusive deal to live-stream Wimbledon matches. What this means is as long as you have an account with bet365 that has some money in it (€10 minimum) you can watch unlimited matches throughout the Wimbledon fortnight absolutely free.
You can enjoy Wimbledon live-streaming free online and watch HD-quality matches with expert commentary on your PC, laptop, tablet or phone, so you can keep up with all of the action at home or on the road. Live-streaming works great when used in conjunction with in-play betting, allowing you to wager on the next game of a match, then watch how it plays out, even if you are following it “on-the-go” on your mobile device!
No matter where you are - waiting for a bus, on a train, at the office or out shopping with your partner - bet365’s live-streaming service means you never need to miss any of the big games at this year’s Wimbledon.
11 - Wimbledon Betting Tips
Bettingexpert.com is home to the best team of online tennis tipsters in the business, and these guys really earn their stripes during Wimbledon fortnight. Our top tipsters are already off-the-scale when it comes to profitability and consistency , and they raise their games even further for Wimbledon. Not only are they experts at selecting Wimbledon winners, they will also hunt down the very best Wimbledon betting odds available for their selections.
You can see for yourself just how consistently successful our tennis tipsters are by going to the Tennis Tips page on bettingexpert and then scrolling down to the Tennis Tipster League. There you will see stats for each tipster’s total bets made, profitability and yield margin.
If you are an experienced tennis bettor and also a tennis aficionado, you might think that you have no need for the predictions of a tennis tipster, no matter how impressive their stats might be, and that is your prerogative. You might pride yourself on your deep knowledge of Wimbledon and believe that you can pick the winner of a match or assess a handicap bet as well as anyone, and you might be right. You might also be wrong!
What about betting odds for Wimbledon tennis? Would you know how to find the best Wimbledon odds for your winner pick? There might be far better odds out there than your current bookmaker is providing. Do you have the patience to monitor the Wimbledon draw for interesting betting matchups and to check the Wimbledon results daily?
The difference between a knowledgeable sports fan who likes betting, and a virtual-professional sports bettor who approaches sports betting as a science is vast. No matter how hard you try, you will make the occasional bet based on emotion – your liking for Player A or your dislike for Player B. Bettingexpert’s tipsters are dispassionate. They simply weigh up the facts and the stats then make their Wimbledon betting picks and Wimbledon betting predictions. They then select the bookmaker that is providing the best Wimbledon tennis odds for that prediction. So not only do you get a winning pick, you get the best bookies to bet with!
At bettingexpert we always encourage bettors to learn something of the sport they are wagering on. As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is Power”, and the more you know about tennis, the different factors that come into play during a slam event, and what players perform well on the grass courts of Wimbledon, the more chances you will have of being successful when betting Wimbledon tennis.
However if you just don’t have the time (or inclination) to do the research required to bet successfully and consistently throughout the Wimbledon fortnight, but you would still like to bet on the great sporting event that is Wimbledon, why not give bettingexpert’s tennis tipsters a try?
12 - History Of Wimbledon
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and was first staged in 1877 and won by Spencer Gore. The game we see played with such pace, power and intensity today is light-years away from what it was back then; men wore long trousers and women wore long skirts, limiting movement. Rackets were small faced, wooden and rigid. Nevertheless, there were some prolific Wimbledon winners in those early days; William Renshaw won the men’s singles trophy a record seven times between 1881 and 1889, and Dorothy Lambert Chambers won the women’s singles title seven times also, from 1903 to 1914. It must be noted that during this early period of Wimbledon’s history, the Challenge Round was in effect, which meant that the “All Comers” tournament was played out as normal, but the winner of that event would then face the defending champion in the Challenge Round for the Wimbledon trophy, which often resulted in the defending champion retaining their title.
The early years of the Wimbledon championships saw an almost complete domination by home-grown players, but after a four year hiatus due to the First World War, things began to change. The Challenge Round was abolished in 1922, and heralded in successive eras where lawn tennis became more of a sport and less of a quaint “game”, aided by the arrival of some outstanding foreign players.
Tilden, Three Musketeers, Lenglen and Wills, Perry and Budge
The standout players at Wimbledon during the 1920s were the great American “Big” Bill Tilden who won four times – his last aged 37. Three of France’s “Four Musketeers” Jean Borotra, Rene Lacoste and Henri Cochet between them won the men’s singles every year from 1924-29. The 1920s also saw the advent of the first big stars of women’s tennis with the flamboyant Suzanne Lenglen of France and the athletic American Helen Wills Moody – the latter going on to dominate the game for the best part of a decade and win 19 majors including eight Wimbledons.
The 1930s saw Wimbledon play host to the great Fred Perry, who won the trophy three straight years between 1935-37, a post-Challenge Round record that would stand for 42 years. Perry would be Britain’s last men’s singles winner for 77 years. Other legends of the 1930s included the Americans Ellsworth Vines, famed for his ferocious serve, and Don Budge, who became the first player to win the coveted Grand Slam of all four majors in 1938, and is still regarded as one of the game’s all-time greats.
The Colonies Dominate SW19
In the years that followed World War 2 until tennis went open in 1968, Wimbledon was virtually dominated by a stream of great players that heralded from two nations - the USA and in particular Australia. The 1950s and early 1960s saw an abundance of supremely talented Aussies like Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson dominate the men’s singles. Women’s tennis at Wimbledon during that era featured a succession of outstanding players, including the US teen phenomena Maureen “Little Mo” Connelly who won three winners trophies – the first aged 16 - and also won the Grand Slam, but whose career was ended aged 19 after falling off a horse.
America’s Althea Gibson won the women’s singles in 1957 and 58, and became the first black Wimbledon champion. The 1960s were dominated by two icons of women’s tennis – Australia’s Margaret Court, who still holds the record for the most slam singles titles, and Billie Jean King of the US, not only a great champion, but the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). There were also two British female winners during the 1960s, Angela Mortimer lifted the Wimbledon singles trophy in 1961, and Ann Jones would do the same in 1969.
Wimbledon Goes Open: Connors, Borg, Chrissie and Ginny
Since tennis became a professional sport, the standards have increased dramatically decade upon decade, as the pool of talented youngsters encouraged to play from a very early age grows larger. The USA were still producing Wimbledon champions during the 1970s with Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, who won Wimbledon in 1974 and 1982, and the late Arthur Ashe, who pulled off the greatest upset in tennis history when he defeated Connors in the 1975 Wimbledon final. But the 70s belonged to a young Swede named Bjorn Borg who would win the men’s singles a then record five-straight times from 1976-1980. Borg’s success would resonate with a whole generation of kids across Europe, many who would go on to become top players themselves.
In the women’s game, the era of Court and King gave way to a new wave of talent led by Evonne Goolagong of Australia and Chris Evert of the US. British veteran Virginia Wade won the women’s Wimbledon title in the Queens Jubilee year of 1977, and had her trophy handed to her by Her Majesty herself.
McEnroe, Becker and Martina Change Tennis Forever
1977 was also the year punk rock would explode onto the UK mainstream, and tennis had its very own member of the punk establishment in John McEnroe, who reached the Wimbledon singles semifinals in 1977 as a qualifier, going on to lose to Bjorn Borg in the 1980 final - the greatest final ever seen at that time, and then win three trophies of his own in 1981, ’82 and ’84. McEnroe became better known for his temper than his talent on the court, and his outbursts with officials over line calls are still unmatched to this day. Despite outrage at the time, McEnroe’s antics put “bums on seats” and elevated the demand for personalities in sport.
In 1978 Martina Navratilova won the first of a record nine singles at Wimbledon. Navratilova was both a super-athlete and a perfectionist, and she ushered in a new era where high-tech training, sports science, nutrition and video-feedback would become essential parts of the preparation for winning tennis matches, and pure talent would never again be enough.
In 1985 a 17-year old German named Boris Becker shocked Wimbledon and the sporting world when he sledgehammered his way to the men’s singles title, laying to waste the McEnroe era with his power game. Becker would go head-to-head with tall, elegant Swede Stefan Edberg for bragging rights to SW19, splitting five titles between them.
If the first half of the 1980s belonged to Martina, the second belonged to Steffi Graf, yet another prodigy from Germany, whose first of a total of seven Wimbledon singles titles in 1988 formed part of an incredible year that saw her win the Grand Slam plus Olympic Gold.
Sampras, Federer vs Nadal, the Williams Sisters, Murray and Djokovic
From the 1990s onward, men’s tennis at Wimbledon has been dominated by two of the game’s greatest ever players – Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. Each won seven singles titles, and both can lay claim to be the best player ever on grass. While Sampras benefited from faster courts that suited his massive serve and volleying skills, Federer has played in an era of slower grass courts allowing for some epic battles, none more so than his 2008 losing final against fellow modern great Rafael Nadal which is universally regarded as the greatest match ever played by both experts and fans alike.
Since that epic, Federer and Nadal have been joined on the winners roster by Novak Djokovic, who is already staking his claim to being another modern great, and Scotland’s Andy Murray, who became the first British male winner in 77 years when he lifted the trophy in 2013.
The new millennium saw two black sisters named Venus and Serena Williams from the mean streets of Compton, California, blessed with size, power and an abundance of talent take over women’s tennis – Wimbledon in particular. Venus won five titles, Serena won six, and they were so good, on four occasions they played each other in finals.
The most recent group of Wimbledon winners have been so strong and so far ahead of the field, even as they head toward the final years of their careers, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray as well as Venus and Serena Williams look set to feature in many more showpiece finals on the most famous center court in tennis.