GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE

ABOUT THE GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE

The origins of the Grand Slam tennis archive date back several years. The four Grand Slam tournaments are the pinnacle of the game, so all the Grand Slam tennis that has taken place is of relevance. Although the final may be the most watched match of the tournament, crucial events have often taken place earlier on. There have been a number of championships where the eventual winner was match point down earlier in the event. How many times has a hot favourite lost early or a memorable five set match occurred in the first week? And what of all those hundreds of players that have never reached the latter stages? They are as much a part of the event as the champion and their matches can often affect the eventual outcome of the event.

Researching the archive has been a long process. Hunting down old tennis magazines which contain Grand Slam results has formed the main part of the research. Two books (both out of print) have been useful also. 100 Wimbledon Championships by John Barrett was invaluable for early Wimbledon championship draws. Tennis Observed by Bill Talbert, now a very scarce book, was similarly invaluable for early US Championship draws. Andrew Tasiopoulos kindly provided a source for the pre-war Australian championships, which were transcribed onto the archive a year after the archive first came online. The London Times was a particularly useful source of World Hard Court Championships results. Typing up all the results for the archive into a consistent format took many months. Each match result contains the player's first initial and surname and the match score (where known). For finals the player's first name is also shown.

It is more difficult to find women's results (Tennis Observed contains men's singles results only for instance). There are four different ways married women are listed in most publications: L. Austin (ignoring the marriage), Mrs. L. Austin-Greville, Mrs. L. Greville or Mrs. G. Greville. As the initial G is the husband's initial, any publications with this format of listing have been transcribed with the initial missing or the woman's initial substituted (where known). Linking together players' maiden names and married names proved a lengthy process, as most publications would list a player as Miss. L. Austin and after she married would list her as Mrs. G. Greville. On this website married women are hyphonated (with maiden names written first) if they previously reached a Grand Slam quarter final before marriage (L. Austin becomes Mrs. L. Austin-Greville). This makes it easier to track the performance of players. This website contains women's singles results from quarter finals onwards.

Grand Slam doubles results are difficult to track down. Although, in the early days, there was as much interest in men's doubles as in men's singles, the interest fluctuated depending on which teams were around at the time. Wimbledon doubles events have always received far more publicity than doubles events at the other Grand Slams. In recent years Grand Slam doubles events have been minor events in comparison to the singles competitions.


THE MEN'S GAME

The game of 'lawn tennis', as it was known, began in Great Britain in 1873, when Major Walter Wingfield patented the game and sold it in boxed sets. It quickly took off and sold worldwide. Wimbledon was the first tournament in the world to adopt the form of scoring that is still in use today. It began in 1877 at its' Worple Road site and was immediately seen as the premier event in the sport. The U.S. Championships began at Newport, Rhode Island in 1881 and, like Wimbledon, very quickly established itself as one of the top events. The court dimensions have remained the same since 1882 and the only significant change in the scoring system was the introduction of the tie break in 1970. By the mid 1880s, the standard of play was not high, but at least the men were all serving overarm. Around the turn of the century the Doherty brothers elevated the game to another level, though the general standard of play was still not particularly high. J. Parmly Paret in his 1904 book Lawn tennis: Its past, present, and future emphasised that the Dohertys were a class above the other players but said "while the Dohertys have been steadily improving their play, most of the other English players have been stagnated and have made little or no progress... so, as we find it today, English lawn tennis is not greatly altered from what it was fifteen years ago". The Davis Cup began in 1900 as players from Britain and the U. S. began to cross the ocean more frequently. After the Dohertys came Anthony Wilding and Norman Brookes, the first superstars from Australasia. The Australasian championships began in 1905, but for many years contained only domestic fields, apart from 1908, 1912, 1915 and 1919, when rare overseas entrants proved victorious. Before the First World War the event contained small draws (often less than 16 players) and was held in a variety of different venues spread across Australasia.

By 1912 tennis had become more international. Wimbledon and the U. S. championships had their first overseas winners in the previous decade as players began to travel more. In 1912 three 'World Championship' titles came into existence when the I. L. T. F. was formed. They were the championships of grass, 'hard courts' (an old fashioned term for clay) and 'covered courts' (indoors). Wimbledon was the World Grass Court Championships. The World Hard Court Championships were held at St. Cloud in Paris (and one year in Brussels). Many of the top players played in the World Hard Court Championships. The World Covered Court Championships were held at a variety of venues but they did not thrive like the other two events. The concept of the three World Championship titles was scrapped in 1923 due to pressure from the United States. It must be said that throughout the period that the three World Championship titles were held, the U. S. championships continued to be a top event. The U. S. had outgrown its' original venue at Newport, so in 1915 it moved to a larger site at Forest Hills, New York. In the early twenties the entrants for the Covered Court championships were Europeans, whilst the U. S. championships attracted a number of top overseas players, plus all of the top U. S. stars.

In 1922 New Zealand withdrew from the A. L. T. A. (this meant the Australasian became the Australian championships) and women played in the tournament for the first time. From then on the men's event usually had draws of 32 or more and larger venues were built to accomodate the tournament (the site at Rushcutters Bay replaced the Double Bay site in Sydney and the new stadium at Kooyong was preferred to the courts at the Albert Reserve in Melbourne). However, overseas players were still few and far between. The French championships (which had been an event for members of French clubs that had begun in 1891) opened its doors to international players in 1925 and took over the mantle of the World Hard Court Championships, though the term 'World Championship' was now obsolete. The French championships' original sites at St. Cloud and the Racing Club were too small to accomodate the growing tournament so they set about building a new venue. Wimbledon had also outgrown its' Worple Road site and in 1922 it moved to a new site at Church Road.

The 1920s was tennis' first golden era. One of the greatest players of all time, Bill Tilden, was at his peak at this time. Tilden changed the game from an austere Edwardian pastime into a highly competitive sport played in front of packed galleries in the major arenas of the world. After dominating the early part of the decade, Tilden was overtaken by two of the four French Musketeers (Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste). In 1928 the stadium at Roland Garros was built so that as many spectators as possible could see Tilden's clashes with the Musketeers in the Davis Cup. It also became the permanent home of the French championships. In America, the Pacific Southwest Championships began in 1927 and, though not a national championship, was the top tournament of the pre-open era held on hard courts. There was a thriving American tournament circuit culminating in the U. S. Championships and the Pacific Southwest tournament.

Although the French, Wimbledon and U. S. championships have always been the premier events in tennis, they have not always contained the best male players. In fact the term 'open' was only strictly accurate from 1968 onwards, when the game became open to professionals for the first time. From 1931 to 1967, many of the game's top amateurs turned professional and were not permitted to play in the Grand Slam events again. With Tilden, Cochet and Ellsworth Vines lost to the pro ranks, Fred Perry set new standards of fitness which brought the game forward in the 1930s. Perry then turned professional himself.

The Australian championships had always been the top tournament in the Asia Pacific region, but tennis was not big in this region. Before the Second World War air travel was rare and the boat trip to Australasia was a long one for the top players who came from America and Europe. Few foreign players made the trip. However, one that did was J. Donald Budge, who played the tournament in 1938. He set his sights on winning the championships of the four nations that had won the Davis Cup (Britain, France, U. S. and Australia). When he succeeded in his goal his achievement became known as the 'Grand Slam'. This gave the Australian championships added kudos. It also coincided with a period in which Australia produced many of the world's best players. To win their own championship was always a main goal of all the Australian players.

After Budge turned pro having won the Grand Slam, the likes of Bobby Riggs, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad and Rod Laver followed him into the pro ranks. Had the game always been open, Laver, Rosewall and Gonzales would all have won more Grand Slam titles than current record holder Roger Federer. However, whilst the pro game had some of the best players, it had no tournaments of the stature of the French, Wimbledon and U. S. Championships. The period from 1952-1962, when Jack Kramer was in charge of the pro game, saw the majority of top amateurs sign pro contracts. In 1950 the Italian championships was held for the first time since the war and immediately established itself as the second best event on clay behind the French. The German Open was also a good clay court event during the 1950s and 1960s.

The open era finally arrived in 1968 and prize money grew massively over the next decade. Veteran Laver won his second Grand Slam in 1969, the only player ever to achieve this. However, this has not been accomplished by any man since. The Grand Prix was an organised circuit of tournaments culminating in the Masters (later the ATP World Championships and later still the Masters Cup) that began in 1970. Official world rankings began three years later. During the 1970s and early 1980s few top overseas players entered the Australian Open at Kooyong and the Australian run of success came to an end, which meant the tournament reached its' lowest ebb. John Newcombe was the top player in the early 1970s. No Australian man has won more than two Grand Slam singles titles since Newcombe.

During the mid-late 1970s Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg ruled the roost. Connors hit the ball at a phenomenal pace using a steel racket. Connors won the U. S. Championships on three different surfaces (at Forest Hills on grass in 1974, at the same venue when it was held on clay in 1976 and on hard courts at its' new site at Flushing Meadow in 1978, 1982 and 1983). In the early 1980s, the volatile John McEnroe dominated. McEnroe was the last Wimbledon men's champion to play with a wooden racket. McEnroe's touch game was replaced by the power game of Boris Becker. However, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander showed that patience and guile would overcome brute force on slower surfaces. Stefan Edberg brought volleying skills to another level during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

By 1988 the Australian Open had moved to a plush new venue at Melbourne Park and was now truly one of the four premier events, on a par with the other three. If the Australian hadn't increased in prestige and moved venue, then the new hard court event at Miami (Key Biscayne) would probably have become known as the fourth slam. There were also hard court events at Indian Wells, the Canadian Open and Cincinnati that attracted most of the top names. By the late 1970s there was also a good European clay court circuit of tournaments including Monte Carlo, the Italian Open and the French Open. In 1990 the Grand Prix Circuit was replaced by the ATP Tour. Not long afterwards, the concept of the 'Super Nine' series (later Masters series) was invented. These were events in which nearly all the top players competed and were ranked just below the Grand Slams. They have always included the events at Indian Wells, Miami (Key Biscayne), Monte Carlo, Rome, Canadian Open, Cincinnati and Paris indoors, with other events filling the other slots.

From 1993, Pete Sampras brought power tennis to a level of excellence that threatened to reduce grass court tennis to a serving contest. Andre Agassi's powerful groundstrokes brought him six Grand Slam titles on hard courts. In 2002 Wimbledon changed the type of grass and used slower balls. In 2003 Roger Federer brought attacking baseline play to a new level when he won his first Grand Slam title. Then Rafael Nadal arrived and proved unbeatable at the French, where he set new standards for speed around the court and mental stamina. In 2009 Wimbledon's new Centre Court roof was used for the first time. The French and then the U. S. announced they would be building rooves over their centre courts.


THE WOMEN'S GAME

Although the first Grand Slam women's singles event was held at Wimbledon in 1884, the women's game did not develop like the men's did. In 1896 there were 30 entrants in the men's singles but only 6 in the women's singles, which was typical. Before the First World War women wore long ankle-length dresses and corsets which greatly inhibited their movement around the court. At Wimbledon the women's singles did not increase to seven rounds until 1927 (the men had been playing seven rounds since 1905). Even then the majority of the first round women's matches were byes and it was as late as 1983 that the women finally had the full 128 players in the draw. The U. S. championships began in 1887 and were a low-key affair at Philadelphia. In 1921 the women's championship moved to Forest Hills, New York. The Australian did not hold a women's event until 1922 due to lack of support. Like the men's event, top overseas women players only played in the Australian sporadically. The French first held a women's singles event in 1897 in the days when the entry was restricted to members of French clubs. In 1912 the World Hard Court Championships became the top event on clay for women. After the Championships ended the French championships opened its' doors to international players in 1925.

The first superstar of the women's game, Suzanne Lenglen, was ahead of her time. When she played in the early 1920s, women's tennis was not taken seriously. She was one of the first to elevate the sport beyond the gentle pastime that it had been up until that point. Lenglen's successor was Helen Wills-Moody. By the time of the Second World War women's tennis had progressed, but it was still way behind the men's in terms of development. Few women players turned professional and those that did failed to make much money. This meant that the women's game did not have the amateur-pro split and the French, Wimbledon and U. S. always contained the best women players. Maureen Connolly dominated the early 1950s in a brief career that included the Grand Slam. Then came Maria Bueno and Margaret Smith-Court. Smith-Court won the Australian a record 11 times between 1960 and 1973.

When open tennis came in things were beginning to change in the women's game. The feminist movement had gathered pace during the late 1960s. The main feminist figurehead in tennis was Smith-Court's rival at the top of game, Billie-Jean Moffitt-King. Although a win by the top women's player against a 55 year old man in a Battle of the Sexes match would be a forgone conclusion now, it was not in 1973 when Billie-Jean King took on Bobby Riggs. Riggs had beaten Court in the first Battle of the Sexes match a few months earlier. It was vital that King proved the legitimacy of women's tennis by winning that match, which she duly did in straight sets. From there women's tennis went forward. Gladys Heldman had begun a women's circuit in 1970 and this grew at a time when Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova took the women's game to another level in the late 1970s and 1980s. Then Steffi Graf and Monica Seles took over. By 2000 the Williams sisters were hitting the ball at a speed that would have been unthinkable just a few years before.

The Grand Slams are now seen via television and the Internet in virtually every country in the world and are four of the premier sporting events on the calendar. Long may they continue to flourish.

All written material on this website Copyright Grand Slam Tennis Archive 2007-2017


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