Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
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Suzanne Lenglen was the first superstar of women’s sport. Her balletic style and exotic costumes, allied to a devastating ability to flatten everything in her path, made her the darling of Wimbledon in the immediate post-World War I years.
Her record at The Championships was an astonishing one. In winning 15 titles (six singles, six doubles and three mixed) Lenglen won 91 of the 94 matches she contested. Her only defeats were two in mixed doubles and one in ladies’ doubles.
It was in 1920, the second year she played Wimbledon, that Lenglen achieved the “treble”, capturing the singles, doubles and mixed championships, and she went on to repeat that achievement in 1922 and again in 1925. Having defeated Dorothea Lambert Chambers in the singles final she then teamed with American Elizabeth Ryan to claim the doubles and then with Australian Gerald Patterson to take out the mixed doubles.
Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen were the last of Wimbledon’s champions (1921) who were not required to defend their titles until the Challenge Round. This was a rather generous and increasingly anachronistic rule, in place since the singles competitions were first established, which stipulated that the defending champion was not required to lift a finger in defence of his or her championship until the winner of the rest of the main draw had been decided.
In 1922, the year Wimbledon moved to Church Road, the more democratic attitude which prevailed after World War I ensured that the abolition plan, mooted before the war but never finding sufficient favour among the players in those days, was passed by a resounding player vote of 91 to 27.
The construction of the new home of tennis, with accommodation for 13,500 people was completed in time for the 1922 Championships, amid forecasts the place would become a white elephant.
Never have such forecasts proved more wrong. On 26 June the official opening was conducted by King George V and Queen Mary. Some 45 minutes behind schedule the King appeared in the Royal Box, gave three blows on a gong and declared Wimbledon’s new home open. There followed the wettest two weeks in the tournament’s history.
No sooner had Wimbledon’s grand new Centre Court opened than it became clear that even more expansion would be required, so plans were laid for another “show court” to be sited along the west side of the main stadium.
It was an architectural oddity with its large open soccer-style terrace on the western side, covered stands at each end and the eastern side largely taken up by a sheer concrete wall and a pair of giant pulleys, which seemed more in keeping with a naval dockyard than a sports stadium.
Originally intended as a hard court when the All England Club moved to Church Road in 1922, it eventually opened two years later as the second main grass court instead, with accommodation for 3,250 spectators. Over the years this was gradually expanded to 7,500.
No.1 Court’s 72-year history, during which it was a key part of 67 Wimbledons, ended in 1996 when it was replaced by a new No.1 Court, seating 11,500.
Suzanne Lenglen’s domination of the women’s singles reached its peak at the 1925 Championships when she captured her sixth singles title while dropping a mere five games in five matches.
Lenglen had a walkover against her scheduled first-round opponent, Aurea Edgington of Britain before demolishing, in succession, Elizabeth Ryan 6-2, 6-0, Elsie Goldsack 6-1, 6-0, Winifred Beamish 6-0, 6-0, Kitty McKane 6-0, 6-0 and then, in the final, Joan Fry 6-2, 6-0.
The 1926 Jubilee Championships the next year was, sadly, almost the last her many British devotees would see of her. Because of a scheduling mix-up and a failure properly to inform her of the change of time for her second-round singles, Lenglen arrived late for the match. The fact Queen Mary was in attendance and had been kept waiting caused the Frenchwoman to be booed the next day when she played a mixed doubles. She promptly withdrew from Wimbledon and never played there again.
The Jubilee Championships of 1926, at which King George V and Queen Mary presented commemorative medals to 34 of Wimbledon’s surviving champions, was a Royal occasion in another sense when the King and Queen’s son, the Duke of York (later to become monarch as King George VI), competed in the men’s doubles with his equerry, Wing Commander Louis Greig.
Their first-round match was a bizarre occasion, since the opposition was provided by a pairing whose combined age totalled 110 years. Arthur Gore was still playing top level tennis at 58, while his partner, H. Roper Barrett, later to become Britain’s Davis Cup captain, was 52.
Though the future king was reputed to have a hard service and he and his partner had the advantage of youth over their opponents, experience told as the older pair won in straight sets.
Wing Commander Greig, later Sir Louis Greig, became chairman of the All England Club in 1937, while King George VI remains the only member of the Royal Family who has ever competed at Wimbledon.
The 1920s was Wimbledon’s Decade of the French, with Suzanne Lenglen omnipotent in the first half of it and then the “Four Musketeers” (Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, Rene Lacoste and the doubles specialist Jacques Brugnon) capturing every men’s singles championship from 1924 to 1929. Borotra won in 1924 and 1926, Lacoste in 1925 and 1928 and Cochet in 1927 and 1929.
Cochet’s victory in the 1927 final was the most spectacular of many matches in this dazzling French epoch, since as fourth seed he did well even to reach the final, needing to come back from two sets down in both his quarter-final and semi-final matches.
Against his compatriot Borotra, the darling of the Wimbledon crowds and known as The Bounding Basque as he leapt around in his beret, Cochet was in even deeper trouble, losing the first two sets and saving six match points in the fifth before taking it 7-5.