In a word......

The really made a difference to Wimbledon was the arrival of the railway in 1838

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 00:02

Wimbledon. The name is derived from the Old English “Wunemannedune”, dating from about the 10th century and thought to mean Wynnman’s Hill. The final element of the name being the Old English “dun”, meaning hill.

Inhabited since the Iron Age, it is referred to as “Wimbedounyng” in a charter signed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 967. By 1786 it was known as “Wimbleton” with the current spelling and pronunciation not settled on until the 19th century.

What really made a difference to it was the arrival of the railway with the opening of a station there in 1838, which brought rapid growth with it. From a population of about 2,700 residents in 1851 its population grew 15-fold in the following 50 years. The Underground arrived in 1926 with the opening of the Morden station.

These days it is best known to most of us as a suburban district in southwest London in the borough of Merton. It also has Wimbledon Common, one of the largest open spaces in London. Seven miles (11.3km) from Charing Cross in central London, it is an affluent suburb with a population of approximately 57,000, most in the ABC1 social category.

These days particularly we associate Wimbledon with just one thing, tennis. The Wimbledon Championships is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and carries all the prestige that usually goes with such history.

It has been held there at the All-England Club since 1877 and is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, or Majors, which includes the Australian Open, the Roland Garros French Open and the US Open.

The Wimbledon Championships is the only Major still played on grass, the original surface for tennis and which gave it’s the name of “lawn tennis”. Generally the hard-court Australian Open and the clay-court French Open take place before Wimbledon every year, to be followed by the hard-court US Open.

Wimbledon is noted for two other things, the absence of sponsored advertising around its courts and . . . rain. A retractable roof was fitted over its centre court in 2009 to avoid the interruptions of play by rain.

Since 1967, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have been the biggest men’s single titles winners at the Wimbledon Championships, both winning seven times each. The biggest winner of the women’s singles titles in the same period has been the incomparable Martina Navratilova who did so nine times. inaword@irishtimes.com

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