To coincide with the annual 'Wimbledon fortnight', Johnny Milner takes a look at some Australian tennis stars who have excelled on the traditional grass court at Wimbledon.
Like many sports, tennis is steadfast in sticking to its rules and traditions, its quirks and characteristics – haughtily, you might say, even stubbornly. And why not? The game has been embraced worldwide, with an estimated billion-plus regular spectators and players.
In the tennis world, one tournament stands above the rest in terms of tradition and prestige – Wimbledon, situated at the All England Club in leafy south-west London. It was here at the inaugural tournament in 1877 that officials determined the rules that form the basis of the modern game – establishing the dimensions of the court, the height of the net, the different formats (such as one-on-one singles or two-on-two doubles), and also that unique scoring system (which can – to losing fans – seem dreadfully unfair).
Wimbledon remains on grass, despite the international domination of more convenient, non-seasonal-dependent surfaces – surfaces such as hard court (at the Australian and US Opens) or the clay court (French Open), which favours bounce and spin.
Looking back across the history of Wimbledon, Australian players seem to have been comfortable playing on grass courts. Australia’s successes have ridden on the back of a long line of serve-volleyers ideally suited to the low, skidding and fast conditions of the traditional grass surface.
These include players such as Rod Laver, Margaret Court-Smith, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Pat Cash and Pat Rafter, as well as doubles champions such as Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.
The following clips in this article profile the traditional style of some of the great Australian players.