The Wimbledon Championships were first staged at the AllEngland Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, in 1877. The inaugural Championships featured just one event, the Gentlemen’s Singles, which was contested by twenty-one amateur players, each of whom paid an entrance fee of £1 1s 0d, or a ‘guinea’. The tournament started on July 9, 1877 and the final was played ten days later after being postponed from the Monday to the Thursday because of rain. In a one-sided final, Spencer Gore, a 27-year-old rackets player, beat William Marshall, a 28-year-old real tennis player, in straight sets. Gore received a silver cup, donated by ‘The Field’ magazine, and 12 guineas in prize money.
The first Ladies’ Singles competition was not staged until 1884, by which time the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club had dropped ‘Croquet’ from its name to become, simply, the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The inaugural female champion was 19-year-old Maud Watson, who defeated her elder sister, Lillian, by two sets to one in the final. Miss Watson received a silver flower basket and 20 guineas in prize money.
Modern tennis balls consist of an inner rubber core, filled with pressurised air, and a outer cover, made of wool or nylon, which is bound to the core by means of a heated press. According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), when a tennis ball is dropped, vertically, onto a smooth, granite block from a height of 100”, or 8’4”, it should rebound to a height between 53” and 58”.
However, after a period of serious play – typically about three hours – the cover of a tennis ball may become fluffed up, so that the ball does not fly through the air as fast as a new one, and the ball may lose internal pressure, so that it does not bounce as high. Obviously, both these factors can adversely affect the control and accuracy of a tennis player, so tennis balls are routinely changed after every seven and nine games, alternately, throughout the course of a tennis match. The first ball change takes place after just seven games to allow for the warm-up. High humidity increases the moisture content of a tennis ball, and hence its mass, and high temperature can cause the ball to bounce higher, so ‘new’ balls are stored in a courtside refrigerator, maintained at a constant 68°F, or 20°C, to keep them in optimal condition.
The simple answer is yes, they are, but in a hierarchical structure, based entirely on ability, all tennis umpires start at the bottom of the profession. In Britain, to become a line umpire, or line judge – that is, a person responsible for calling a ball ‘In’ or ‘Out’ – they must pass basic training at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) before ‘running the line’ at local, county and regional tennis tournaments. A line umpire typically earns around £20,000 per annum.
However, for line umpires who excel, the LTA offers a further accreditation course, which includes a written examination on the Rules of Tennis, which introduces them to life as a chair umpire. Once accredited, in the professional game, chair umpires typically earn around £30,000 per annum, although at the higher end of the scale, a main umpire, or ‘designated official’, can earn upwards of £50,000 per annum.
Tennis umpires’ pay made the news in September, 2018, after a protracted argument between Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her defeat by Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final. After a series of code violations, including calling Ramos ‘a liar’ and ‘a thief’ – for which she was later fined $17,000 – Williams still took home $1,850,000 in prize money; Ramos, one of the highest-rated chair umpires in professional tennis, received just $450, the daily rate paid by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).