The Condition of the Centre Court at Wimbledon during the 1886 Championships

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by newmark401, May 4, 2013.

  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,058
    This letter, from the Englishman Herbert Chipp, player, official and referee, was featured in the "Field Lawn Tennis Calendar" of 1887:

    "SIR, I am sorry to have to draw attention to the condition of the centre court at Wimbledon, as it was on Saturday last.

    "Considering that the meeting is looked upon as the premier one (as, indeed, its title implies), considering, too, the large support afforded to it by the lawn tennis public, and the consequent access to the funds of its promoters, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, I think I am justified in maintaining that the least a competitor might expect would be that the courts, and more particularly perhaps the centre court, which has had such large additions made to its surroundings in the way of stands, should be carefully attended to.

    "For these reasons, I enter a strong protest the condition of that court on Saturday last. It was the bad fortune of Mr Ernest Renshaw and myself to be placed to play there, and anything utterly more untrue in the shape of turf has, I venture to say, scarcely been played upon this season. The true bound of the ball was the exception, the false bound the rule. So much so that it in my mind to appeal for a change of court after the first set, which, however, I did not do.

    "Now, there were several causes to explain these multitudinous false bounds. Directly I stepped on to the court, I remarked to Mr Renshaw that we had trouble and tribulation before us. The ground was so soft – the other courts being as hard as iron - that almost every step made an indentation; while, to make matters worse, there was enough grass on the court to furnish a goodly crop of hay, the clover heads showing distinctly in all parts of the court. So marked a feature was this that a friend of mine (a competitor also) remarked to me, on my asking him where Mr Renshaw and I were to play, 'Well, I fully expected you would be put on the centre court, but I see the grass has not been cut!' I will only give Mr [Herbert] Lawford's opinion of the condition of the court, and I think it will be considered conclusive. He and I went over it after my match, and his remark was, 'Such a court at Wimbledon is a public disgrace.'

    ""Now, Sir, do not think for one moment that I am seeking to explain away my defeat. No one is more willing to acknowledge that Mr E. Renshaw was, is, and always will be a player of a higher class than myself. But I do say that every competitor at Wimbledon – be he good, bad or indifferent – has a right to expect to play, not on a crop of clover, but on a well-rolled, clean-mown lawn. The difference in the appearance of the centre court today (Monday) and on Saturday last was most marked – a difference due, in all probability, to Mr Lawford's vigorous protest. Today it had been carefully attended to; on Saturday little had been done.

    "It surely behoves the All England Lawn Tennis Club to look to this, if they wish their meeting to maintain its high character in the future.

    "Herbert Chipp"
    -----
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
    #1
  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,058
    Three Irishmen took part in the Wimbledon tournament in 1886, in what was its tenth edition. They were Michael G. McNamara and Eyre Chatterton, both natives of County Cork, and Toler R. Garvey, a native of King's County (now County Offaly). Another letter featured in the 1887 edition of "The Field Lawn Tennis Calendar", this time from an anonymous correspondent, also casts a revealing light on the tournament at this early period, when it was held at the old Worple Ground. This second letter is also reprinted in full below:

    "SIR, Being in London for a few days, and finding that two [three] of my countrymen were taking part in the Lawn Tennis Championships, I determined to visit Wimbledon, to see if they upheld the honour of Ireland.

    "I arrived early on the ground, and took a careful survey of the courts and appointments. I have regularly been present at the Fitzwilliam Club Tournament [in Dublin], and am therefore able to judge how a meeting of this kind should be conducted, and was much surprised at the careless arrangements at the championship tournament. I must say that everything appeared to be conducted in a most slipshod manner. I could find no list of the players, nor of the courts on which the matches would take place. The programme, for which the exorbitant charge of 6d was made, assisted me very little. Punctuality appeared to be unknown, while umpires or linesmen were unavailable. The court on which the chief matches were to take place was, as Messrs Chipp and Lawford say, a public disgrace. I saw the clover heads on it, and remarked to a friend that 'it had not been mown for a week,' for such its appearance indicated.

    "I am confident that the bad arrangements and want of proper umpires militated greatly against the chances of my countrymen, who, after being accustomed to the business-like conduct of the Fitzwilliam Club officials, must have been greatly annoyed at the mismanagement at Wimbledon.

    "I hear there is a chance that future championships will be conducted by a responsible and properly appointed association. I hope the rumour is correct, and that the players will not have reason, as Mr Chipp and others had last week, to use your valuable space to make known their complaints.

    "An Irishman"
    -----

    N.B. The British Lawn Tennis Association was founded in early 1888, following an initial meeting held at the Freemason's Tavern in Great Queen Street, London. Those present included Herbert Chipp and Herbert Lawford.
    -----
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
    #2
  3. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2012
    Messages:
    2,540
    Sounds like Fed when he faces Nadal.
     
    #3
  4. Moz

    Moz Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2007
    Messages:
    2,774
    Location:
    Mallorca.
    Thanks Newmark - appreciated that. A very gentlemanly way of saying 'your courts are crap'.
     
    #4
  5. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,058
    Imagine a tennis player of today writing a letter like that to a similar publication...
    -----
     
    #5
  6. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,764
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    I say ole bean. Jolly good!

    Pip pip, and cheerio,
    Norbert Fetherington-Smyth Chippandcharge
     
    #6
  7. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2006
    Messages:
    12,721
    Location:
    Carrboro, NC
    Today they would text the protest.

    Yo. Court sux. 4 realz.
     
    #7
  8. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,058
    Touché.
    -----
     
    #8
  9. vandre

    vandre Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2007
    Messages:
    1,776
    Location:
    no man's land
    ...with a somewhat out of focus pic...
     
    #9

Share This Page