Tennis

Why Canceling Wimbledon Is Such a Historic Move

Wimbledon has officially been canceled and that’s not an April Fool’s joke.

The Wimbledon Championships are the latest in a long line of sporting events that have been either canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The All England Club, which hosts the event, essentially had four options concerning Wimbledon.

The first would be to hold the Grand Slam tourney without crowds. That apparently was never a real option on the table. So there were the options to play with crowds on the original dates, which were to be June 29-July 12, postponing the event, or canceling completely. The final option was chosen and the official announcement was made on Wednesday.

How long has Wimbledon been around?

Wimbledon has long been considered the premier tennis tournament in the world and has been played at the All England Club since 1877, just four years after the modern version of tennis was created.

The inaugural Wimbledon Championship began on July 9, 1877, with men’s singles being the only event held at that time. A field of 22 competed in the first tournament and approximately 200 people watched Spencer Gore win the first Wimbledon title, dropping just two sets throughout the tournament. He returned to Wimbledon in 1878 but lost in the challenge round and never competed in the tournament again.

In 1884, women’s singles and men’s doubles were both added to Wimbledon. In the first women’s final, Maud Watson became the first female champion by defeating her sister, Lillie, in three sets to claim the first of two consecutive titles. Twin brothers Ernest and William Renshaw won the first men’s doubles title. Women’s doubles and mixed doubles were added in 1913.

When was the last time Wimbledon was canceled?

What makes the cancelation of the 2020 Wimbledon Championships so historic is that this marks the first time that the event has been shut down during peacetime.

In 1915, Wimbledon was shut down due to World War I and did not return until 1919. In 1940, the year after Bobby Riggs (the man who later lost in the “Battle of the Sexes” match to Billie Jean King) won his lone Wimbledon title, the event was again canceled, this time due to World War II, and did not return until 1946. It’s been 75 years since Wimbledon was last canceled and the top players in the world are crushed.

The decision affects a number of top players

When the Wimbledon cancelation was announced, which was also followed with a joint announcement from the WTA and ATP that all competitive tennis would be canceled through July 13, eight-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer tweeted out that he was “devastated”, which makes sense seeing as how this may have been one of the last chances he would’ve had to add to his record total of 20 Grand Slam titles.

On a similar note, Rafael Nadal, although Wimbledon certainly isn’t his favorite Grand Slam event, could’ve matched Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles with a victory. Nadal won his 19th at last year’s U.S. Open but lost in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Novak Djokovic, who sits at 17, could have inched closer to Federer as well.

The biggest loser in all of this, outside of tennis fans around the world anyway, may be Serena Williams. Williams, who owns seven Wimbledon crowns, sits at 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one ahead of Steffi Graf’s 22. Williams is recognized as having the most Grand Slam titles but still sits behind Margaret Court’s 24. The Open era began in 1968 and Court won 13 of her titles before then. So the 2020 Wimbledon Championships may have been Serena’s best chance to get to 24. With how competitive she is, it’s likely she wants to surpass Court.

But as it is with so many things right now, we wait and see what happens next. The U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows is still scheduled for August 31-September 13.