Undoubtedly, tennis is fast becoming one of the most-watched and followed sports in Nigeria and the world at large. The reason for this development is not far-fetched as we now have myriads of tournaments, championships and grand slam that bring professional athletes from different continents together to compete or play for titles.
The Tokyo Olympic event is an example that brings together lots of sporting activities.
The Wimbledon championship, which is an England-based international tournament, is another example of a widely watched event that has given this amazing sports lots of attention.
In fact, the effect of cups and grand slams like these makes it safe to say that Wimbledon is to tennis as the world cup is to football.
It is no hidden fact that the prestigious championship has a rich history and has recently been transformed beyond tennis and star players. Now, there's a more pronounced cultural involvement when compared to the early years. The rules, venue, and game requirements have also evolved over the years.
Thanks to the teeming number of stars coming up every year from Africa and other professional athletes from various continents, the prestigious cup still holds till today.
Even though the last edition couldn't hold due to concerns stemming from the pandemic, fans looked forward to an action-packed contest that kickstarted Monday 28 June 2021 and finished on Sunday 11 July 2021.
Another prominent improvement in the contest is the new venues that allow some games to be played under a roof. This is different from what we used to know and read from books as most games were played in an open lawn court, making it difficult to hold some matches under the rain.
The remodelling of the contest over the years has called the attention of several celebrities to attend the matches once in a while.
To this end, we intend to discuss some more points concerning this contest and some notes about the history of the Wimbledon championship.
Everything in life has a starting point, and this contest started over a century ago. The competition got its name from the place it first took place, and before the advent of lawn tennis, the contest was held on the household lawn court.
After lawn tennis became a thing in Britain, the prominent clubs in England back then transformed it into what we know as a worthy event today. Usually, the organizers started with the tradition of holding the contest around the time other grand slams hold, but the games begin in the early part of July over the years.
The contest had what we can call a humble beginning, just like the French open and other standard International and national tournaments. Besides, its rich background looks nothing like what we have today.
The two weeks contest consisted of qualifying match fixtures before the official games begin. As such, fans of this beautiful sport usually enjoy some preliminary banters and fun running for several days at the end of June. Till today, only the best of the best emerge as winners to clinch prestigious titles from their esteemed rivals.
The First Contest
Like we mentioned above, this contest has garnered lots of attention over the years due to its rich history and quick rise to prominence in England and beyond. However, looking into the first contest ever will create a good background for appreciating its development and transformation.
As you know, life in the eighteenth century was very different from what we have now, and this was true for the first match ever played in this contest. First and foremost, the event was devoid of the prominent cultural elements and glamour that we see today.
Also, there was no men and women doubles category as it featured only the men singles.
Furthermore, due to the less glamour and fewer categories, five days was enough to round up the competition. There were also several notable challenges in the competition back then, including rainfall which could not allow the organizers to proceed with any match until four days later.
However, the story is different today as we now have roofs over the legendary lawn court. The first-ever winner clinched the title in less than an hour and was rewarded through the profits obtained from the occasion. This was the humble beginning of the grand slam we know today.
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Transformations Over the Years
Undoubtedly, the competition has seen a tremendous transformation over the years. Like we mentioned above, it had only the men's singles at inception, but the organizers did well to add more categories as the event had more publicity.
They added the men's doubles and the women's singles seven years after the first contest and took another twenty-nine years to include the women's doubles.
Hence, the game has a more inclusive outlook as a wide pool of African, American, and French stars now participate in various categories.
Initially, the winner of a year's contest had to wait for the next edition before being given the title. The player who reaches the final in any edition has to win against the previous year's winner to get the cup.
This format brought lots of uproar and dissatisfaction, especially from the finalists who had to win their way up the championship just for a player to clinch the title from them at the last minute.
However, this format has been abolished just as the competition now allows professionals from different continents to participate, whether French, American, African, or Spanish. As you can also imagine, the event only began to show on television centuries after its inception.
What We Have Today
Apart from the transformations that the event underwent for years, the organizers have also gone many miles to give it a more glamorous look today, like what we see in Tokyo and top American contests.
First of all, some cultural elements like eating strawberries at the event have been embedded and have come to stay for a long time.
The origin of this development can be traced to the clashing of the fruit's natural ripening season with the schedule of the competition.
As such, it is very common to see enthusiasts and fans commemorate the weather at the time with the consumption of this delicious fruit.
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With more popularity and television time, the event has also attracted the crème de la crème of society. Recently, many celebrities and philanthropists now take time to attend the finals to witness tennis at its peak.
Undoubtedly, this development has taken the competition's popularity and money pool to another level.
Remember that back then, especially at the inception, there were challenges with playing the game when the weather isn't friendly. This has changed as there's more flexibility with scheduling the matches as the organizers have built roofs over the lawn courts.
This development has also allowed some games to go on till late in the night. When it's sunny, the roof has some air conditioning installed in it to make the players and fans comfortable as much as possible.
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The Role of Nigerians
Nigerian tennis is blessed with many local competitions like the Lagos tennis tournament, Abuja tennis tournament, and the Kano tennis tournament. We also have the NCC tennis league and several Junior tennis tournaments and senior tournaments.
The country has also had several promising talents and participants at prestigious championships like the Wimbledon on the world scene.
These star players started from a local Nigeria tennis club and tournaments like the Lagos tennis tournament, Abuja, or Kano tennis tournament. An example is the popular teenage sensation, Oyinlomo Quadri, rising exponentially on the Nigerian tennis scene.
She has participated in and won several junior tennis tournaments and senior tournaments within and outside the country and presently ranks as the best player among her peers.
Apart from her national escapades, her dream is to represent the country in events like the Tokyo Olympics and win several sports awards just like her role model, Serena. She is a star to watch in upcoming tennis tournaments in Lagos, Nigeria, and beyond.
Another African marvel is the Anambra-born professional umpire, Emeka Elechi, who has been officiating games at the prestigious event for more than eleven years. The veteran umpire has his sights set on officiating matches for the next fourteen years in all cadres of the competition.
We also have Nduka Odizor, the veteran player that represented the country at the Seoul Olympics. He also played at the competition under review and ranked twenty at a point in his career. He also won several world singles and doubles and represented the country on multiple occasions.
To sum it up, we might not have had many prominent mentions on the global scene. Still, the NCC tennis leagues and other upcoming tennis tournaments in Nigeria will witness many rising stars from the north and south that will change the country's outlook in the book of wins.
As new professional clubs with standard lawns continue to spring up in the country and investors open their chequebooks to support this sport, the sky is the starting point for athletes and enthusiasts.
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