Tennis Speakers Benefit From Boom
It is fifty years since Tennis went ‘Open’ – this change allowed professional and amateurs to compete together at major Grand slam championships, namely the US Open, French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon (the oldest Tennis competition in the world). Since 1968 the game has soured in popularity, with millions watching on TV and thousands attending the tennis open events.
Why the Change?
Before 1968 tennis was divided into professional and amateur circuits, meaning those paid to play were stopped from competing in the Grand Slam events. However, it was a well-known secret some amateurs were being paid ‘under the net’ or remuneration was hidden in large expense claims.
The Open era emerged partially to make the game more honest, and to do away with the hypocrisy which was being practised. The first Open Era event was the 1968 British Hard-Court Championships held in April at The West Hants Club in Bournemouth, England, while the first open Grand Slam tournament was the 1968 French Open in May. Both tournaments were won by Ken Rosewall. The Open Era allowed all tennis players the opportunity to make a living by playing tennis around the world. But the professional system took a while to fully bed in, power struggles with governing bodies, different professional tours and the emergence of players unions led to some boycotts and difficulties.
Once the governing associations were established, the Open era, led to increased professionalism and greater riches for the players which have continued to grow as the game has expanded globally, with currently two professional tours – ATP and WTA – holding more events all around the world. Sponsorship alongside corporate hospitality has helped grow both individual players as brands and Tennis as a sport.
Tennis player Billie Jean Kings fight for equal tournament pay for men and woman players, was met with deaf ears, despite various boycotts and protests. It is only in recent years the gap between male and female prize money has lessened, with equal pay at all the Grand slam tournaments. This is one change that took its time over many others.
Wimbledon arguably the trophy every professional Tennis player would love to win has grown in size and income. The facilities at The All England ground have continually improved and adopted for the modern game. The tournament is seen as a benchmark for the sport.
Yet the traditions of Wimbledon, which secretly everyone adores, still remain. The men’s champion receives the silver gilt Challenge Cup, which was first presented in 1887, while the ladies’ champion receives the Venus Rosewater Dish – a silver salver first presented in 1886.
What the players wear on court is still scrutinised by the Wimbledon committee. Since 1963, the players must be dressed predominantly in white throughout, although the rule was slightly altered to ‘almost entirely white’ in 1995. The serving of strawberries and cream at the Championships, has continued with over 180,000 portions enjoyed by spectators over the Wimbledon fortnight.
The digital age has helped Wimbledon move into the 21st century, no longer the 1968 manual scoreboards (operated by ball boys and girls) but ones modernised by computers. The electronic review system, Hawk-eye (also used in professional cricket), enables the umpire to see exactly where a ball has landed, allowing players to challenge line calls, sometimes successfully. This technology was implemented by Wimbledon in 2007. Had this been available in the early eighties we may have seen less tantrums from a certain John McEnroe.
Total Wimbledon singles wins during the Open Era
- Roger Federer 8
- Pete Sampras 7
- Bjon Borg 5
- Boris Becker 3
- John McEnroe 3
- Novak Djokovic 3
- Rafael Nadal 2
- Jimmy Connors 2
- John Newcombe 2
- Stefan Edberg 2
- Andy Murray 2
- Rod Laver 2
- Martina Navratilova 9
- Steffi Graf 7
- Serena Williams 7
- Venus Williams 5
- Billie Jean King 4
- Chris Evert 3
- Evonne Cawley 2
- Petra Kvitová 2
Comicus Ltd has provided comedy shows to the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) for their annual conference event and continue to offer the best Tennis Speakers such as John McEnroe, Sue Barker, Andrew Castle, Tim Henman and Pat Cash for corporate events, all have seen the changes in the game and mostly for the better.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.