Birthplace of modern tennis

DENIS POISSANT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

WIMBLEDON, England -- Visiting Wimbledon brings us back to another era. We can close our eyes after admiring the vast arrangements of petunias and geraniums, the vast vines that climb the buildings, and we are transported back through time to the birthplace of modern tennis.

The year is 1874. The location is England, a playground of sorts for the rich, where men sitting on enormous family fortunes are trying their best to find ways to occupy themselves in their spare time. God knows, there is no shortage of that.

Coming to their rescue is a retired army man by the name of Major Wingfield, who ingeniously invents a new game based on an ancient activity that has been practiced in French monasteries since the Middle Ages. Eventually, the game of lawn tennis evolves and, barely three years later, a Wimbledon croquet club has made it their primary activity.

From there, this amazing adventure begins and will, save for one major interruption in the form of the Second World War during which the 1,200-seat stadium was destroyed, continue on indefinitely.

Modern tennis was born at Wimbledon, the Holy Grail of tennis tournaments. In fact, the tournament became so famous that it pushed the U.S. (1881), Australia (1905) and France (1925) to found their own tennis championships.

But none of these tournaments have ever been able to find the same prestige that Wimbledon has, which has always consisted of a friendly (but highly competitive) game between gentleman and ladies in an English garden.

As the tournament developed over the years, the speed of the game and the cash prizes exploded, and eventually the unthinkable happened: A roof was built over Centre Court. The addition of the roof would have been unthinkable for many, even in the not-so-long-ago era of Borg and McEnroe. Rain, after all, is part of life and, consequently, part of the tennis.

The names of the competitors have also changed. From Spencer Gore to Roger Federer by way of Rod Laver, from Suzanne Lenglen to Navratilova to Safina, the Williams sisters and Wozniak. But changes or not, Wimbledon traditions have remained constant through-out the decades; grass courts, strawberries and cream, and a ball hit from one side of a court to another will all be back this year for the 123rd time.

Wingfield, all of those 135 years ago, could never have imagined this type of success.

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2009 Wimbledon favourites

Men's Singles

1. Roger Federer

Age: 27

Size: 6-foot-1, 187 pounds

World rank: 2

Career grass record:

81-12 (10 titles)

Career earnings: $48,072,634

2. Andy Murray

Age: 22

Size: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds

World rank: 6

Career grass record:29-8 (1 title)

Career earnings: $7,612,322

3. Juan Martin del Potro

Age: 20

Size: 6-foot-6, 182 pounds

World rank: 5

Career grass record:8-5 (no titles)

Career earnings: $3,107,021

Women's Singles

1. Venus Williams

Age: 29

Size: 6-foot-1, 160 pounds

World rank: 3

2009 Record:21-6 (2 titles)

Career earnings: $22,842,277

2. Serena Williams

Age: 27

Size: 5-foot-9, 150 pounds

World rank: 2

2009 Record:

25-7 (one title)

Career earnings: $24,205,248

3. Dinara Safina

Age: 23

Size: 5-foot-11, 154 pounds

World rank: 1

Career grass record:34-7 (2 titles)

Career earnings: $8,283,046


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