The cinch Championships is one of the longest-running tennis tournaments on the ATP World Tour. With more than a century of history and a roll of honour that features the names Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, it is the jewel in the crown of the grass court season in the lead-up to Wimbledon.
The Queen’s Club
The Queen’s Club is named after Queen Victoria, its first patron, and is regarded as one of the premier Lawn Tennis and Racquets clubs in the world.
The club opened for business in 1887 after the conversion of an 11-acre site that previously housed market gardens and a cricket pitch.
It is now associated primarily with tennis and other racquet sports, but it was also London’s first great multi-sport venue, hosting annual Oxford v Cambridge challenges at rugby, football and athletics.
In 1895, 20,000 people came to The Queen’s Club to see England play a football international against Wales. It was also one of the main venues for the London Olympics in 1908.
The Queen’s Club Championships has been staged at The Queen’s Club since 1890. The tournament was initially held at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea football club, between 1884 and 1889 before moving to The Queen’s Club in 1890.
Since 1979, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray (twice) have all won both The Queen’s Club Championships and The Championships, Wimbledon in the same year.
The first edition of the London Grass Court Championships, the event which would become the Fever-Tree Championships, took place in 1884. H F Lawford defeated F A Bowlby in the final. The tournament was held at the London Athletic Ground at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea Football Club would later call home.
The London Grass Court Championships relocated to The Queen’s Club from 1890. The first four-time champion would be Major Ritchie, who won the title in 1902, 1904, 1906 and 1909, and took the gold medal at the 1908 London Olympics.
The second four-time champion at Queen’s was Anthony Wilding, who won the title in 1907, and then three successive years between 1910 and 1912. He won 11 Grand Slam tournament titles, six in singles, five in doubles and is the only player from New Zealand that has ever won a Grand Slam singles title. He died as a soldier in action during World War One, aged 31.
Two of the most notable winners at The Queen’s Club during this period were Donald Budge, who won the title twice in 1936 and 1937, and Henry ‘Bunny’ Austin, who tasted glory in 1938. Budge was one of only two men to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam, while Austin was the last British man to win the tournament before Andy Murray took over in 2009.
Over the next 20 years, Australian players dominated, lifting the trophy 16 times. Prominent among them were Lew Hoad, who won the title twice (in 1953 and 1954) and was one match win short of the calendar-year Slam himself in 1956. Four-time champion Roy Emerson won the title between 1963 and 1966. The Fever-Tree Championships invited back and honoured him in 2016.
The great Rod Laver won the second of his two titles at Queen’s, Jimmy Connors won his first, and another of our four-time champions, Mr John McEnroe, made his mark by lifting the trophy in 1979. Laver won two calendar-year Grand Slams, something no-one else has ever done. The tournament’s 30-year sponsorship by Stella Artois began in 1979.
McEnroe and Connors shared the titles for the first five years of the decade before a flame-haired, teenage German launched himself into public consciousness by winning the title as a 17-year-old. As Boris Becker stood there with the giant silver trophy above his head, the man he beat in the final, Johan Kriek, voiced a now famous quote: “If Boris plays like that over the next three weeks, he will win Wimbledon.” Sure enough, he did.
Becker would end up winning four titles, the fourth of those in 1996, 11 years after his first. Earlier in the decade the titles were shared between Ivan Lendl, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, Michael Stich and Stefan Edberg. In 1995 and 1999, Pete Sampras triumphed, going on to win Wimbledon in both years. A pair of very different Australians - the big-serving Mark Philippoussis and talented left-hander Scott Draper, won the titles in ’97 and ’98 respectively.
While the 90’s were shared around in terms of glory at Queen’s, in the 2000’s there were two champions who dominated. Lleyton Hewitt served notice when he pushed Sampras a couple of times, and then thrashed the seven-time Wimbledon champion in the 2000 final. He would beat Tim Henman in two finals and win four titles overall before Andy Roddick stepped in to dominate, also collecting four titles. In 2009, the reign of Andy Murray began when he beat James Blake in the final.
Andy Murray’s titles came mostly every other odd year, although he lifted a record fifth trophy in 2016 when he fought back in stunning style to defeat Milos Raonic in the final. David Nalbandian earned himself some notoriety when he was disqualified against Cilic in the 2012 final, but Grigor Dimitrov was a supremely popular winner in 2014. 2019 was a monumental year which saw the return of Murray from injury to claim the doubles title alongside Feliciano Lopez who also captured the singles title. In the same year, The Queen’s Club hosted the inaugural Fever-Tree Wheelchair Championships where home favourite Alfie Hewett clinched the grass-court crown.