Open Era: British tennis celebrates 50 years of professional game
• 3 MINUTE READ
Stars of world tennis have come together to mark 50 years since the first professional tournament of the Open Era was held on British soil.
British players such as Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta, along with international greats such as Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki, have joined the celebrations with a video to explain the birth of the Open Era, which can be seen above.
On April 22 1968, the British Hard Court Championships held at the West Hants Club in Bournemouth became the first of 12 ‘Open’ tournaments for the year sanctioned by the then International Lawn Tennis Federation.
The tournament marked the birth of tennis’ ‘Open Era’ as a professional sport and led to today’s multi-million pound global industry defined by Grand Slam events and world-famous athletes.
The first Open Era titles at the West Hants Club were won by Australia’s Ken Rosewall and Britain’s Virginia Wade, who took home the first ever prize money breakdowns recorded on a draw sheet – the men’s title with £1000 and the women’s £300.
Virginia Wade OBE, who won 55 singles titles including three grand slams singles titles, said: “Bournemouth and the West Hants Tennis Club have a very special place in my heart, being born there. The British Hard Courts was the first of the early tournaments that all the players got excited about and it meant even more to me in 1968 to win the first event of the Open Era.
“It’s amazing when we think of the global phenomenon tennis has become over the last 50 years and we should be very proud that British Tennis had the courage to make it all happen.”
Wade went on to win the US Open, Australian and Wimbledon over the course of her 18-year career.
Ken Rosewall, who won 133 career titles including eight Grand Slams, added: “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. The British Hard Court Championships always had a lot of history there and we were all impressed with how big that event was and a lot of surprising results.
“Nowadays the game has grown so much, and in all sports, the players are well compensated. It was great that Herman David from Wimbledon and the LTA in Britain had the vision to bring the amateurs and the pros together. The changes have been fantastic for tennis helping the sport become more international.”
The LTA is celebrating the birth of the Open Era by welcoming Tim Henman, players from the West Hants Club tournament in 1968, and future stars of British Tennis to an event on 29 April 2018.
The event will commemorate the role the LTA and the West Hants Club together played in paving the way for professional tennis across the globe. Former British No.1 Henman will play an exhibition doubles match with fellow former British professionals Miles Maclagan, John Feaver, and John Paish. There will also be a match between the former British professionals and junior players from West Hants on the day.