Open Era: Tim Henman joins LTA celebrations of 50th anniversary
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Wimbledon semi-finalist and former British No.1 Tim Henman joined a host of other tennis stars past and present in Bournemouth to mark 50 years since the first tournament of the Open Era.
On April 22 1968, the seaside town’s West Hants Tennis Club hosted The British Hard Court Championships, the first of 12 Open tournaments for the year sanctioned by the then International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF).
The tournament marked the birth of modern-day professional tennis and led to today’s multi-million dollar global industry defined by Grand Slam events and superstar players.
Scott Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association said: “Today really is a momentous occasion for British Tennis and recognising the path it helped pave for professional players around the world.
“Marking this anniversary back at the West Hants Club with some of history’s greatest tennis players has been very special. The LTA helped initiate a legacy that truly changed the game and one that future players will continue to benefit from throughout their lives.
Henman took part in the LTA’s celebrations alongside players from the first Open Era tournament in 1968, including Sue Mappin, Frances McLennan, John Paish and Mark Cox, with exhibition matches featuring John Feaver, Miles Maclagan, Rob Booth and future stars of British Tennis.
Henman who turned professional in 1993 and retired in 2007 after an illustrious career in the game said: “Players of my generation owe a great debt of gratitude to the LTA and those players who 50 years ago ushered in the professional era for our sport – it was a huge game changer for players and tennis across the world.”
“It was great to be part of the celebrations today at West Hants in Bournemouth where it all began in 1968 and to get on court with some of the players who took part in that ground-breaking tournament.”
They were joined by West Hants Chief Executive Peter Elviss and Chairman Edwin Bessant, Chairman of the All England Tennis Club, Philip Brook, LTA Deputy President David Rawlinson and ITF COO Kelly Fairweather, to commemorate the role the LTA and West Hants Club together played in paving the way for professional tennis across the globe.
Fifty years ago, the first Open Era titles 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.
This year also marks a number of other notable landmarks in the history of tennis, including the 130th anniversary of the founding of the LTA and the 40th anniversary of the first-ever BBC broadcast of the Eastbourne International – which saw Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert two weeks ahead of her maiden Wimbledon title.
2018 will also mark the 40th consecutive year the BBC have televised the Queen’s Club Championships, which started in 1979.