As Wimbledon 2012 gets under way, professional players from over 60 countries will compete for a share of over £16 million in prize money. But the tournament hasn’t always been so lucrative for those taking part. The 1960s was the decade when Wimbledon turned professional, having been an exclusively amateur tournament until then.
The change was arguably overdue, as entrants had been stretching the definition of ‘amateur’ for several years. But it was only in 1968 that Wimbledon staged its first Open tournament. Rod Laver won the Men’s Singles, scooping £2,000 in prize money, while Billie Jean-King won the Ladies’ Singles.
Neither winner was exactly a surprise. Both players were dominant forces throughout the latter part of the decade. In 1966, the year that Centre Point was completed, Billie Jean-King won the first of her six Wimbledon titles, while Rod Laver only missed out because his professional status meant he was unable to take part. The single British success of the decade came in 1969, when Ann Haydon-Jones defeated Billie Jean-King to win the Ladies’ Singles.
But perhaps the most eye-catching English contribution to Wimbledon in the 1960s came from a player-turned-fashion-designer Ted Tinling. His dress designs were worn by the most high-profile women players, including the champions in 1960, 1961, 1964 and 1969. At a time when gender roles were shifting in society, Ted Tinling insisted on a touch of feminine glamour even in his most functional designs.
The fashions have changed considerably since then, but one thing hasn’t. Archive pictures show that frequent rain showers were as common then as they are now. Let’s hope the sun stays out this year.