Digital Dimdima
Suzanne Lenglen takes over

The Wimbledon gates remained closed for five years from 1914 to 1919 because of World War I. In the meanwhile, however, the popularity of Lawn Tennis was booming and for the first time, in 1919, the now famous ballot was used for allotting tickets.

The last men's finalist, Wilding died at war in Belgium and Brookes the other finalist of 1914, met fellow Australian Gerald Patterson in the Challenge Round in 1919. Patterson younger by 18 years served cannonballs and won in straight sets.

A young, athletic French woman, Suzanne Lenglen made a dream entry at Wimbledon that year and won a close final against Lambert Chambers, twice her age and seven times winner of the ladies' singles title. Lenglen saved two match points before edging out Lambert Chambers at 10-8, 4-6, 9-7. The new champion entered the court in a fur coat and played in silk from bandeau to stockings. She moved on court like a ballerina, trained by her cyclist father. Lenglen won six singles titles between 1919 and 1925, and also won all the doubles crowns during that period partnering Elizabeth Ryan, a Californian.

Lenglen had to leave Wimbledon in 1926 after a misunderstanding that kept Queen Mary waiting on court for the arrival of the champion. The incident was blown out of proportion by the press and an upset Lenglen left in a huff to turn professional and never returned to Wimbledon again.

'Big Bill' Tilden, 6 ft 3 in tall and a great player technically, became the first American to win the men's singles title in 1920. He beat holder Gerald Patterson in the challenge round in four sets. In 1921, Tilden fell ill and was hospitalized as the championship entered its second week. He was discharged four days before the challenge round where he was to meet South African Brian Norton. The South African won the first two sets, but a determined Tilden equalized at two sets all. Saving a match point, Tilden then won the last set at 7-5.

Changes were in the offing at Wimbledon after the 1921 championships at Worple Road. The tournament would be played at the Church Road Complex from here on. There would be a Centre Court, a Court Number One and thirteen other outside courts. The challenge round would also be abolished. And, for personal reasons, 'Big Bill' Tilden would not be playing at Wimbledon till 1927.

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