The Queen’s Club Championships is arguably the second most renowned grass court tournament on the ATP calendar.
Dating back to 1884, it has welcomed many of the greatest players in the history of the game, and is a perennially popular event with fans.
The tournament originated at the London Athletic Club, but moved to its current location in 1890, where it soon gained prestige as a grass court event. The first multipurpose sporting venue of its kind anywhere in the world, Queen’s Club was named for its first patron, Queen Victoria.
British players dominated the roll of honour until World War I, after which Americans began to make a serious impact at the championships. Towards the end of the amateur era, however, Australians had a stranglehold on the trophy.
The fast, pristine grass courts of Queen’s Club are hailed by many as the best in the world, on a par with those at Wimbledon. Centre Court is a relatively intimate venue in which spectators sit close to the action.
Britain’s Josiah Ritchie was the first man to win more than three titles at Queen’s Club. From 1902 - 1910 he reached seven finals and hoisted the trophy on four occasions. Ritchie’s contemporary, Anthony Wilding from New Zealand, was the next man to scoop four titles, including three in a row from 1910 - 1912.
Between 1950 and 1970, there were only three years in which an Australian did not win the championships. Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver were some of the standout Aussies of the era, but the most successful at Queen’s Club was Roy Emerson, who won four years in a row from 1963 - 1966.
As well as his three Wimbledon titles, John McEnroe’s reputation as one of the greatest grass court players of all time owes much to his superb record at Queen’s Club. The American played in the final every year from 1978 - 1984, and was victorious four times. Another legendary serve-volleyer, Boris Becker, won his first title as a 17-year-old in 1985 and triumphed three more times over the next eleven years.
More recently, two men with very different playing styles have commanded the courts in West Kensington, winning four titles apiece from 2000 - 2007. Lleyton Hewitt was unbeaten at the tournament from 2000 - 2002, and had his name engraved on the trophy for a fourth time in 2006. Andy Roddick, who set the world record for the fastest ever serve (153mph) at the 2004 event, won a hat-trick of trophies from 2003 - 2005, and saved a match point before beating Nicolas Mahut in the 2007 final.
Murray def. Tsonga, 2011 final:
In the Open Era, British men have had marginally more success at Queen’s Club than at Wimbledon. John Paish, Roger Taylor and Mark Cox were each runners-up in the 1970s, and Tim Henman lost nail-biting showpiece matches to Pete Sampras and Lleyton Hewitt. But in 2009, Andy Murray became the first British man to win the event in over seven decades. Two years later, he had a chance to win a second trophy on home turf, when he faced big-serving Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.
With the final played on Monday due to persistent rain, Tsonga further dampened the home crowd’s spirits by breaking for a 4-2 lead in the first set. The Frenchman was unleashing a series of devastating groundstrokes on the lightning-quick surface, and Murray, for all his court sense and superb movement, struggled to find a way to dent Tsonga’s armour. The man from Le Mans took the opening set 6-3.
The riveting rallies continued in the second set, with Murray scurrying for every ball and Tsonga demonstrating some deft touch at the net. Both men held serve convincingly until the seventh game, when Murray carved out two break points. But Tsonga stood firm, and the set went to a tie-break. There, it was Murray’s turn to step up, and the Scot took it by seven points to two to force the match into a decider.
There was more brilliant tennis in the third set, and Murray finally broke his opponent’s serve with the help of two running forehand in the fifth game. Although Tsonga seemed to grow more fatigued as the match passed the two hour mark, his powerful serve was still clicking, and Murray knew he had to produce his best tennis to win. Amid stunning passing shots and tremendous defence, his audacious and exhibitionist between-the-legs drop shot as 4-3 was a match highlight. With the safety net of three match points a couple of games later, the local favourite put away a smash to win the Queen’s Club title for a second time and delight his legions of fans.
Video: Murray v Tsonga, 2011
- With 56 players, the Queen’s Club singles draw is larger than that of any other grass court tournament besides Wimbledon.
- Queen’s Club also hosts the “real tennis” British Open every year.
- In 2012, David Nalbandian was disqualified from the final after kicking an advertising board and inadvertently injuring an official.
- Pete Sampras won a rare doubles title in 1995, partnering compatriot Todd Martin.
- A women’s event was held at Queen’s Club in 1972 and 1973.
- From 1990 - 2007, a junior competition was held alongside the main tournament.