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Croquet Returns to All England Club

By: Josalin Wang

In Wimbledon, England, the courts at the All England Club are preparing to undergo a seemingly unlikely change from tennis to croquet.

In tennis, a player(s) play against an opponent(s) either individually or in teams of two. Each side uses a racket to hit a rubber ball over a net into the opponent’s court. Croquet is played by hitting wooden balls through metal hoops in the ground with a wooden mallet. Tennis is an extremely popular sport and is one of the most watched sports on television. On the other hand, croquet peaked in popularity in the nineteenth century and was removed from the Olympics after the 1900 Olympics due to lack of participation. However, croquet clubs still exist and there is even a United States Croquet Association.

Croquet and tennis: these two sports may seem fairly distant from each other, but at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, their relationship has a long history dating back to 1868.

It originally started as a croquet club, but when expanded to include tennis later in 1877, tennis quickly overshadowed croquet in popularity. And thus, “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club” became known as “The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club”.

Though tennis may have been the more popular choice, croquet has persisted throughout the years; a small percentage of members still enjoy croquet. Ross Matheson, the club manager, told The Washington Post that it was also a matter of “connecting with our past, the journey that we’ve been on, [and] what we’ve learned.” That’s why every year six practice tennis courts are converted into three main croquet lawns through an extensive process.

Neil Stubly, head of courts and horticulture, explains the difference between a croquet lawn and tennis court: “A traditional croquet lawn should be the same as a traditional USGA golf green [...] Because on croquet, like golf, the greens, it’s about the trueness and the smoothness. On a tennis court, it’s about rebound and ball height.”

Croquet is a “great sport for anyone who’s a bit knackered,” said Jonathan Smith, a former world-class tennis player. People who’ve strained their muscles or are unable to fulfill the rigorous exertion other sports require are perfect for playing croquet. He says he’d never expected to become a croquet fan, but after his friend took him out to play, he was hooked.

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