The Amazing Stories Behind Tennis’ Biggest Trophies
Posted on October 25 2018
Grand Slam season is over for 2018 with all the silverware handed out to their deserving champions. We are so used to seeing pictures of our favourite pros parading their hard-earned trophies in front of throngs of cameramen, but what do we really know about the trophies that they work so hard to earn? You would expect such prestigious tournaments to have glitzy gold or silver trophies, but what’s so remarkable are the stories behind these trophies.
Image by: Tourism Victoria
Men’s – Norman Brookes Challenge Cup
The 2108 Australian Open saw Swiss legend Roger Federer win his 20th Grand Slam title, and 6th Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. After defeating Marin Cilic in the final, Federer was presented with the 112-year-old trophy, an experience he has grown quite accustomed to over the years. Despite Federer’s familiarity with the trophy though, he may not know the amazing story associated with this particular piece of silverware.
The trophy is named after Norman Brooks, a remarkable tennis player from the 1900s who went on to be the president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia. Brooks was the first non-British player to win Wimbledon, and also the first leftie to do so. Brookes was a three-time Grand Slam singles winner, winning Wimbledon in 1907 and 1914, and the Australasian Championship in 1911. He was also an accomplished doubles player, picking up another four Grand Slam titles between 1907 and 1924. Brooks was also a key member of a dominant Australasia team that won the Davis Cup six times between 1907 and 1919. No doubt his record would be even greater had it not been for WW1.
The most interesting part about the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup however is the design. Made in England, and dating back to 1906, the trophy is 38 cm wide including the handle, and 43 cm tall including the plinth. It is made from silver and based on a Roman vase that was excavated from the ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s villa just outside Rome.
The incredible vase was a staggering 1m 82cm tall, and including its plinth, weighs an enormous 8 1/4 tons. When the vase was discovered in 1771 it was so popular that it had a great influence on the style of a number of English artists, sculptors and engravers, and clearly those who commissioned the Australian Open trophy 130 years or so later.
Due to the vase eventually finding a resting place in the grounds of Warwick Castle, it became known as the Warwick Vase, and you can still visit it today. The vase now lives in Glasgow at the Burell Collection, but you can also see three full-size replicas, one at Cambridge University, one at Warwick Castle, and one at Windsor Castle.
As the winner of the Australian Open does not get to keep the original Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, the lucky winner of Australian Open can expect to receive a ¾ size replica of the original trophy.
Women’s- Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy
The Daphne Akhurst Memorial trophy has been won an amazing eleven times by Margaret Court as she followed in the footsteps of her fellow Aussie, Daphne Akhurst. Akhurst won the Australasian Championships as they were known back then five times between 1925 and 1930, solidifying herself as one of the early trailblazers in the women’s game.
Unfortunately, Akhurst died during childbirth in 1933, aged just 29, and Australia and tennis lost a huge icon of the game. The following year the trophy was renamed the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy in a fitting tribute to the third ever Australian Open winner, and first woman to win three back to back Australian Open titles.
Caroline Wozniacki was the last winner of this beautiful silver trophy emblazoned with two gold tennis rackets. It is fitting that nearly 100 years after Akhurst’s first victory she is still remembered for the brilliance she brought to the early years of the tournament.
Men’s – La Coupe des Mousquetaires
The wonderfully named Coupe des Mousquetaires has been handed out to the French Open winner since 1981 and symbolises the four musketeers of French tennis. Thanks to the prowess of Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste, the French dominated men’s tennis, winning six Davis Cup titles in a row.
Jean Borotra won four Grand Slam titles in the 20s, winning the Australian Open in 1928, the French Open in 1931 and Wimbledon in 1924 and 1926. He was only denied a career Grand Slam by compatriot Lacoste, as he was beaten in the 1926 US Open final.
Jacques Brugnon was the doubles expert of the French Davis Cup team, playing 31 time between 1921 and 1934 and winning 26 ties. He had an excellent Grand Slam record, winning 12 doubles titles between the mixed and men’s doubles.
Adding to the dominance of French tennis during the 20s was Henri Cochet. Cochet won seven Grand Slam titles including the French Open (1926, 1928, 1930, 1932,) Wimbledon (1927, 1929,) and the US Open (1928).
The last of the musketeers was Rene Lacoste, synonymous with style and elegance, the man nicknamed the “tennis machine” was also incredibly successful. Lacoste also won seven Grand Slams, including the French Open (1925, 1927, 1929,) Wimbledon (1925,1928) and the US Open (1926, 1927).
The musketeers utterly dominated tennis in the 1920s and are deserving of the wonderful trophy that has been created in their name. The silver trophy stands 21cm high, 19cm wide and weighs 14kg, featuring vine leaves across the top and swan shaped handles.
Women’s – Suzanne Lenglen Cup
Suzanne Lenglen was a superstar of tennis from 1914 until around 1926, her 81 career titles and 181 match winning street led to her becoming one of the first ever female sports celebrities. Like Akhurst, Lenglen tragically died you, succumbing to leukaemia aged 39.
The trophy has been handed out to the winner of the French Open since 1979 and memorialises the lady that the French media dubbed La Divine (the goddess), and many consider to be the greatest female tennis player in history.
Image by Benjami Villoslada I Gil
Men’s – The Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy
The famous Gentlemen’s singles trophy was introduced in 1884 to replace the Challenge Cup that William Renshaw won in 1886 for the third time which entitled him to keep the trophy. Renshaw also won the original Field Cup trophy three times meaning that he took home both the Challenge Cup and Field Cup trophies for good. The All England Tennis Club decided that it was getting expensive to keep replacing the trophy, so it was decided that the new trophy would remain with the club.
The silver gilt trophy is 18 inches tall, 7.5 inches wide and has all the winner’s names etched into it. In 2009 a black plinth was introduced at the bottom of the trophy to accommodate more names.
Women’s – Venus Rosewater Dish
This beautiful dish, first awarded in 1886 features a mythological theme that is based on a 16th century pewter dish that features in the galleries of the Louvre.
In the middle of the dish you will find Temperance, the spirit of restraint, discretion, self-control and temperance, all qualities that would serve a tennis champion well! The outer rim follows the classical theme, with Minerva, goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, and commerce, so an all-round goddess, much like a Wimbledon winner.
The trophy is 48 cm in diameter and was made in Birmingham in 1864. This year Angelique Kerber was the lucky recipient of this 130-year-old piece of art.
As with the men’s trophy, the recipient of this prestigious trophy receives a ¾ sized replica that they are free to take home. For ladies like Serena William who has won seven Wimbledon titles, this means a lot of mini Venus Rosewater Dishes in their trophy cabinets.
Men’s – Men’s Singles Trophy
This silver trophy stands at 50cm tall and 43cm wide, weighing in at 3.2kg. The trophy resides at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Rhode Island before being handed over to the winner at the tournament ending ceremony. The trophy is then taken to Tiffany & Co. where the new champions name is engraved on the back of the trophy.
The tournament first started in 1881 in Rhode Island but moved to New York in 1915, eventually moving to its current location at the USTA National Tennis Centre in 1978.
Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are tied for the most open-era titles at the US Open with 5, however it was won 7 times each by Richard Sears, William Larned and Bill Tilden in the pre-professional era.
Women’s – Women’s Singles Trophy
The women’s trophy is almost identical in design to the men’s trophy, it is just a little shorter, measuring 30cm high and 37cm wide, it weighs 2.25 kg.
Like the men’s trophy, the women’s trophy lives at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Rhode Island and is taken to Tiffany’s & Co to have the winners name engraved on the back.
Serena Williams and Chris Evert are tied for the most open-era titles in the women’s singles with 6 victories apiece, a record that Williams will be looking to break in 2019 and beyond. The overall record for most singles victories however is owned by Molla Mallory, who won the title 8 times between 1915 and 1926.
We are so used to seeing these wonderful pieces of art being hoisted by tennis’ superstars, but we tend to know little about the trophies themselves. Whether they are modelled on Roman vases, feature goddesses, immortalise a tennis great, or are carefully engraved at Tiffany & Co., each trophy has its own unique story.