Crash course: Wimbledon

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It's almost time for the nation to become briefly obsessed with tennis – as the first ball is served on the lawn courts of the All England Club on Monday.

TIMELINE

On screens

1937

The BBC presented its first TV coverage of the Championships, but only a few thousand people within a 40-mile radius could watch

Open up

1968

The Open Era began, when professionals could play alongside amateurs. Rod Laver and Billie Jean King won the inaugural singles titles

Epic final

1980

Bjorn Borg triumphed over a fiery John McEnroe in a titanic five-set final best remembered for a 20-minute fourth-set tie-break

German invasion

1985

Boris Becker's flamboyant play helped the 17-year-old become the youngest-ever men's champion

Winner's enclosure

1987

After claiming the title, Pat Cash climbed into the players' box in a much imitated emotional celebration

The greatest

1990

Martina Navratilova won a record ninth – and final – Wimbledon title. Her first came in 1978, against Chris Evert

Two sisters

2000

Venus Williams bagged the Rosewater Dish for the first time. She and sister Serena have both won on five occasions

Clash of the Titans

2008

Clay court specialist Rafael Nadal beat reigning champ Roger Federer in an unforgettable five-set final

Centre-court sobs

2012

Andy Murray was in tears after defeat to Federer in the final, but it spurred him on to Olympic gold.

Profile: Green king

Neil Stubley has worked on the Wimbledon ground staff all his working life, but the next fortnight will be the biggest of his career.

Stubley, aged 44, became head groundsman at the end of last year and has been handed the task of preparing the courts for this summer's Championships after one of the coldest springs in living memory. Wimbledon has 19 tournament grass courts and another 22 which are used for practice.

Stubley joined the All England Club from college in 1995. He became senior groundsman in 2002 and for the next 10 years led the team's day-to-day work, both during the Championships and through the rest of the year. He has also been a consultant for the Lawn Tennis Association, advising on the preparation of grass courts at other clubs around the country.

Eddie Seaward, who was head groundsman for 20 years and had the highest of reputations, stood down at the end of last summer. He will be a tough act to follow.

By Paul Newman

How to: Serve an ace

It's the hardest shot to master, but a good serve is crucial. Mark Winship, head coach at Loughborough University Tennis Club, offers some tips

When tossing the ball, don't go hell for leather; with a high toss, you lose control in the wind. Place it a couple of inches above the height of your outstretched racket, toss it slightly in front of so you can transfer your weight into the court

Co-ordinating your arms takes practice. Your serving rhythm should start slowly and build speed as you swing your racket up to the ball. People who rush at the beginning lose their rhythm. That's how mistakes are made

The racket should make contact with the ball when it's still high in the air. Your arm should be almost fully extended, but still relaxed. A high point of contact allows you to get that 'up and over' feel – and a good serve is yours

By Liam O'Brien

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