WHILE the world's top players battle it out on the Centre Court this weekend for millions of dollars in prize money, youngsters aged 12 to 18 will hurl themselves even more enthusiastically into the closing stages of the junior tournament for nothing more than the honor of an invitation to the Champions' Dinner at London's Savoy Hotel this Sunday night.
Junior Wimbledon began in 1947 when organizers invited the junior champions of eight European countries to watch the second week's play at the championships. In the mornings the club professional at the time, Dan Maskell (later the voice of BBC television tennis), organized a tournament for the boys on the hard (not grass) courts. The prize was a small silver cup donated by Maskell and presented by the newly crowned Wimbledon champion. The girls preferred to play friendly matches only.
In 1949 the two events were held in public on the outside grass courts during the afternoons.
The list of boys' champions includes Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Pat Cash, and Stefan Edberg. Among the girls' championships are names like Zina Garrison (1981), Brenda Schultz (1988), and two double winners of the junior title, Andrea Strnadova and Natalia Zvereva, all of whom have played in the main draw this year.
The boys' top seed this year is Neville Godwin of South Africa; the girls' top seed is Nancy Feber of Belgium.