The Hall first hosted tennis in March 1970 with the Rothmans International Tennis Tournament, and soon became Britain’s most important indoor tennis arena and a comfortable winter venue for the game.
The tournament featured some of the great names of the time, including Mark Cox, Rod Laver, Fred Stolle and Roger Taylor.
When the tournament returned in 1971, it brought with it the new tie-break system, making the Hall one of the first venues to use the revised rules. The tournament continued for several years, eventually being joined by the Dewar Cup here each November.
Legendary women’s tennis tournament the Wightman Cup was held at the Hall on 6 occasions, first arriving in November 1978. The tournament saw the best female players from the UK battle it out against their American counterparts. 1978′s tournament featured Virginia Wade & Sue Barker against Chris Evert & Pam Shriver – the UK girls won 4-3 in a victory broadcast live on TV.
In January 1983 the Barrett World Doubles Tennis Championship was held for the first time at the Hall and Pro-celebrity Tennis featuring the likes of Andy Williams, Jeff Wayne, Bruce Forsyth and Sean Connery followed in 1984.
Since 1997 The Masters Tennis, featuring stars of yesteryear such as John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras has filled the Hall to capacity each December.
The 2011 Masters Tennis champion was former British number 1 Tim Henman, who returns in 2012 to defend his crown.
Transforming the arena
When tennis was first played at the Hall, the original Great Floor, usually reserved for ballroom events, was used. However, the fibre carpet laid on these old boards slowed down the ball making the matches horrendously long.
Today, the tennis floor is built with a super-A aluminium beam structure with plywood top finish. It takes 30 men approximately 12 hours to lay, with the first 6 rows of stalls seating being removed in order to install it:
See a time-lapse of the tennis court being constructed for the Masters Tennis: