Lawn Tennis: The Birmingham-Basque Connection
If, as most pundits predicted, Garbiñe Muguruza had won the annual Birmingham Classic Women’s Tennis Competition at the Edgbaston Priory Club this year, Basque roots on her father’s side would have ensured a poetic victory. The origins of lawn tennis can be traced back to Juan Bautista Augurio Perera (1822-after 1885), believed to have emigrated to England in 1837 aged fifteen, where he established himself as a trader of Spanish goods in the second city. Alongside Thomas Henry Green (1819-81), Perera sought a cheaper and more convenient alternative to playing indoor tennis. Instrumental to the development of the nascent sport was the mechanized lawnmower that ensured the uniform quality of the lawns, and vulcanized rubber for the creation of suitable balls. Early experiments carried out in Perera’s garden were referred to as ‘pelota’ in homage to the Basque racket sport.