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Tennis Coin Honors Famous Wimbledon Champion Roger Federer

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2020 Switzerland Gold 50 Francs Roger Federer holding Wimbledon Trophy, PCGS PR70DCAM. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, once a year, my dad would be tuned into a tennis match on television early in the morning on a Sunday in June. Sleepy eyed, I asked my dad, “What are you watching?” He replied, “Wimbledon.” I had never heard of what he was talking about, and he told me, “It’s a tennis event that’s played in England once a year to determine the world champion on a grass court for both men and women.”

So each year, it became a tradition for me and my dad to watch Wimbledon in the summer. This also sparked my interest in playing tennis at the age of 14. I started reading tennis magazines at the convenience store for free and dreamed about attending the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. For many years, my dad and I talked about players such as John McEnroe, Martina Navritalova, Bjorn Borg, Steffi Graf, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendel, to name a few. We watched these athletes battle each other sometimes for five hours or more, which can be physically exhausting.

Over the years, the slate of active players changed – as in any sport – and in the mid-1990s a young Roger Federer started his career. He emerged as a superstar and became the all-time men's champion at Wimbledon in 2019 by winning the event an astonishing nine times in 21 years. In 2020, to honor this native son of Switzerland, the Swiss Mint struck a 50 francs proof gold coin with Federer seen holding the Wimbledon trophy in his hands. Only 500 pieces were struck in proof and 10,000 were produced as circulation strikes. A silver 20 francs proof coin was issued with a mintage of 10,000, and 100,000 circulation strikes were issued as well. All issues were quickly sold out. PCGS-graded coins can be purchased at premium to the issue price in the aftermarket.

Serving Up History About Wimbledon

Wimbledon wasn’t always the nostalgic town that the tennis world has come to know in the present day. Hundreds of years transformed the town’s original name, its landscape, and the way the people of the town traveled. In 967, King Edgar the Peaceful of England established the village of “Wimbedounyng” by signing a charter. Over the next few centuries, ownership of the area changed hands several times, and the name changed as well. During the late 18th century, the town was recognized as “Wimbleton” by a map maker, and the next century the spelling changed to what we recognize today as the town of “Wimbledon.” In the early 19th century, the town began growing as the introduction of the London and South Western Railway was at the bottom of the town’s hill. The addition of new railway lines by the “The Underground” railway system in England offered a new service from the neighboring town of Putney in 1889, which increased commerce to Wimbledon.

The first Wimbledon tennis championships were held on July 9, 1877, at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, which lasted several days and saw 22 participants enter. Spencer Gore was the first winner of Wimbledon, and his name is engraved on a sterling silver trophy with the inscription “The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World” with a pineapple on top. In 2009, the men’s trophy ran out of room, another layer was added when Roger Federer from Switzerland won his sixth Wimbledon championship, defeating Andy Roddick of the United States. Federer won three more titles and nine total, making him the “King of Wimbledon.”

In 1884, women were first invited to compete at Wimbledon, and Maud Watson won; she also won in 1885, though her name was not added to the trophy known as the “Rosewater Dish” until 1886. This intricate dish is made out of sterling silver and gilt with gold. The central theme of the dish has no associations with tennis but pertains to classical mythology. Birds, vining flowers, lounging humans, portraits, and many ornate designs decorate the plate. The piece is a replica of a pewter dish that resides in the Louvre (Paris Museum) made during the Renaissance period (14th-17th century). Martina Navitralova, who is originally from Czechoslovakia, has won the women’s singles event nine times, making her the “Queen of Wimbledon.”

Looking to the Future

I visited India in the summer of 1986 at the age of 15 with my family. My cousins Nilesh and Rupesh (who are brothers), and I, were watching the Wimbledon men’s final match on television in our uncle’s living room. There was a German player by the name of Boris Becker who was 18 years old and ranked 35th worldwide the previous year. Becker was playing against Ivan Lendel, who was ranked number one in the world in 1986. My cousins and I discussed how Lendel was so incredible, how dominant of a player he was, and it was likely he would win his first Wimbledon title that day. We watched the whole match and couldn’t believe what unfolded. Becker beat Lendel in three straight sets and he defied the odds. Wimbledon’s popularity and Becker’s fame exploded after that match.

Becker would go on to win Wimbledon six more times in his career. These days, Wimbledon hosts players such as Novak Djokovic, Iga Swiatek, Jannik Sinner, Coco Gauff, and Carlos Alcaraz will be playing at Wimbledon this year. These players are top ranked worldwide and are among the favorites to win the event in recent years. But then again, the unthinkable may happen. Like when Becker defeated Lendel in 1986. While it’s unlikely you or I will ever hoist a Wimbldeon trophy above our heads, we thankfully have the 2020 Swiss coins fielding grass-court champ Roger Federer to add to our coin collections.

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