In celebration of Wimbledon starting this week, former Tennis World editor, Alastair McIver looks at how the Christian faith has always come to the fore during The Championships.

Coco Gauff

Roland Garros, 06 Jun 2024: Coco Gauff (USA) during the 2024 French Open. Alamy Live News/corleve Contributor: corleve / Alamy Stock Photo

In the spring of 2000, I had the privilege of interviewing one of Britain’s greatest pre-war Davis Cup players, Henry Wilfred ‘Bunny’ Austin, in his Surrey nursing home just before his death at the age of 94.

Not only a contemporary and travelling companion of Fred Perry in the 1930’s, he was also an actor, a socialite, a political advocate, and a Christian.

We chatted about the forthcoming Championships, who might win, who might do well and so on, for a Wimbledon preview I was writing that year.

At the end, he asked me to pray for him.

It was a special moment.

Why do I mention this? Well, for me, who has journeyed in prayer with many Christian tennis players over the years, it was a reminder that faith, Christian faith, has never ventured far from the sporting world.

Christian faith has never ventured far from the sporting world.

I love the fact that whenever - and wherever - professional sports men and women gather, Jesus goes with them. It was so in Bunny Austin’s day and it will be no different this year.

This July, faith carriers, men and women alike, will be milling around the Wimbledon estate, carrying the presence of Jesus in their hearts. World No 2 Coco Gauff will be one of them.

The 20-year-old American has already amassed $14.5 million prize money from her seven career titles with $2.5 million of that coming last September after winning her first Grand Slam tournament in New York.

But despite the wealth and the fame, her feet remain firmly on the ground. She says; “I try to stay humble and remember that I’m just a girl from Florida who loves to play tennis. My faith helps me stay grounded and remember what’s important.”

She says; “I try to stay humble and remember that I’m just a girl from Florida who loves to play tennis. My faith helps me stay grounded and remember what’s important.”

A member of a Baptist church in Florida ,Coco enjoys strong family support. Her parents travel with her on the Tour and support her in prayer, as Coco acknowledges: ”Before every match since I was eight, my dad and I say a prayer together. We don’t really pray about victory, just that me and my opponent stay safe.”

On court or online, Coco Gauff is an ambassador for Christ. She is not afraid to declare it.

Following her win in Cincinnati last August, she took the mic on court and said: “I’d like to thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I spent a lot of nights alone crying trying to figure it out. I still have a lot to figure out, but I thank him for covering me.”

A month later, she was to achieve her greatest career victory to date, the US Open title, with a three set win over two time Grand Slam champion Alyna Sabalenka. It was a another defining moment in Gauff’s career, but again, it was God who she acknowledged in her on court interview:

“This (victory) means so much to me. That French Open loss (in the final in 2022) was heartbreaking, but I realised God puts you through tribulations and trials, and that makes this moment even sweeter.”


Of course, Jesus isn’t only interested in the players. He loves all who attend The Championships, including those in the famous Wimbledon queue, those hardy tennis fans who brave the elements for an opportunity to watch tennis on one of Wimbledon’s 18 grass courts.

That’s where the local churches come in.

Love All – Serve All tennis, founded by Baptist Minister Carolyn Skinner, has been an active Christian witness at Wimbledon for 20 years. Last year, more than 50 volunteers from 14 different local churches dished out drinks, stress balls and gospels, as well as offering prayer to visitors queuing up outside the gates of the All England Club.

”At Third Space Ministries, we love to welcome people from all around the globe to the most famous queue in the world, and demonstrate something of the kindness of God to them,” says Caroline. “We firmly believe that this is what Jesus came to do, and what he calls us, as his followers, to do also.”

Whether you are blessed to have tickets this year, maybe even to watch one of Gauff’s matches, or whether you are in the queue, hoping to make it on to an outside court, you can be sure of three things:

Love will be in the air, faith will be mingling its way around the estate, and yes, Jesus’ omnipresence will abound.