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About the Event
The Championships, Wimbledon, or just Wimbledon as it is more commonly referred to, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and arguably the most famous. Since the first tournament 125 years ago in 1877, The Championships have been hosted by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon,London and take place over two weeks in late June – early July.
Of the four major annual tennis tournaments known as the ‘Grand Slams’, Wimbledon is the only one to still be played on grass, which is where the name lawn tennis originated. The grass is also the surface which provides the fastest game of tennis. Of the other three, the Australian Open and the US Open are both played on hard courts and the French Open is played on clay.
In stark contrast to today’s sporting extravaganza, the first year of the Championships took place with very little fanfare. The All England Club had originally been called the All England Croquet Club when it opened in 1869, but as the new game of lawn tennis – an offshoot of the original indoor racquet sport known by traditionalists as ‘real tennis’ – began to grow in popularity at the end of the nineteenth century, the club decided to provide tennis courts for their visitors. On 14 April 1877, the Club introduced the first of a number of name changes to become the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.
Unlike today’s tournament, which involves four junior and four invitation competitions alongside the five main contests – the men’s singles and doubles matches, the women’s singles and doubles matches and the mixed doubles – the first Wimbledon championships had one event, the Gentleman’s Singles. As it was not permissible for women to enter the tournament in 1877, the first Wimbledon champion from a group of twenty-two male competitors was twenty-seven year old Spencer William Gore. In front of a crowd of 200, who had paid a shilling apiece to attend, Gore beat his opponent William Marshall in a decisive 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 defeat lasting only forty-eight minutes. As would also be the tradition for many Wimbledon tournaments to follow until a retractable roof was installed over centre court in 2009, the final was postponed due to rain. When it was eventually played three days later the weather conditions had not greatly improved.