Wimbledon Tennis History
First Men’s Event
The Championships were first played under the control of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877 at a ground near Worple Road, Wimbledon. The event was solely an amateur competition. At this Championships, the only event held was Gentlemen’s Singles. Just 22 men entered the Gentlemen’s Singles which was eventually won by Spencer Gore.
Women at Wimbledon
In 1884, the All England Club added Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles tournaments to the Gentlemen’s Singles tournament. The Ladies’ Singles competition had 13 entrants, and was won by Miss Maud Watson. The Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles tournaments were added in 1913. Early women players wore full length dresses.
In 1922, the Wimbledon Championships moved from a ground near Worple Road, Wimbledon, to their present location, at a ground near Church Road.
Amateur to Professional
After first rejecting the proposal in 1959, the Lawn Tennis Association voted in 1967 to open The Championships, and in 1968 professionals played against amateurs for the first time. Prior to 1968, Wimbledon was contested by top-ranked amateur players only, although the tournament was closed to contract professional players in 1972.
By 1900, Wimbledon had become an international tournament. The first overseas winner was May Sutton of the United States who was the Ladies’ Champion in 1905 (and again in 1907). Australian Norman Brookes became the first foreign Gentlemen’s Champion in 1907. Since that time, much to the lament of the English, only two British players, Arthur Gore and Fred Perry, have managed to win the Gentlemen’s event.
With the advent of regular passenger air travel in the 1950s, more overseas players were able to come to London and compete. From the mid ’50s until the early ’70s, the Gentlemen’s Singles Tournament was dominated by champion Australian players such as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe.
The first champions of the professional era were Rod Laver and Billie Jean King . In 1980, Bjorn Borg of Sweden became the first player to win the Gentlemen’s Singles title five times in succession since William Renshaw in the late 1880s.
A collection of trivia about the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
- Wimbledon is the only major tennis tournament still played on grass. Both the Australian Open and US Open were once played on grass.
- A challenge round system (in which the defending champion qualified for following year’s final) was used from 1877-1921.
- Wimbledon Tournament is the largest tennis tournament in the world played on grass. It is attended by more than 500,000 people each year.
- Players from over 60 countries compete for trophies and prize money in 13 different categories (see events).
- Jean Borota of France won his first Wimbledon championship in 1924, and was still competing in the main tournament 40 years later, and in 1977 played in the Wimbledon veterans’ doubles at the age of 78.
- The event lasts for two weeks, starting at the end of June each year.
- The first overseas winner was May Sutton of the United States who was the Ladies’ Champion in 1905. Australian Norman Brookes was the first foreign Gentlemen’s Champion, winning in 1907.
- The first women to play in the tournament wore full length dresses, while men played in full length pants until 1946. Still today there are dress regulations, and any woman player wearing a low-cut top which shows too much cleavage and is not all white, will not be allowed on court.
- The shortest person to play tennis at Wimbledon was Miss C.G. Hoahing who was just 4’9″.
- For winning Wimbledon Billie Jean King received a 25 pound gift voucher, while Venus Williams received £300,000 when she won.
- Jaroslav Drobný is the only male tennis player who ever won a Wimbledon singles title while wearing glasses (in 1954)
- There are more than 200 ball boys and ball girls used to collect tennis balls during Wimbledon. To become a ball boy or ball girl, you are required to train eight hours a week for four months before the start of the tournament.
- In 2009 Roger Federer reached his 7th consecutive final at the Wimbledon Championships, an all-time record.
- The longest tennis match in history was played between between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon on June 22-24, 2010. The first-round match took 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days, lasting so long it was suspended because of darkness two nights in a row. The match was won by Isner 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68. Isner was also involved in the second longest match in 2018, in a semi-final against South African Kevin Anderson. Anderson won in 6hrs and 35min, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24.
- The total prize money for the 2013 Wimbledon tournament increased by forty percent to £22,560,000 (around US$34m), with the winners of the men’s and women’s singles titles each earning £1.6m, up £450,000 from the previous year.
- For 2013, the Wimbledon total prize money is the highest out of four grand slam tournaments – Wimbledon (US$34m), US Open (US$32m), Australian Open (US$30m), and French Open (US$29m)