Did you know that the Wimbledon Tennis Championships is the oldest tennis tournament in the world? The very first Wimbledon tournament took place back in 1877 and it still remains one of the most prominent fixtures on the annual international tennis calendar.
Over the years, it’s a tournament that’s seen plenty of changes… so, how did it get to where it is today?
The very beginning
The 1877 tournament was very different to the championships you see today – and in a number of ways. With women forbidden to take part, the Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event of the tournament, with 22 players taking part in the inaugural event. The 200 spectators had each paid a shilling to watch the excitement unfold, and rain interfered with play: the final had to be postponed for three days until it was deemed dry enough to continue. 27-year old Spencer William Gore was eventually crowned the first Wimbledon champion, taking just 48 minutes to thrash his opponent in three straight sets.
Seven years later, in 1884, the tournament grew to three competitions with the addition of the Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles. Maud Watson won the former – her prize was a silver flower basket worth 20 guineas. It wasn’t until 1913 that the Mixed Doubles and Ladies’ Doubles events were added, completing the current line-up of the tournament’s five main events.
Wartime woes and greater growth
War stopped play from 1915 to 1918 and from 1940 to 1945, but that didn’t stop the popularity of lawn tennis from growing. The Wimbledon Tennis Championships became so popular, in fact, that it was first televised back in 1937, and in the 1950s the club had to be moved from its rented Worple Road site to the Church Road site we all know and love today. A further historic moment came in 1967, when footage from The Championships became the first ever televised colour broadcast.
The late 20th century to the modern day
In the 1990s, extensive work began to revamp the club to improve the Wimbledon experience for players, spectators, officials and neighbours alike. New courts were built for the 1997 Championships, and from 1997 to 2009 the Centre Court’s West Stand was extended, and the Millennium Building was constructed. It was in 2009 that the retractable roof was added – meaning that the rain would no longer stop play on Centre Court.
Since the Wimbledon Tennis Championships began, this hallowed London club has seen a number of records set. Boris Becker holds the record for being the youngest Men’s Singles winner at the age of 17 years and 227 days in 1985, while Lottie Dod holds the same record for the ladies, winning the 1887 competition at just 15 years and 285 days old. Roger Federer became the first man to win a singles title eight times in 2017, while the award for the men’s match that took the longest time to complete goes to John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010, taking a massive 11 hours and 5 minutes, and commonly referred to as “the endless match”.
Every single year the Wimbledon Tennis Championships brings something new, be it exciting new players, changes to the programme or new world records. It’s no wonder it’s considered the world’s top tennis tournament – and we’re sure that will remain the case for many years to come.