By Webteam - 9th July 2019 6:01am
The very first Wimbledon
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is a private club founded on 23 July 1868, originally as "The All England Croquet Club". Its first ground was at Nursery Road off Worple Road, Wimbledon.
In 1876, lawn tennis, a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier as an outdoor version of court tennis and originally given the name Sphairistikè, was added to the activities of the club. In spring 1877, the club was renamed "The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club" and signalled its change of name by instituting the first Lawn Tennis Championship.
A new code of laws, replacing the code administered by the Marylebone Cricket Club, was drawn up for the event. Today's rules are similar except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.
The inaugural 1877 Wimbledon Championship started on 9 July 1877 and the Gentlemen's Singles was the only event held. It was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.
The lawns at the ground were arranged so that the principal court was in the middle with the others arranged around it, hence the title "Centre Court". The name was retained when the Club moved in 1922 to the present site in Church Road, although no longer a true description of its location. However, in 1980 four new courts were brought into commission on the north side of the ground, which meant the Centre Court was once more correctly described. The opening of the new No. 1 Court in 1997 emphasised the description.
Ladies Championship, 1884. First prize, awarded to Maud Watson, was a silver flower-basket worth 20 guineas.
By 1882, activity at the club was almost exclusively confined to lawn tennis and that year the word "croquet" was dropped from the title. However, for sentimental reasons it was restored in 1899.
In 1884, the club added Ladies' Singles and Gentlemen's Doubles competitions. Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles events were added in 1913. Until 1922, the reigning champion had to play only in the final, against whomever had won through to challenge him/her. As with the other three Major or Grand Slam events, Wimbledon was contested by top-ranked amateur players; professional players were prohibited from participating. This changed with the advent of the open era in 1968. No British man won the singles event at Wimbledon between Fred Perry in 1936 and Andy Murray in 2013, while no British woman has won since Virginia Wade in 1977, although Annabel Croft and Laura Robson won the Girls' Championship in 1984 and 2008 respectively. The Championship was first televised in 1937.
Though properly called "The Championships, Wimbledon", depending on sources the event is also known as "The All England Lawn Tennis Championships", "The Wimbledon Championships" or simply "Wimbledon". From 1912 to 1924, the tournament was recognized by the International Lawn Tennis Federation as the "World Grass Court Championships".
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