The history of Wimbledon championship can be traced back to the 19th century. Explore information on the history and origin of Wimbledon.

Wimbledon History

Wimbledon championship, simply called Wimbledon, is the oldest and the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. The name of the tournament is derived from Wimbledon, a suburb of London, where it has been held since 1877. The All England Club is the chosen venue for the tournament. Out of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, Wimbledon is the only one played on grass courts, the others being played on grass, hard as well as clay courts. Wimbledon is held for a period of two weeks, starting from late June until early July. Wimbledon championship is preceded by Australian Open (played on hard court) and French Open (played on clay court). U.S. Open tournament are held after Wimbledon. Go through the following lines to get interesting information on the origin and history of Wimbledon.

History & Origin Of Wimbledon

All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club

A private club named All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club came into existence in 1868, with its ground located off Worple Road, Wimbledon. Lawn tennis was invented by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1873. The game of lawn tennis was introduced as one of the activities of the Club in 1875. The Club was rechristened as The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club in 1877. Soon after the Club's name was changed, the Lawn Tennis Championship was started. Consequently, a new code of laws was formulated especially for the event. In 1877, Gentlemen's Singles title - the only tennis event held in the year - was bagged by Spencer Gore. The event was witnessed by about 200 spectators, who paid one shilling each to watch the final match.

Various sporting activities were performed at The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club until 1882, when it was decided that lawn tennis would be the only activity of the Club, thereafter. Consequently, the word 'croquet' was removed from the name of the Club. However, with the intention of not hurting the sentiments of the people associated with the Club, the word 'croquet' was restored to the name of the club in 1899, this time, with a slight change in the phrasing - the Club now came to be called The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Entrance Of Women In The Game
Women's Singles tennis events were started in 1884. Initially, 13 players entered the tournament. The first win of the tournament was registered by Maud Watson. In the same year, the Gentlemen's Doubles event was also started. Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club sponsored the trophy for the tournament. With the passing time, Wimbledon championship gained immense popularity. The facility for the spectators was improvised. The temporary accommodation for the players was replaced by permanent stands. More and more people started flocking the grounds by the mid 1880s.

The maximum crowd was seen during the matches played by British twins Ernest and William Renshaw, who emerged as outstanding players. They won 13 titles (separately as well as doubles partners) between 1881 and 1889. The era was dubbed as 'Renshaw Rush'. However, the public affection for Wimbledon waned with the advent of the 1890s. The popularity picked up pace in 1897, when the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie, entered the championships. In following decade, the championship was simply ruled by them.

Winners From Overseas
With the advent of the 20th century, players from outside England started winning titles, one of the first wins being registered by May Sutton of the United States in 1905. With the win, she became the first Wimbledon Champion from overseas. Sutton registered another success in 1907. In the same year, Norman Brookes of Australia created history by becoming the first Gentlemen's Singles title winner from overseas. The year saw only two players of British origin - Arthur Gore and Fred Perry - to have won the Men's Singles, while five British women - Kitty McKane Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade - managed to grab the Ladies' Wimbledon Champions.

The facilities of ground at Worple Road were improvised prior to the First World War, to meet the increasing needs of the spectators. Larger premises were planned, as to ensure maximum footfall of spectators. The tennis ground was relocated in 1922, to the present location in Church Road. The stadium was built to accommodated as many as 14000 spectators, which helped in the popularization of the game. The expenses for the ground were handled partly by the reserves of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and partly by the issue of Debentures.

Increase In Popularity
During the 1920s, the French tennis players set a record, by winning at least one Wimbledon Single's Championship. Players from countries including US also emerged as winners. Some of the prominent names in the championship, during the time, were Jean Borota, Jacques Brugnon, Rene Lacoste, Kitty McKane and Helen Wills. Wimbledon continued to thrive in the 1930s, with more and more players emerging as outstanding winners. Bill Tilden (American tennis player) made a comeback at the age of 38 and grabbed his third crown in 1931. In the following year, the number of spectators increased to 200,000. The period from 1934 to 1937 was ruled by British tennis players, while tennis players of US origin managed to register consecutive wins just before the Second World War.

Wimbledon During World War II
Although the Club had limited staff during the Second World War, it managed to remain open and carry out its activities. The premises of the club were used to conduct a variety of civil defense and military functions, including fire and ambulance services. In addition to this, a decontamination unit was also set up in the premises of the Club. The main concourse was used by the troops, who camped within the vicinity of the Club. A small farmyard was also established around the ground. The Center Court became a storehouse for five 500lb bombs, which resulted in the loss of as many as 1200 seats. Therefore, it can be said that Wimbledon faced a downfall during wartime.

Post World War II
Things were brought back to normality post World War II. In 1945, between June and July, a series of Wimbledon matches were organized between Allied service members, on the No. 1 Court, which was left unscathed by the enemy action. In August, the final stages of the US European Championships were played. The war damage were cleared and repairs were carried out, to resume the game. Consequently, the ground was brought back to its previous form, a situation that was hard to achieve until 1949.

In the 1950s, US tennis players continued to dominate Wimbledon. Some of the outstanding players were Jack Kramer, Ted Schroeder, Tony Trabert, Louise Brough and Maureen Connolly. The wind changed its direction, when Aussie players registered wins in 1956. From 1956 to 1970, the Gentlemen's Singles titles were won by Australian tennis players - Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe. On the other hand, the stranglehold of US players on Ladies's Singles was broken by Maria Bueno of Brazil, in 1959.

In the 1950s, more and more overseas players were competing at Wimbledon and other tennis tournaments held in different parts of the world. Consequently, in 1959, Herman David put forward the proposal that the Wimbledon Championships be made open to all the players. This proposal was rejected by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and arguments persisted in the following years, at all the levels of the game. After persuasion, in 1964, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) declared the Wimbledon Championships to be open to all tennis players.

Present Day
Wimbledon has emerged as one of the premier tennis tournaments, with worldwide recognition. The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which has been hosting the tournament since the inception of the same, continues to maintain its leadership in the 21st century as well. With the passing time, the quality of the event has been improved. Seating capacity for the spectators has also been improved. Wimbledon has evolved as one of the most prestigious titles.

Important Dates
  • Wimbledon championship celebrated its centenary in 1977.
  • The roof of the Center Court was increased by a height of one meter, in 1979, thereby providing room for another 1088 seats.
  • The centenary of the Ladies' Singles championship was held in 1984.
  • The year 1986 is one of the significant years in the history of Wimbledon, because its 100th championship was celebrated with great fanfare.
  • The 100th Ladies' Championship was commemorated in 1993.