The Championships, Wimbledon, The Wimbledon Championships or simply Wimbledon, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious. It has been held at the All England Club in London since 1877. It is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments (Majors), the others being the Australian Open, the French Open (Roland Garros) and the US Open. Since the Australian Open shifted to hard court in 1988, Wimbledon is the only Major still played on grass, the game’s original surface, which gave the game its original name of “lawn tennis”.
The tournament takes place over two weeks in late June and early July, culminating with the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Final, scheduled for the second Saturday and Sunday respectively. Five major, junior, and invitational events are held each year.
The hard court (Plexicushion) Australian Open and clay court French Open precede Wimbledon in the year, and the hard court (DecoTurf) US Open follows. For men, the grass court Queen’s Club Championships, in London, England, and the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, serve as warm-up events; for women, the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and two joint events, the Topshelf Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands and the Eastbourne International.
Wimbledon traditions include a strict dress code for competitors, the eating of strawberries and cream by the spectators, and Royal patronage. The tournament is also notable for the absence of sponsor advertising around the courts. In 2009, Wimbledon’s Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof to lessen the loss of playing time due to rain.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is a private club founded in 1868, originally as ‘The All England Croquet Club’. Its first ground was off Worple Road, Wimbledon.
In 1876, lawn tennis, a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier and originally given then 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 signaled 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 opened on 9 July 1877. The Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event held and 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’.[c] 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 defined. The opening of the new No. 1 Court in 1997 emphasised the description.
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