Wimbledon Tennis Championship History
The history of Wimbledon dates way back to 1875 when the All England Croquet Club was cajoled into setting aside a bit of its land on Worple Street for lawn tennis.
The club had been suffering a bit of a slump and was battling to attract new membership. With the introduction of the ever increasingly popular summer sport, lawn tennis, all this changed, and the club was forced to move with the times and amend its name to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
As with today, rental on land in the late 19th century was dear in the city of London, and in an effort to pay for the four acres of prime property, additional funds had to be raised. The first ever lawn tennis tournament was organised, and in 1877 22 players competed before 200 spectators at the first Wimbledon Championships.
The championships soon caught the imagination of the public and became more popular as every year went by. It was not long before Wimbledon men’s tennis champions began to emerge, and one of the first was a man called William Renshaw. The Brit managed to rake in no fewer than seven singles titles, six of which were back-to-back, an unbelievable record which still stands today, 118 years on.
Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s the Doherty brothers dominated the championships. Younger brother Reginald took the title on four occasions, whilst his brother Laurence walked away as five-time victor, making Wimbledon tennis championship history
Due to the difficulty of international travel, it was only in 1910 that the men’s singles title was claimed by a native of another land. New Zealander Anthony Wilding crushed British hopes with his four consecutive victories, and then it was the turn of Australian great, Norman Brookes, to deny the English a win until Fred Perry took centre stage in 1934.
The turn of the ladies to compete on the hallowed lawns of the All England Club came as early as 1884, a mere seven years after the first men’s singles event. The men’s doubles was included at the same championships, whereas the ladies doubles and mixed doubles events were added in 1913.
American, May Sutton, became the first international competitor to claim the crown at the 1905 championships, and before then names like Lottie Dod (five titles) and Blanche Bingley-Hillyard (five wins & seven runner-ups) recurred with boring regularity.
The championships were discontinued for the duration of both great wars, and after the Second World War, the face of Wimbledon changed. Long trousers and dresses with stockings were replaced by shorts and shorter skirts, and the period of British dominance was a thing of the past. In fact, no British man has lifted the title since Fred Perry in1936 and only three British women have been successful – Angela Mortimer in 1961, Ann Haydon-Jones in 1969 and Virginia Wade in 1977.
It was the time of Australians, Lew Hoad, Rod Laver and John Newcombe who had the championships sewn up for most of the 50s and 60s.
Then it was the turn of one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Bjorn Borg, to show off his immense skills against the likes of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Finally, an American called Pete Sampras joined the fray and single-handedly controlled the outcome of the championships for most of the 1990s until current champion, Roger Federer stepped up to claim five straight titles from 2003 to 2007.
In later years legends like Billie-Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf have picked up title after title, smashing and setting records, and making Wimbledon tennis championship history. Currently it is the American duo of Venus and Serena Williams who are jealously guarding their status as Wimbledon champions.