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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
The start of something special
The Championships at Wimbledon started in 1877 and the inaugural tournament was a far cry from today's two-week celebration of tennis.

Suzanne Lenglen stretches for the ball at Wimbledon
France's Suzanne Lenglen ruled following the Great War

The competition was set up in an effort to raise money for the repair of a roller and comprised of 22 entrants in the men's singles.

It was the first organised tennis tournament in the world and the 27-year-old W Spencer Gore finished as champion - receiving 12 guineas for his efforts.

The success of the tournament - bar the rain on the day of the final - ensured that it returned 12 months later and was going to become a constant on the sporting calender.

Since 1877, the Championships, as they are fomallly known, have only ever been disrupted by the World Wars, four years being lost during the First and six during the Second.

For the first 30 years Britons dominated proceedings, with the likes of Ernest and William Renshaw and Laurie and Reggie Doherty to the fore.

The Renshaws created such an interest in the game that the 1880s were dubbed the 'Renshaw Rush' as people took to the sport.

EVENT DEBUT
1877: Men's singles
1884: Women's singles & men's doubles
1913: Women's doubles & mixed doubles
America's May Sutton became the first overseas champion, winning the women's title in 1905, and was followed two years later by Norman Brookes as the first men's champion from outside the UK.

The Australian's victory was a watershed in the men's game and only two British men have won the title since.

Following the cessation of play during the First World War, the Championships resumed in 1919 under the spell of Suzanne Lenglen who won five titles in a row.

And in 1922 they moved to a new site on Church Road, the one that is familiar to tennis fans around the world today, although it has undergone some major overhauls since.

The Centre Court housed less than 10,000 spectators, with standing for 3,600, which helped popularise the game.

America's Bill Tilden, one of the game's greatest players, won back-to-back post-war titles, but within three years French men were following Lenglen's lead in dominating their event.

Known as the 'Four Musketeers', Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste won six singles and five doubles titles between them over the course of a decade.

The haul included every singles title from 1924-29 in a golden era for French tennis.

Lenglen's six titles were bettered by Helen Wills-Moody, eight times a singles winner in the 1920s and 30s.

However, the big story of the immediate pre-war era was Fred Perry's hat-trick of titles.

Perry won each of his finals in straight sets, the third in an astonishing 40 minutes, before he turned professional.

His first title came in 1934, the same year that Dorothy Round won the women's singles to set the seal on a British double.

The home crowds never had it so good.





Links to more History stories


 

WIMBLEDON FLASHBACK

HISTORY

ROLL OF HONOUR
 

WIMBLEDON LEGENDS
 
CLASSIC MATCHES
 

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