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Sunday, July 9, 2017

TENNIS | July 9, First Wimbledon Tournament Begins

Report on the first Wimbledon Final (Men's
Singles) £26 in 1877 = c. $2,600 in 2017.*

July 9, 2017—This day in 1877 the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon, a suburb of London, offered a tennis tournament.

The 21 men who showed up for the Gentlemen’s Singles were reduced to 11 on the first day, six the next day, and three on the third. The final, postponed for two days to allow spectators to to watch the Eton vs. Harrow cricket match, was rained out. On the rain date, July 19, about 200 spectators paid a shilling to see W. Spencer Gore, an Old Harrovian, the dominate William Marshall, a Cambridge tennis Blue, with a strong volley at net. But at the second Wimbledon in 1878, Gore lost out to challenger Frank Hadow, who had mastered the lob.

Tennis originated with the 13th-century French handball game (jeu de paume, or “game of the palm”), which led to an indoor racket-and-ball game called réal, or “royal,” tennis. This went on to become lawn tennis, which spread to the United States. In the 20th century, half of all tennis players in the world were American.

The All England Club was established in 1868 on four acres of meadowland outside London. Originally founded to provide a place to play croquet, the Club added tennis. In 1877, the Club announced in The Field:
The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9, and following days. Entrance fee, one pound, one shilling [one guinea].
The All English Club purchased a 25-guinea (about £26) trophy and drew up formal rules for tennis, deciding on a rectangular court 78 x 27 feet. It adapted the real tennis method of scoring based on a clock face—i.e., 15, 30, 40, game, decided that the first to win six games wins a set, and allowed the server one fault.

As the game gained in popularity, Wimbledon added:
  • Lady’s Singles in 1884 (Maud Watson won). 
  • The national men’s doubles championship, moved from Oxford.
  • Mixed doubles and women’s doubles in 1913. 
  • A Stadium in 1922 the Wimbledon Stadium was built. 
  • Professionals to the competitions in 1968.
The Wimbledon Championships are today the only major tennis event still played on grass.

*Eric W. NyePounds Sterling to Dollars: Historical Conversion of Currency, accessed Monday, July 10, 2017, http://www.uwyo.edu/numimage/currency.htm.