In which year was the first Wimbledon tournament held?
The 1877 Wimbledon Championship was a men’s tennis tournament held at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (AEC & LTC) in Wimbledon, London. It was the world’s first official lawn tennis tournament, and was later recognised as the first Grand Slam tournament or “Major”. The AEC & LTC had been founded in July 1868, as the All England Croquet Club; lawn tennis was introduced in February 1875 to compensate for the waning interest in croquet. In June 1877 the club decided to organise a tennis tournament to pay for the repair of its pony roller, needed to maintain the lawns. A set of rules was drawn up for the tournament, derived from the first standardised rules of tennis issued by the Marylebone Cricket Club in May 1875.
The Gentlemen’s Singles competition, the only event of the championship, was contested on grass courts by 22 players who each paid one guinea to participate. The tournament started on 9 July 1877, and the final – delayed for three days by rain – was played on 19 July in front of a crowd of about 200 people who each paid an entry fee of one shilling. The winner received 12 guineas in prize money and a silver challenge cup, valued at 25 guineas, donated by the sports magazine The Field. Spencer Gore, a 27-year-old rackets player from Wandsworth, became the first Wimbledon champion by defeating William Marshall, a 28-year-old real tennis player, in three straight sets in a final that lasted 48 minutes. The tournament made a profit of £10 and the pony roller remained in use. An analysis made after the tournament led to some modifications of the rules regarding the court dimensions.
The first public announcement of the tournament was published on 9 June 1877 in The Field magazine under the header Lawn Tennis Championship:
The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9th and following days.Entrance fee, £1 1s 0d. Names and addresses of competitors to be forwarded to the Hon. Sec. A.E.C. and L.T.C. before Saturday, July 7, or on that day before 2.15 p.m. at the club ground, Wimbledon. Two prizes will be given – one gold champion prize to the winner, one silver to the second player. The value of the prizes will depend on the number of entries, and will be declared before the draw; but in no case will they be less than the amount of the entrance money, and if there are ten and less than sixteen entries, they will be made up to £10 10s and £5 5s respectively.– Henry Jones – Hon Sec of the Lawn Tennis sub-committee
Players were instructed to provide their own racquets and wear shoes without heels.The announcement also stated that a programme would be available shortly with further details, including the rules to be adopted for the meeting.Invitations were sent to prospective participants. Potential visitors were informed that those arriving by horse and carriage should use the entrance at Worple Road while those who planned to come by foot were advised to use the railway path.Upon payment of the entrance fee, the participants were allowed to practise before the Championship on the twelve available courts with the provision that on Saturdays and during the croquet championship week, held the week before the tennis tournament, the croquet players had the first choice of courts. Practice balls, similar to the ones used for the tournament, were available from the club’s gardener at a price of 12s per dozen balls. John H. Walsh, in his capacity as editor of The Field, persuaded his employer to donate a cup worth 25 guineas for the winner; the Field Cup.The cup was made of sterling silver and had the inscription: The All England Lawn Challenge Cup – Presented by the Proprietors of The Field – For competition by Amateurs – Wimbledon July 1877.On 6 July 1877, three days prior to the start of the tournament.