Wimbledon - A potted history
The Wimbledon Championships have come a long way from their humble beginnings in 1877.
Last Updated: 19/06/08 12:54pm
From its humble beginnings in 1877, when 22 men competed for the inaugural gentleman's singles title, Wimbledon has grown into one of the most celebrated sporting events in the world, watched by a global audience of billions.
The first champion, Spencer Gore, received 12 guineas for his triumph in a final which spectators paid one shilling to watch.
It was seven years before the ladies' singles was introduced, with Maud Watson emerging successful from a field of only 13 competitors.
Also in 1884, the gentlemen's doubles began and as the popularity of Wimbledon increased, facilities for spectators improved.
Permanent stands were erected as crowds flocked to see the prowess of British twins, Ernest and William Renshaw, who separately and as doubles partners won 13 titles between 1881 and 1889.
British dominance ends
The home domination of the championships continued beyond the turn of the century, until American Mary Sutton became the first overseas winner in 1905.
She repeated her success in 1907, the year Norman Brookes of Australia became the first men's champion from overseas.
Play was suspended during World War One and moved to a new venue at Church Road in 1922 after efforts to extend the old grounds had failed.
The Centre Court was designed with seating for 9,989 people with standing room for 3,600, a move which helped popularise the game enormously.
By 1924 the old number one court had been opened and the following year a qualifying competition for the championships was necessary for the first time.
In 1927 over 22,000 spectators attended on the first Saturday of the championships with 2,000 more turned away.
French players were hugely successful in the 20s, with Suzanne Lenglen reigning supreme in the ladies' singles and the 'Four Musketeers' - Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste - winning six singles and five doubles titles between them.
A landmark was achieved in the championships of 1930 when Brame Hillyard became the first man to play wearing shorts. That was on court 10, and Bunny Austin was the first to do so on Centre Court three years later.
The last golden era of British tennis followed in the mid-to-late 30s when 11 titles were claimed, including three successive gentlemen's singles titles for Fred Perry and two by Dorothy Round.
World War Two bomb damage, which resulted in the loss of 1,200 Centre Court seats, was repaired in time for the 1949 championships. In the post-war era, it was the Americans who emerged as the major force, with Althea Gibson the first black winner in 1957.
From 1956 until the early 1970s, the gentlemen's singles title was virtually the property of Australia and Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe became household names.
The sequence of American wins in the ladies' singles was not broken until 1959 when Maria Bueno of Brazil triumphed.
In the 1960s, Margaret Smith became the first Australian to win the event, while Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones won for Great Britain.
At this stage players were still officially amateurs but were increasingly branded "shamateurs" for receiving financial assistance well in excess of the amounts allowed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
The All-England Club proposed in 1959 that the championships be made open to all players but the move was rejected by both the ITF and the Lawn Tennis Association.
In 1967 however an invitation tournament to mark the advent of colour television was sponsored by the BBC at Wimbledon. The players included professionals who had won honours at Wimbledon in their amateur days but who had forfeited the right to play in the championships upon turning professional.
Later that year, the LTA voted overwhelmingly to open the championships and in 1968, the first 'open' championships were held. Rod Laver and Billie Jean King were the first such champions.
The following year saw Rod Laver win the singles for the fourth time and one of the greatest games of all time, Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Pasarell contesting a first round match containing 112 games.
Wade's centenary success
The match was all the more remarkable given that it was not until 1975 that chairs were provided for the first time for players to rest when changing ends.
In 1977, the championships celebrated their centenary with Virginia Wade memorably providing a home triumph in the ladies' singles, the centenary of which was of course not celebrated until 1984.
An electronic service-line monitor - later known as 'Cyclops' - was introduced in 1980, the year in which Bjorn Borg won the title for the fifth time in succession.
Five years later Boris Becker became the youngest man, first unseeded player and first German to win the title when, as a 17-year-old, he defeated Kevin Curran in the final.
In 1987 Martina Navratilova of the United States became the first player to win the ladies' singles six times in succession and in 1990 attained the all-time record of nine victories in the event.
Then in 1996, Martina Hingis of Switzerland became the youngest ever champion, winning the ladies' doubles at 15 years, 282 days.
Roger Federer goes into this year's tournament looking to surpass Borg's record of five successive titles having matched it last year with his thrilling victory over Rafael Nadal.
Venus Williams, meanwhile, is looking for a fifth singles title after becoming the lowest-seeded player to win the ladies' singles 12 months ago. Seeded 23, the American defeated Marion Bartoli in the final.