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  • Winbledon History

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    The most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event not to have a fixed date, commencing six weeks before the first Monday in August.

    The tournament lasts for a fortnight, or for as long as necessary to complete all events.

    Today, Wimbledon boasts the most talented players in the world and annual attendances of over 450,000 people.

    But it is not just the calibre of players which makes the Wimbledon Championships so special, but also their rich history. For a professional tennis player, winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of any career.

    The first Wimbledon event was staged in 1877 by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, to raise money for a new roller. The competition had only 22 male participants.

    It wasn't until 1884 that the Ladies' Singles and Men's Doubles was introduced.

    The game's first superstars were British twins Ernest and William Renshaw. Together the "Renshaw Rush", either separately or as Doubles partners, won 13 titles between 1881 and 1889.

    The event achieved global status in 1905, when May Sutton of the United States became the first overseas winner, claiming the Ladies' Singles title.

    Two years later, Norman Brookes of Australia became the first Men's Singles champion from overseas.

    Brookes' win would change Wimbledon forever. Only two other British men would win the championship again - Arthur Gore and Fred Perry.


    French dominance

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    The ever-increasing international appeal of Wimbledon enabled it to thrive during the 1920s.

    Britain's 35-year domination of the Ladies' Singles ended in 1919 with the emergence of Suzanne Lenglen of France.

    France went on to dominate the championship that decade, producing at least one Singles champions each year during the '20s.

    The French quartet known as the 'Four Musketeers' - Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon - ruled the roost.

    Only American Bill Tilden broke their stranglehold. After setting Wimbledon alight in 1920, his efforts flowed over into the next decade with a title win in 1930 at the age of 38.

    Between the wars
    The '30s was the golden era for British tennis, with Fred Perry and Dorothy Round dominating the game.

    But Donald Budge and Helen Wills Moody helped the United States emerge as the ascending nation in world tennis leading up to World War II.

    The new ground at Church Road, which was purchased in 1922, was used during the war for civil defence and military functions, such as fire and ambulance services, Home Guard and a decontamination unit.

    Amazingly 1200 seats on Centre Court were destroyed by a bomb during the war, but fans and players dug deep once again to rebuild the club and play resumed in 1949 with the grounds completely restored.

    PWW2


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    The post-war US supremacy was notable for Althea Gibson's successas the first black champion, landing the Ladies' Singles championship in 1957.

    From Helen Wills Moody's final victory in 1938, the US had a vice-like grip on the Ladies' Singles until Brazilian Maria Bueno's triumph in 1959.

    In contrast the Men's Singles was firmly in the hands of Australia between 1956 and the early '70s - Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe would establish one of the world's greatest sporting dynasties.

    The emergence of professionalism

    As the amateur event grew in statue, so became the need to open the Championships to all players, including professionals. However an early proposal to do so in 1959 was rejected by both the ITF and the LTA.

    It was not until 1968 that the first professional Open Championships was held, with Rod Laver and Billie Jean King the inaugural winners - a total purse of over £26,000 was on offer that year.

    Centenary celebrations

    The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum was opened in 1977 as the club celebrated its centenary.

    British star Virginia Wade picked up a special trophy to mark the Jubilee that year as the winner of the Ladies' Singles, in the rare presence of Her Majesty the Queen.

    The 100th Championships were held in 1986, with the centenary of the Ladies' Singles and Doubles championships being staged in 1993.


    The modern era

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    In 1975, Arthur Ashe made history by becoming the first black winner of the Men's Singles.

    Bjorn Borg of Sweden dominated the 1980s and won the Men's Singles title five times in succession - a feat not achieved since the beginning of the century.

    The end of the Borg era saw the emergence of brash American John McEnroe, who thrilled the crowd with his skills as much as he upset them with his temper.

    At just 17, Boris Becker became the youngest player, the first unseeded player and the first German to win the Men's Singles title in 1985.

    America's Martina Navratilova became the first player to win the Ladies' Singles title six times in succession - she would win the title a further three times, and even appeared in the final as late as 1994.

    It took the emergence of German starlet Steffi Graf to challenge Navratilova - she would win the Ladies' title a total of seven times.

    In 1996, Martina Hingis of Switzerland, became the youngest ever Champion, winning the Ladies' Doubles Championship at the age of just 15.

    American 'Pistol' Pete Sampras dominated the Men's Singles throughout the '90s - only a victory for Dutchman Richard Krajicek in 1996 stopped the great man winning the title eight years in succession.

    After Sampras secured his record seventh title in 2000, the 21st century has seen four other men's singles champions.

    In 2001 the volatile and unseeded Croatian Goran Ivanisevic downed Patrick Rafter in five epic sets to lift his maiden Grand Slam title after having lost in the final of Wimbledon three times in the 90s.

    This was followed by the tenacious Aussie Lleyton Hewitt's demolition of Argentina's David Nalbandian in 2002 and the phenomenally talented Roger Federer victory over Mark Philippoussis a year later. Federer also won in 2004 when he beat Andy Roddick.

    On the women's front the Williams sisters have been in a class of their own with Venus lifting the title in 2000 and 2001 and sibling Serena for the past two years.

    The 17 year old virtual unknown Russian, Maria Sharapova caused a massive upset in 2004 when she beat Serena Williams in straight sets to win the Women's Singles Title.

    This year's Wimbledon welcomes the shock winner of this year's French Open, Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal.

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