9 July 1877: start of the first Wimbledon tennis championships

Spencer Gore: first Wimbledon champion

On 9 July, 1877 the first Championships began at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.

It is the oldest tennis championship in the world, and is the only ‘grand slam’ event played on grass.

There was only one event in 1877 – the gentlemen’s singles (there wouldn’t be a ladies’ championships till 1884). A field of 22 took part, having paid the one guinea entry fee. It was won by 27-year-old Old Harrovian and ex-Surrey country cricketer, Spencer Gore, who defeated William Marshall 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in front of a crowd of around 200 spectators.

Entrance fee for spectators was a shilling, and the prize for the winner was £12 – roughly £1,300 in today’s money.

Things have changed greatly since then, of course. It’s much more lucrative, for one. This year’s singles winners took home £1,760,000. First round losers were given £27,000.

The number of spectators has gone up somewhat, too. At any one time, there are around 38,500 of them in the grounds, who get through 200,000 glasses of Pimms, 28,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream. They bought 28,600 ‘official’ towels, and 10,000 umbrellas.

There is no information about what sort of profit the first championships made. But in 1879, the first year for which figures are available, there was a ‘surplus’ of £116. In 2013, that figure was £35,107,812 – 90% of that is handed over to the Lawn Tennis Association to be used to develop British tennis.

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