Wimbledon 1877 - how it all began at world's oldest tennis event?



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Wimbledon 1877 - how it all began at world's oldest tennis event?

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon staged the first Major tournament in 1877, in what had been the first big step in the creation of the modern tennis. Everything was still brand new and the organizers had to start from the fundamental things, arranging a meeting between Messrs Julian Marshall, Charles G.

Heathcote and Henry Jones who were to determine the basic rules and presentation, preparing everything for the second week of July. The manufacturers of Jefferies & Co company from Woolwich were in charge of producing "nets of the right size and texture; posts of the right height and stoutness, and fifteen dozens balls, without a bad one amongst them."

The scoring system was the same we use today, with deuces and advantages that lead to the sudden death at five games all, excluding the final match, with the point being alive and kickin' if the ball touches the net and land in the service field.

The net itself was a little bit higher than today while the court dimensions were identical, with the only difference in the length of the service field that is five feet shorter today than in 1877 (they had shortened it to today's measure in 1880).

The first ever Wimbledon draw took place at Pavilion at the All England Club Ground on Saturday, July 7 at 3:30 pm. Twenty-two players had signed to play (they didn't consider the players who had tried to make the draw later) and the action started at the same time two days later, on July 9.

Charles Buller failed to show up and there were ten first-round encounters, including the first Wimbledon five-setter between Julian Marshall and Captain Grimston. On Tuesday, five second round matches were completed and Charles Gilbert Heathcote didn't have to play, moving to the quarters after receiving a bye at the bottom of the draw.

We should remember J. Lambert as the first player who retired at Wimbledon, leaving Spencer Gore, Francis Langham, Lestocq Robert Erskine, William Marshall, Julian Marshall and Charles Heathcote as the remaining players in the draw, with three quarter-final matches on Wednesday to determine the semi-finalists.

Gore defeated Langham 6-3, 6-2, 5-6, 6-1 while Heathcote toppled Julian Marshall 6-3, 6-3, 6-5. William Marshall ousted Erskine 6-5, 5-6, 6-4, 6-1 and this architect had a clear path towards the final while Gore and Heathcote had to battle for the remaining spot in the title clash.

On Thursday, Gore overpowered Heathcote 6-2, 6-5, 6-2 and everything was set for the first Wimbledon final on Monday, July 16, due to Eton vs Harrow cricket match that took place on Friday and Saturday. Instead of Monday, the final was postponed for further three days due to rain, kicking off on July 19.

Gore and Marshall had appeared on the slippery court around 4:30 pm and it took Spencer less than 50 minutes to secure a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 triumph and become the first Wimbledon champion, earning the twelve guinea gold prize and holding the twenty-five guinea silver Challenge cup.

Marshall won the toss and served first, getting broken immediately for the worst possible start of the final. Gore delivered an excellent hold in game two to cement the break and another one after a deuce for a 3-1 lead. William was 40-15 up in game five before Spencer found the way to break him again, forging a 4-1 advantage and sealing the deal with another break in game seven, taking the opening set in some 15 minutes!

The rain halted the game for another 15 minutes and Marshall opened the second set with a break, hoping for a much better run in comparison to the first set. His lead was a short-lived one, though, with Gore erasing the deficit and moving 4-2 ahead with another break in game six.

He was the leading figure on the court again, taking the next two games to cement the set 6-2 after 13 minutes and move a set away from the title. Spencer held at the beginning of the third set and stole Marshall's serve following double faults from William who drifted further and further away from the finish line.

Nonetheless, Marshall bounced back to win the next couple of games and level the score at 2-2, only to find himself 4-1 down again, unable to control his initial shot or to do more on the return. The battle was right on when William claimed games seven and eight, staying in touch with Gore who produced the crucial hold for a 5-4 and delivered a crucial break in game ten to clinch the title and write history.

To offer the crowd more tennis, Marshall and Heathcote played a playoff match to determine the second and third prize winners, with Marshall prevailing 6-4, 6-4. As for Spencer Gore, he was 27 when he became the first Wimbledon champion, returning to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club only once after that, losing to Frank Hadow in the Challenge match a year later.