Dawn of Wimbledon: the birth, the priest and the murderer, history and glory

The London Slam is linked to the birth and growth of tennis: a histoty which was born in 1877

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Dawn of Wimbledon: the birth, the priest and the murderer, history and glory
© Ryan Pierse / Staff Getty Images

Winning the Wimbledon Championships is the dream of every young person who approaches tennis for the first time. Champions such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Carlitos Alcaraz have said it several times. Because history is made at Wimbledon. A story that has deep and distant roots. For a event that, over the years, at the turn of the 1800s and 1900s, the tournaments grew into hunger and were so successful that they attracted many sportsmen, crowds and journalists. A women's tournament was also organized in 1884, and the first winner was Maud Watson.

The All England Lawn Croquet Club, a British sports club founded in 1868, subsequently became interested in tennis, and eventually changed its name to All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. The first tournament was played in 1877 when the Wingfield patent ended. A crowd of about two hundred people saw Spencer Gore, one of the first inventors of the volée, to triumph.

Wimbledon© Hulton Archive / Stringer Getty Images

From the last four editions of Wimbledon, the organizers will offer 100% recyclable products, such as water bottles, to a sustainable turnaround of the tournament which leaded to a farewell to the plastic within which the newly-strung rackets are wrapped. There will also be qualified personnel around the courts to inform the crowd about proper waste disposal. In 2009 a retractable roof was built on Center Court, to allow to play in case of rain. This is joined by a retractable roof on the Cour 1 from the 2019 edition. Not only: starting this year, a super tie-break will be introduced on the fifth set, starting with a score of 12-12.

With the start of the Open Era, Wimbledon at the center of the sporting world, with celebrities like Rod Laver, Billie-Jean King, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova. Over the years the All England Club expanded both the courts and the facilities, making the tournament ever more advanced. The Wimbledon museum is an example of the global growth of the tournament. Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Serena and Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic wrote and is writing the history of the London tournament from the 1990s to the present. 

Roger Federer
Roger Federer© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

Talking about the down of Wimbledon, it was 1874 when the Welsh Major Walter Wingfield Clopton published a patent that was fundamental to the birth of tennis: A Portable Court of Playing Tennis. It established the fundamental rules of tennis, which, over the course of more than a century, have changed only in some technological aspect, leaving the most important substance more or less unchanged, except for some details that we will later see.

One of the iconic moments in the entire history of the tournament was the final play between Reverend John Hartley, vicar of Burneston (North Yorkshire) and alleged murderer Vere St. Leger Goold, in 1879. It was a mystical battle between good and bad, in which was the strangest final ever, a the Championships!

Reverend John Hartley
Reverend John Hartley© Hulton Archive / Stringer Getty Images

After the First World War the world tennis scene, by now a sport of great fame, glamor and prestige, experienced a golden age, in which big names dominated the courts: the four French musketeers René Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jacques Brugnon and Jean Borotra, then Suzanne Lenglen and the Briton Fred Perry. In these years modern tennis was born, but it was not uncommon to see a tennis player drink a shot of gin between a break and another of matches. After the Second World War, the domination of the American and then the Australian players marked the history of the Championships.