Wimbledon History

by: Tennis.com | August 15, 2012

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Wimbledon is the third Grand Slam tournament of the calendar year, taking place in the eponymous London suburb from late June through early July. It has been in existence since 1877 and is the last remaining Slam to be contested on grass. As the oldest tennis tournament in the world, it is widely regarded as the most prestigious of the four Grand Slam events.

One of the Wimbledon’s many defining aspects is its venue, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club—commonly referred to as the All England Club. It was founded in 1868 and has hosted Wimbledon since the tournament’s inception. The AELTC contains two main show courts: Centre Court and No. 1 Court. Centre Court, holding a capacity of 15,000, is the stage for the men’s and women’s finals, semifinals and most other high-profile matches throughout the tournament. No. 1 court, holding a capacity of 11,000, was built in 1997 after the previous No. 1 Court was put out of commission. In addition to the main show courts, the All England Club boasts another 17 courts, all of which are numbered accordingly. In 2012, the facility will host the tennis event of the Summer Olympics.

Complimenting the historic venue are the timeless rituals that add to the event’s unique character. There are the strawberries and cream enjoyed by the patrons, the all-white dress code required of the players, and the mandated day of rest on the first (middle) Sunday. Appearances by the royal family give Wimbledon an undeniable air of prestige. But the tournament is not averse to change. There have been countless technological improvements in its history, including the addition of replay technology and the building of a retractable roof atop Centre Court, in 2009.

Wimbledon has seen plenty of champions throughout its history, but a select few have risen above the rest. The first to cement himself as a Wimbledon icon was William Renshaw, who took home seven singles titles in the late 1800s. Roughly 30 years later, Helen Wills carved her place in tournament lore by winning eight singles championships over an 11-year span. The Open era spawned new legends, including Martina Navratilova, who in 1990 captured a record ninth singles title. Ten years later, Pete Sampras equaled Renshaw with his seventh Wimbledon victory. Roger Federer, still active, is not far behind, with six.

The 2013 tournament begins June 24, with matches taking place each day—except the middle Sunday—until the tournament’s conclusion on July 7.

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