If you were curious to find out something about Wimbledon before the tournament begins, here are some facts:
The first Wimbledon took place in 1877 solely as an amateur competition. Men’s singles was the only event that took place. There were 22 competitors and the championship was won by Spencer Gore. A few hundred spectators were in attendance.
Women’s singles and men’s doubles events began seven years later, in 1884.
May Sutton of the United States became the first non-European champion in 1905 when she captured the women’s singles title.
Charlotte (Lottie) Dod became the youngest player ever to win a Wimbledon singles event when, in 1887, she won at the age of 15 years, 285 days. In 1996 Martina Hingis became a Wimbledon doubles champion at 15 years, 282 days. And by the way, Dod was also a silver medalist in archery at the 1908 Olympics, a member of the British national field hockey team in 1899, and the British Amateur golf champ in 1904.
During World War II, a bomb ripped through Centre Court at the All England Club and 1,200 seats were lost. Fortunately, they weren’t filled at the time. Play finally resumed in 1946 but it wasn’t until 1949 that the area was back in top shape.
American Althea Gibson became the first black player to win a Wimbledon singles championship when she captured the title in 1957. She successfully defended her title a year later. She was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in both years.
In 1985, Boris Becker accomplished three feats: he became the youngest male singles champ (17 years, 227 days old), the first German champ, and the first unseeded champ.
There are currently 20 grass courts available for play at the Wimbledon complex. The Number 1 Court now comes complete with large fans at either end to dry out the court in case of rain. There are also five red shale courts, four clay courts, and five indoor courts for club members.
The last married woman to win the women’s singles championship was Chris Evert Lloyd in 1981.
A wooden racket was last used at Wimbledon in 1987.
In 2007, the men’s and women’s singles winners will each receive £700,000. This is the first year that women will get as much prize money as men. In 1968, the year of the first “open” championships, the prize money was £2,000 for the male champion and £750 for the female champion.
Aside from cash, the women’s champ also receives a silver gilt salver (a round, disk-like platter) that was made in 1864. The men’s winner receives a silver gilt cup from 1887. Both are actually displayed at the Wimbledon museum for most of the year.
There will be approximately 200 ball boys and girls running around the courts at this year’s event.