The 9th July 1877 saw the world’s first official lawn tennis tournament begin at Wimbledon in London. The Wimbledon Championship was hosted by the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, which had only begun to set aside an area for lawn tennis two years earlier due to the declining interest in croquet.

The first championship was staged in order to raise money to repair the roller that was used to maintain the lawns at the club, and only featured a Gentlemen’s Singles competition. 22 amateur competitors paid 1 guinea each to take part, and ten days later 27-year-old Spencer Gore won the final in front of a crowd of 200 spectators. This was after rain had stopped play for three entire days beforehand.

As a prize, Gore received 12 guineas in cash and a sterling silver cup, valued at 25 guineas, which had been donated by the sports magazine The Field. Under the rules of Wimbledon’s Challenge Round, the defending champion could return the next year to defend his title in the final without playing through the knock-out stages of the competition. Gore returned to defend his title in 1878, but was defeated in straight sets by his opponent. Gore never played at Wimbledon again, declaring in 1890 that tennis would “never rank among our great games” because it was “monotonous”.

Despite Gore’s damning verdict of the game, both Wimbledon and tennis have continued to grow. The Championship’s total prize fund now totals over £26.5m.

The first tournament generated a profit of £10, and the club’s roller was repaired.

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© Scott Allsop