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The 1st Championship

The All England Club that had been formed in 1869 to promote the game of croquet, decided to stage a Lawn Tennis meeting for amateurs in the summer of 1877. J.H. Walsh, founder member of the club and editor of the ‘Field’ magazine proposed the event and even persuaded the owners of the ‘Field’ to donate a silver cup worth 25 guineas for the winner of the men’s championship at Wimbledon.

A sub-committee consisting of Henry Jones, an expert on all sports and, Heathcote and Julian Marshall – both Tennis enthusiasts – decided on the rules of the first ever tennis Championships. They settled for a rectangular court measuring 78 ft by 27 ft., and a 5 ft. high net. Each match would consist of five sets, with the first player to win six games winning the set. In the Championship final, however, a two game advantage was needed to win a set. The players were to take turns to serve a game, which was to be the best of seven points. For his first point a player would score 15, for his second 30, for his third 40, and the game for the fourth. (These numbers followed the quarters of a clock face and the 40 was an abbreviation for 45). If each player won 40 points, that would be called ‘deuce’; two consecutive points would then have to be won for the game.

The terms ‘deuce’ and ‘love’ originated from the French words ‘deux’ meaning parity and ‘l’oeuf’ meaning an egg – the shape of zero.

The All England Club made a profit of 10-Pound Sterling in 1877 from the first ever Wimbledon Championships. Twenty-two players took part in the inaugural Championships, and Spencer Gore played William Marshall in the final played on Thursday July 19, 1877. The final had been delayed for three days because of rain. Unlike the other players who were content on playing from the baseline, Gore rushed to the net at the first opportunity to finish a rally. He won the final 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in only 48 minutes.

After winning the final, Gore said that the game of Lawn tennis was a ‘bore’ and would not rank among the great sports of cricket and rackets.

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