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Re-plotting Wimbledon History: Meandering across centuries

Feature 20 Jul 2013, 18:34 IST
Tennis Match

1881: British tennis player William Renshaw and H F Lawford playing for the Men’s Singles Title at Wimbledon, which Renshaw won.

On July 19 1877, the very first men’s singles final was contested at the Championships, Wimbledon. The only event at that time, the final was won by 27-year old Spencer Gore,  a local first-class cricketer and tennis player.

Gore beat William Marshall in straight sets, in 48-minutes to claim a 12-guinea reward money along with the champion’s trophy. Commemorating the anniversary of Gore’s historic triumph at Wimbledon, here’s a look at some of the most memorable maiden efforts by tennis players at this prestigious event:

  • First Player to Win Consecutive Titles: The years 1881 to 1886 saw the unequivocal reign of Briton William Renshaw at Wimbledon as the men’s singles champion. So far, no player has been able to emulate Renshaw’s heroics though Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have equalled his feat of winning seven-Wimbledon titles. In the Open Era, Swede Bjorn Borg became the first male player to win five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles (1976-1980), an achievement that was only recently equalled by Roger Federer in 2007.
  • First African-American to win Wimbledon: In a society dominated by racial prejudices and biases, American Althea Gibson became the first black athlete to win Wimbledon in the year 1957. Quite a tennis prodigy, Gibson was also the first player to have ever received the Venus Rosewater from the Queen in the history of the sport. In the Open Era, Arthur Ashe became the first African-American male tennis player to bag the Wimbledon crown in the year 1975, defeating countryman Jimmy Connors in the final.
  • First Mother to win the Championships: Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley became the first – and till now, the last – lady to have won Wimbledon after having a child. Goolagong Cawley won the 1980 Ladies Singles title, defeating American Chris Evert-Lloyd 6-1, 7-6. Alongside this noteworthy moment, the match is known for several other firsts as well. The second-set tie-break was the first tie-break to have been employed in a Wimbledon final and Goolagong Cawley went on to become the first player to have won the title through a decisive tie-break.
  • First Match to be Played under the Retractable Roof: 2009 was quite a year at Wimbledon with the retractable roof gaining more popularity than the players participating in the tournament. The heightened expectations surrounding the roof finally gave way to the actual moment during the fourth round match between Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo and Russian Dinara Safina. However, it was the fourth round encounter between Brit Andy Murray and Swiss Stan Wawrinka that saw the roof being employed for a match’s entire duration.
  • First Doubles Team to bag a Non-calendar Grand Slam: The Bryan Twins’ victory at the 2013 Wimbledon saw them being crowned as the first – and only – doubles team to win all four grand slams and the Olympic gold at the same time. The holders of a non-calendar grand slam (starting with the 2012 USO Doubles to the 2013 Wimbledon Doubles), the Bryan Brothers are poised to win the first-ever Golden Slam in Doubles. If they do so, it would be setting a precedent like no other.

Aside of these names, there are many more that grace the event’s course through centuries. Be it Chris Evert-Lloyd who was the last married woman to win the title or Andy Murray who just recently went on to become the first Briton in the Open Era to win the Championships, Wimbledon remain a historian’s paradise.

Steeped in traditions and bearing a regal uniqueness incomparable to any other tournament, it’s a place where legends are made and glory attained; at its zenith.

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