By Mark McConville
AS WIMBLEDON gets into full swing for another year stunning retro pictures have revealed that the nation was always tennis mad.
Incredible images show people queuing outside the gates of Wimbledon as far back as 1913, people serving tea from a mobile cafe outside the tournament in 1937 and teenage girls making sure they get a good seat in 1960 as they camp outside the main gate in their sleeping bags.
Other striking shots show crowds waiting to enter in 1921, people playing a new card game called King Twist that was devised to make queuing fun and a messenger boy taking places to order in the queue in 1919.
The remarkable photographs discovered by TopFoto in their extensive archives prove the UK was always in love with Wimbledon.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and is regarded by many as the most prestigious. It has been held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London, since 1877 and is played on outdoor grass courts.
The tournament traditionally took place over two weeks in late June and early July, starting on the last Monday in June and culminating with the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals, scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday at the end of the second week.
However recent changes to the tennis calendar have seen the event moved back by a week to begin in early July. Five major events are held each year, with additional junior and invitational competitions also taking place.
The inaugural 1877 Wimbledon Championship started on 9 July 1877 and the Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event held. It was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.
In 1884, the club added Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles competitions. Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events were added in 1913. Until 1922, the reigning champion had to play only in the final, against whomever had won through to challenge him/her.
As with the other three Major or Grand Slam events, Wimbledon was contested by top-ranked amateur players; professional players were prohibited from participating. This changed with the advent of the open era in 1968.
No British man won the singles event at Wimbledon between Fred Perry in 1936 and Andy Murray in 2013, while no British woman has won since Virginia Wade in 1977, although Annabel Croft and Laura Robson won the Girls’ Championship in 1984 and 2008 respectively. The Championship was first televised in 1937.