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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

(London SW19)
Area known above all as the first home of international *tennis. It was *croquet which provided Wimbledon's first link with sport, when the All England Croquet Club was founded here in 1868. Seven years later the club decided to adopt an even newer game, lawn tennis. A sub-committee was set up to look into the rules. It opted for a rectangular court in place of the hour-glass shape proposed elsewhere at the time; it established the dimensions of the playing area still in use today; and it laid down a basis of play and of scoring (borrowed from *real tennis) which has required little alteration.

With these crucial details settled, the club was ready in 1877 to launch its first singles championship for men (women's singles followed in 1884). The prize was £25 – donated by the Field, a magazine energetically promoting the game in the early days – and the winner was Spencer Gore (1850–1906), who devastated the opposition by the cunning device of playing the ball on the volley. In that same year the name of the club was changed to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club; in 1882, acknowledging the dominance of the younger game, croquet was dropped from the title. It was restored for sentimental reasons in 1889, when the club became (as it still is) the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

For most of its history Wimbledon has been an amateur championship; winners who turned professional could not reappear to defend their titles. But the British, in other contexts so fond of amateurism, were this time in the forefront of a long campaign for change. Against strong opposition from the International Lawn Tennis Federation, Wimbledon became in 1968 the first major tournament to admit professionals (the first open tournament anywhere, won by Ken Rosewall, was at Bournemouth earlier that year). As the world's original tennis event, Wimbledon has retained a certain pre-eminence among the four major competitions constituting the Grand Slam (the others being the US, Australian and French championships). It is also the only one to be played on the game's original surface, grass.

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