The First Wimbledon, 1877. Part 3

3. Robert Dalby Dalby (Formerly Blunt)

Born in 1836 as Robert Dalby Blunt in Braybrooke, Northamptonshire. His parents were Robert Dalby Blunt and Mary Ann Dalby. He attended school at Rugby. After studying in Cambridge he became a Barrister-at-law. In 1869 he married Mary Selina Rogers. They had at least four sons and were living at Kensington, London. Later they moved to “Charnwood” at Wimbledon. They lived there during the 1877 championships, just a mile away from Worple road. His opponent in the first round was Montague Hankey. He lost 4-6 2-6 6-3 2-6. He took an active role in the tournament, later acting as an umpire. Despite his early exit Dalby was present at the 1878 championships. Defeating Beckwith Smith, a 29 year old London stockbroker. “The Field” described his play as good at placing the ball away from his adversary. In the next round he had no chance against A.C. Brown. Evidence suggests that he soon became a member of the All England Club. He was a Steward at the championships at least until 1883. In 1885 he was a manager of the Sun Life Assurance Company. He died at Wimbledon on 14th March 1887.

 

4. Montague Hankey

Montague Hankey was born 16 August 1840 at Wimbledon, son of Thomas and Louisa Hankey. He attended Eton Public School. In 1859 he was enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a very good Real Tennis player competing in many matches for Cambridge against Oxford. Hankey graduated with a B.A. in 1863 and married his cousin Alice Aitcheson Roberts and then gained his Masters degree. He took a Curacy in Ramsgate, Kent. Soon after he returned to London and took up the Curacy at St. Giles in the Fields. He finally settled in Maiden Newton, Dorset. He remained rector there for the next 44 years. Living with his wife and daughter Ethel.

 

Montague Hankey on the left with his older brother Hubert

 

Up until 1877 Hankey had drawn most of his lawn tennis experience from events and matches at Weymouth in Dorset or at small tournaments at clubs nearby. Hankey was at the time a member of the Weymouth Archery and Lawn Tennis Club. On Monday 9 July Hankey played the second match of the day, his first round match against Robert Dalby Dalby. In the second round he lost to the later winner Spencer Gore. In 1880 he returned to the Championships, but lost in the first round. He won tournaments in Dorchester (1879) and Bournemouth (1881). Hankey died 25 August 1919 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Church, Maiden Newton.

 

Reverend Montague Hankey

 

 

 

The First Wimbledon, 1877. Part 2

Let’s take a closer look at the 22 players who participated at the first Wimbledon championships in 1877.

1. Henry Thomas Gillson

Henry Thomas Gillson was born in Weston-super-Mare on the 10th May 1837.  So when he entered the 1877 competition, he was already a veteran. He was unlucky to draw a first round match against the later winner, Spencer Gore. That didn’t stop him from entering again two years later. But like two years before he was then beaten again in the first round. Before playing tennis Gillson was a good Cricket player.  Between 1858 and 1869 he played for different teams and even one appearance for the All-England XI.

He was the fourth of six sons of Reverend Edward Gillson B.A. He entered St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1855. Eventually gaining a masters degree in 1868. He was a barrister by profession. In 1862 he married Anne Ellen Paget. They had five children. During the early 1870’s, the family lived at High Elms, Streatham, Surrey. By 1881 they were living in Rugby in Warwickshire. Finally they moved again, this time to Hampshire. He died on 8th March 1929 at “Allcots”, Fareham, Portchester in Hampshire.

Portsmouth Evening news: Portchester. DEATH OF MR. H. T. GILLSON.— Mr. Henry Thomas Gillson (91). late of Swanmore Cottage, Upper Swanmore. and Rutland, Leicestershire, passed away at the home of his daughter. Alcots, Castle Street, shortly after midnight on Thursday. had been under medical treatment for some months and recently seemed to be recovering from attack of influenza, but following a relapse and pneumonia setting in, slowly sank. Mr. Gillson came of a well-known ILeicestershire family and was great athlete in his dov. Before coming to Portchester he resided at Swanmore for over 12 years. The funeral took place at ltchens Abbas, near Winchester, at •2.30 to-day. the interment being near the graves of his kinsfolk. 

2. Spencer William Gore

Spencer William Gore was the son of the Hon. Charles Alexander Gore and Lady Augusta Lavinia Priscilla (née Ponsonby). Born 10th March 1850 at Wimbledon. His two brothers were the theologian Charles Gore, the first Bishop of Birmingham, and Sir Francis Charles Gore, Solicitor. Spencer was born and raised within a mile of the All England Croquet Club at West Side House, Wimbledon Common, Surrey. He was educated at Harrow School, where he excelled at all games, especially football and cricket, and was the captain of the school cricket team in 1869. On 9 January 1875 Gore married Amy Margaret Smith, with whom he had four children—Kathleen Amy, Florence Emily Frances, George Pym (1875–1959) and Spencer Frederick (1878–1914). The last became well known as the artist Spencer Gore while George was a boxing champion and played cricket for Durham. He joined Pickering and Smith, the property advisory firm of his father-in-law Edmund James Smith who became President of the Surveyors’ Institute. Gore was promoted to partnership and the firm was renamed Smiths and Gore.

Gore made his first-class cricket debut for Surrey against Middlesex in 1874. He played cricket mainly for I Zingari at club level, playing his last match for them in 1893.  In 1877 Gore won the Gentleman’s Singles beating William Marshall 6–1, 6–2, 6–4 on 19 July 1877. He was the first player who ever used the technique of volleying, therefore he is considered the creator of the style of volley. As the reigning champion Gore did not have to play through the tournament in the following year’s Championship but instead played in the challenge round against the winner of the All-Comers tournament. He lost the Gentleman’s Singles challenge round to Frank Hadow 7–5, 6–1, 9–7 and did not compete in the Wimbledon Championships again after that match. Despite his historic championship title, Gore was not enthusiastic about the new sport of lawn tennis. In 1890, thirteen years after winning his championship title, he wrote: “… it is want of variety that will prevent lawn tennis in its present form from taking rank among our great games … That anyone who has really played well at cricket, tennis, or even rackets, will ever seriously give his attention to lawn tennis, beyond showing himself to be a promising player, is extremely doubtful; for in all probability the monotony of the game as compared with others would choke him off before he had time to excel in it.” 

Gore died at the Granville Hotel, Ramsgate, Kent aged 56. He was buried in Ramsgate Cemetery on 23 April 1906 (grave number AA511).

Spencer Gore at younger and older age and Meads house (Image courtesy of W Saunders)

Source: The birth of Lan Tennis by Robert T. Everitt and Richard Hillway (2019) and The British Newspaper archive.

The First Wimbledon, 1877. Part 1

The 1877 Wimbledon Championship was  held at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (AEC & LTC) in Wimbledon, London. It was the world’s first official lawn tennis tournament, and was later recognised as the first Grand Slam tournament or “Major”. The AEC & LTC had been founded in July 1868, as the All England Croquet Club; lawn tennis was introduced in February 1875 to compensate for the waning interest in croquet. In June 1877 the club decided to organise a tennis tournament to pay for the repair of its pony roller, needed to maintain the lawns. A set of rules was drawn up for the tournament, derived from the first standardised rules of tennis issued by the Marylebone Cricket Club in May 1875.

The Gentlemen’s Singles competition, the only event of the championship, was contested on grass courts by 22 players who each paid one guinea to participate. The tournament started on 9 July 1877, and the final – delayed for three days by rain – was played on 19 July in front of a crowd of about 200 people who each paid an entry fee of one shilling. The winner received 12 guineas in prize money and a silver challenge cup, valued at 25 guineas, donated by the sports magazine The Field. Spencer Gore, a 27-year-old rackets player from Wandsworth, became the first Wimbledon champion by defeating William Marshall, a 28-year-old real tennis player, in three straight sets in a final that lasted 48 minutes. The tournament made a profit of £10 and the pony roller remained in use. An analysis made after the tournament led to some modifications of the rules regarding the court dimensions.

The first public announcement of the tournament was published on 9 June 1877 in The Field magazine under the header Lawn Tennis Championship:

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9th and following days.[l] Entrance fee, £1 1s 0d. Names and addresses of competitors to be forwarded to the Hon. Sec. A.E.C. and L.T.C. before Saturday, July 7, or on that day before 2.15 p.m. at the club ground, Wimbledon. Two prizes will be given – one gold champion prize to the winner, one silver to the second player. The value of the prizes will depend on the number of entries, and will be declared before the draw; but in no case will they be less than the amount of the entrance money, and if there are ten and less than sixteen entries, they will be made up to £10 10s and £5 5s respectively.– Henry Jones – Hon Sec of the Lawn Tennis sub-committee

Players were instructed to provide their own racquets and wear shoes without heels. The announcement also stated that a programme would be available shortly with further details, including the rules to be adopted for the meeting. Invitations were sent to prospective participants. Potential visitors were informed that those arriving by horse and carriage should use the entrance at Worple Road while those who planned to come by foot were advised to use the railway path. Upon payment of the entrance fee, the participants were allowed to practise before the Championship on the twelve available courts with the provision that on Saturdays and during the croquet championship week, held the week before the tennis tournament, the croquet players had the first choice of courts. Practice balls, similar to the ones used for the tournament, were available from the club’s gardener at a price of 12s per dozen balls. John H. Walsh, in his capacity as editor of The Field, persuaded his employer to donate a cup worth 25 guineas for the winner; the Field Cup. The cup was made of sterling silver and had the inscription: The All England Lawn Challenge Cup – Presented by the Proprietors of The Field – For competition by Amateurs – Wimbledon July 1877. On 6 July 1877, three days prior to the start of the tournament, a notice was published in The Times:

Next week at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club Ground a Lawn Tennis Championship Meeting will be held. The ground is situated close to the Wimbledon Station on the South Western Railway, and is sufficiently large for the erection of thirty “courts”. On each day the competition will begin at 3.30, the first ties, of course, beginning on Monday. The Hon. Sec. of the meeting is Mr. J.H. Walsh, while Mr. H. Jones will officiate as referee. The entries are numerous.

In accordance with the All England Regulations for the Management of Prize Meetings, the draw for the 22 entrants was made on Saturday, 7 July 1877, at 3:30 p.m. in the club’s pavilion. H.T. Gillson had the distinction of being the first player in the history of modern tennis to be drawn for a tournament. The posts, nets and hand-stitched, flannel-covered India-rubber balls for the tournament were supplied by Jefferies & Co from Woolwich, while the rackets used were an adaptation of those used in real tennis, with a small and slightly lopsided head. The ball-boys kept the tennis balls, 180 of which were used during the tournament, in canvas wells. The umpires who were provided for the matches sat on chairs which in turn were placed on small tables of 18 inches height to give them a better view of the court.

The tournament began on Monday, 9 July 1877, at 3:30 p.m. and daily programmes were available for sixpence. On the first day, in sunny weather, ten matches were played, which completed the first round. Full match scores were published on the notice board inside the pavilion. F.N. Langham, a Cambridge tennis blue, was given a walkover in the first round when C.F. Buller, an Etonian and well-known rackets player, did not appear. Julian Marshall became the first player to win a five-set match when he fought back from being two sets down against Captain Grimston. Spencer Gore, a 27-year-old rackets player from Wandsworth and at the time a land agent and surveyor by profession, won his first round match against Henry Thomas Gillson in straight sets. The five second-round matches were played on Tuesday, 10 July, again in fine weather. Charles Gilbert Heathcote had a bye in the second round. J. Lambert became the first player in Wimbledon Championships’ history to retire a match, conceding to L.R. Erskine after losing the first two sets. Julian Marshall again won a five-set match, this time against F.W. Oliver, while Gore defeated Montague Hankey in four sets.

The quarter-finals were played on Wednesday, 11 July, before a larger number of spectators than had attended the previous matches. Start of play was delayed from the scheduled 3:30 p.m. due to strong winds. Gore defeated Langham in four sets, William Marshall beat Erskine, also in four sets, and Julian Marshall, who injured his knee during the match after a fall, lost to Heathcote in straight sets. The quarter-final matches left three players, instead of four, in the draw for the semi-finals scheduled for Thursday. To solve the situation lots were drawn and Marshall, a 28-year-old architect and Cambridge real tennis blue, was given a bye to the final. His opponent would be Gore, who defeated Heathcote in straight sets in the only semi-final played. When the semi-final stage had concluded on Thursday, 12 July, play was suspended until next Monday, 16 July, to avoid a clash with the popular annual Eton v Harrow cricket match that was played at Lord’s on Friday and Saturday.

The final was postponed from its scheduled start on Monday at 4 p.m. until Thursday, 19 July, at 3:30 p.m. because of rain. On Thursday it was still showery, causing the final to be further delayed by an hour. It began on a dead and slippery court in front of about 200 spectators. There was a temporary three-plank stand on one side of the court offering seating to about thirty people. Marshall won the toss, elected to serve first and was immediately broken by Gore. After the first set was won by Gore, it started to rain for a quarter of an hour; this further softened the ground and affected the quality of play. The final lasted 48 minutes, and Spencer Gore won the inaugural championship against William Marshall in three straight sets of 15, 13, and 20 minutes respectively. En route to the title Gore had won 15 sets and lost two and won 99 games for the loss of 46. Gore, the volley specialist, had beaten the baseline player, at a time when volleying was considered by some to be unsporting. Some tried to outlaw the volley and a discussion on its merits took place in The Field for weeks after the tournament.

The final was followed by a play-off match for 2nd place between Marshall and Heathcote. The players could not fix another date for the match and decided to play it straight away. By agreement, the match was limited to best-of-three sets. Marshall, playing his second match of the day, defeated Heathcote in straight sets, in front of a diminished crowd, and won the silver prize of seven guineas.

On 20 July 1877, the day following the final, a report was published in The Morning Post newspaper:

Lawn Tennis Championship – A fair number of spectators assembled yesterday, notwithstanding the rain, on the beautifully kept ground of the All England Club, Wimbledon, to witness the final contest between Messrs. Spencer Gore and W. Marshall for the championship. The play on both sides was of the highest order and its exhibition afforded a great treat to lovers of the game. All three sets were won buy Mr. Gore, who, therefore, becomes lawn tennis champion for 1877, and wins the £12 12s. gold prize and holds the silver challenge cup, value £25 5s. The second and third prizes were then played for by Messrs. W. Marshall and G.C. Heathcote (best of three sets by agreement). Mr. Marshall won two sets to love, and therefore takes the silver prize (value £12 12s.). Mr. Heathcote takes the third prize, value £3 3s.

A report in The Field stated: “The result was a more easy victory for Mr Spencer Gore than had been expected.”. Third-placed Heathcote said that Gore was the best player of the year and had a varied service with a lot of twist on it. Gore, according to Heathcote, was a player with an aptitude for many games and had a long reach and a strong and flexible wrist. His volleying style was novel at the time, a forceful shot instead of merely a pat back over the net. All the opponents who were defeated by Gore on his way to the title were real tennis players. His victory was therefore regarded as a win of the rackets style of play over the real tennis style, and of the offensive style of the volley player – who comes to the net to force the point, over the baseline player – who plays groundstrokes from the back of the court, intent on keeping the ball in play. His volleying game was also successful because the height of the net at the post – 5 ft (1.52 m) in contrast to the modern height of 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m) – made it difficult for his opponents to pass him by driving the ball down the line. Gore indicated that the real tennis players had the tendency to play shots from corner to corner over the middle of the net and did so at such a height that made volleying easy.

Despite his historic championship title, Gore was not enthusiastic about the new sport of lawn tennis. In 1890, thirteen years after winning his championship title, he wrote: “… it is want of variety that will prevent lawn tennis in its present form from taking rank among our great games … That anyone who has really played well at cricket, tennis, or even rackets, will ever seriously give his attention to lawn tennis, beyond showing himself to be a promising player, is extremely doubtful; for in all probability the monotony of the game as compared with others would choke him off before he had time to excel in it.” He did return for the 1878 Championship to defend his title in the Challenge Round but lost in straight sets to Frank Hadow, a coffee planter from Ceylon, who effectively used the lob to counter Gore’s net play. It was Gore’s last appearance at the Wimbledon Championships.

The tournament generated a profit of £10 and the pony roller stayed in use. When the tournament was finished, Henry Jones gathered all the score cards to analyse the results and found that, of the 601 games played during the tournament, 376 were won by the server (“striker-in”) and 225 by the receiver (“striker-out”). At a time when the service was either made underarm or, usually, at shoulder height, this was seen as a serving dominance and resulted in a modification of the rules for the 1878 Championship. To decrease the target area for the server, the length of the service court was reduced from 26 to 22 ft (7.92 to 6.71 m) and to make passing shots easier against volleyers the height of the net was reduced to 4 ft 9 in (1.45 m) at the posts and 3 feet (0.91 m) at the centre. These rules were published jointly by the AEC & LTC and the MCC, giving the AEC & LTC an official rule-making authority and in effect retroactively sanctioning its 1877 rules. It marked the moment when the AEC & LTC effectively usurped the rule-making initiative from the MCC although the latter would still ratify rule changes until 1882. In recognition of the importance and popularity of lawn tennis, the club was renamed in 1882 to All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC).

(Source: Wikipedia)

In Part 2 we will take a closer look at who those first 22 contestants in 1877 were.

 

Looking back at Australia 1905

How it all started for the Australian open

The 1905 Australasian Championships, as they were called back then,was a tennis tournament played on Grass courts in Melbourne, Australia at Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground. The tournament took place from 17 November through 27 November 1905. It was the inaugural edition of the Australasian Championships and consisted of a men’s singles and men’s doubles competition. The men’s singles event had a field of 17 players and was won by Australian Rodney Heath. The first Championships for women were held in 1922. The site rotated between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide until 1988, when the tournament was permanently settled at the hard courts of Flinders Park, which was renamed Melbourne Park in 1996. (The switch to hard courts in 1988 left Wimbledon the sole major grass-court tournament in professional tennis.) Although Australians often dominated the field of tennis internationally, the Australian tournament for many years suffered from the reluctance of overseas players to travel the long distance to compete, a situation largely remedied with the advent of jet travel. The tournament is played in January. The Australian Open has always been held in January, but 1977 was the only year when the tournament was held twice in one calendar year. This was due to a shift in the Australian Open draw and the subsequent tournament to December. As a result, there were two tournaments in 1977 and the December schedule the continued until 1987 when normality was restored. 

Rodney Heath, first winner.

Seven years Tennis archives

In 2011 I decided to start Tennisarchives.com. I wasn’t really happy with existing sites, especially on pre 1968 Tennis. In that year Pro tennis finally won over the amateur game. For results and info post 1968 there are several good sites, Like ATP. Much has happened since the start of this site. The original builder suddenly died and all the info was saved at the very last moment. At first I did all the work on my own, but very soon David Donlon from the U.S. came to help me. The last years there is a group of loyal correspondents that are contributing with results, biographies, pictures etc. To name a few: Mark Ryan, Alexander Schwarz, Carlo Colussi, Roland Mittelberger and many others. Former players and their families often write and add info as well. Peter Steevensz is the man behind the scenes who built the site and keeps it running! It’s great to see many tennis enthousiasts using and enjoying the site so much! Wikipedia uses Tennisarchives as an important source very often. For me it has always been important to keep the site free. Some sites tried to copy my site, using my results and then ask money to use all the info. I will never consider doing that! The info is free and stays free. But running a site like this isn’t free from costs. The site itself, the domain, the travels to libraries like Wimbledon, it all costs. My time I spent freely because I love doing it. And I would love to keep the site free from adverts. So before they will appear on this site I will try to get a little support from you, the user.

If you enjoy this site as much as I do, please consider donating some money to keep it like it is and improving further in future. For more info and contact write me at: Idzznew at yahoo.co.uk

Alex Nieuwland, Tennis Archives

 

Djokovic wins third US open title

Champions have the rare talent of making their endeavours look easier than mere mortals can imagine but Novak Djokovic’s straight-sets win over Juan Martín del Potro in the US Open final on Sunday night was no straightforward celebration of the Serbian’s unique gifts. It took him three and a quarter hours to add a third title to the trophies he lifted here in 2011 and 2015, as well as a second major of the year to go with his return to championship form at Wimbledon, capped off with a rise to No 4 in the world.

Source: The Guardian

Coric Stuns Federer To win Halle Title

Borna Coric entered the Gerry Weber Open with just two wins in nine tour-level matches on grass, but, on Sunday, he lifted his first title on the surface, defeating nine-time champion Roger Federer 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-2. Coric, who also beat second seed Alexander Zverev in the first round, snapped Federer’s 20-match win streak on grass after two hours and six minutes, hitting 11 aces and saving three of four break points en route to his second tour-level title (2017 Marrakech). The 21-year-old saved two set points at 4/6 down in the first-set tie-break and secured the only break of the deciding set, in the sixth game, en route to victory. Coric has now won 24 of 34 tour-level matches this season. Federer, who owned a 2-0 record against the Croatian heading into the championship match, was aiming to win a 10th title in 12 finals at the event and retain his status as World No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. As a result of his three-set loss to the Croatian, Rafael Nadal will return to the top spot of the ATP Rankings on 25 June.

Source: ATP

Marin Cilic fights back to win Queen’s

There is something gnawing away at Novak Djokovic a week before Wimbledon and, if it was just losing against Marin Cilic in the final of the Fever‑Tree Championship, he might return from a few days at home in Monte Carlo refreshed and ready to go again. It was tough to tell, though, as his voice dipped in the immediate aftermath of Cilic’s 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 win in just under three hours on a warm Sunday afternoon at the Queen’s Club.

Source: The Guardian