Eddie Ryan’s Monthly Sports Column
This year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championships will be the 129th running of the famous competition. To date just only three Irish people, have ever won the coveted All England Singles Championships.The first Wimbledon Championship was staged on 9 July, 1877. The lawns at the venue were arranged so that the main court was in the middle, with the others courts arranged around it, thus leading to the the ‘Centre Court’.
The name was retained when the Club moved to a new site in Church Road in 1922. There was only one event in the first ever Wimbledon.The Gentlemen’s Singles title was won by Spencer Gore, from a starting field of 22 entrants.
About 200 spectators paid the princely sum of one shilling each to watch the final. Gore who also played cricket for Surrey, had a rather unusual motivation for winning the title. He needed the winners purse, in order to raise money for the purchase of a horse drawn roller!
At around the same time, a little girl named Helena Rice was happily playing tennis with her sister, in their large family garden in Marlhill. Situated near New Inn in County Tipperary, it would provide the ideal setting for Ireland’s only ever Wimbledon Ladies Singles champion.
Lena as she came to be known, would go on to join the local Cahir Lawn Tennis Club. This provided another important step in her tennis development.