Wimbledon is the oldest and is regarded as most prestigious event in the sport of tennis. Wimbledon, held in June/July, is the third Grand Slam tournament played each year, preceded by the Australian Open and French Open, and followed by the US Open. The tournament (which is the only one of the Grand Slams to be played on grass courts) lasts for a fortnight, subject to extensions for rain. Separate tournaments are simultaneously held for Gentlemen's Singles, Ladies' Singles, Gentlemen's Doubles, Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles. Youth tournaments – Boys' Singles, Girls' Singles, Boys' Doubles and Girls' Doubles – are also held. Additionally, special invitational tournaments are held for retired players – 35 and over Gentlemen's Doubles, 45 and over Gentlemen's Doubles, and 35 and over Ladies' Doubles.
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The tournament was first played under the control of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877 at a ground near Worple Road; the only event held was Gentlemen's Singles. In 1884, the All England Club added Ladies' Singles and Gentlemen's Doubles. Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added in 1913. The Championships moved to their present location, at a ground near Church Road, in 1922. The British are very proud of the Championships but it is a source of national anguish and humour—no British man has won the singles event at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, and no British woman since Virginia Wade in 1977.
The main court is called Centre Court, and it is here that the finals of the tournament are always played. Due to the unpredictable nature of the British weather during the Championships, a retractable roof has been proposed for the court. It is expected to be completed in 2009. The No. 1 Court was the subject of an extensive redevelopment in 1997 – it was originally adjacent to Centre Court, but was replaced by a new dedicated arena with a larger capacity for spectators. The original No. 1 Court was said to have a unique atmosphere, and was a favourite of many players, so its replacement was mourned by many. No. 1 Court also plays host to some of the more important matches at the Championships, such as the quarter-finals of the singles competitions. No. 2 Court bears the nickname The Graveyard of Champions since it has a reputation for playing host to seeded players being knocked out in upsets.
Green and purple are the traditional Wimbledon colours. Female players are always referred to as "Miss" or "Mrs" during play (for example, when the Chair Umpire states the scores). Male players, however, are referred to by last name only.
The tournament begins each year six weeks before the first Monday in August, and lasts for a fortnight. Traditionally, there is no play on the "Middle Sunday." Thrice in Championship history (most recently in 2004), rain has forced play on the Middle Sunday. During the first week, the early rounds are played, while during the second week, the "Round of Sixteen," the Quarterfinals, the Semifinals and Finals are held.
The Gentlemen's Singles Champion receives a silver gilt trophy of a height of over eighteen inches. The Ladies' Singles Trophy is a silver salver, almost nineteen inches in diameter, commonly called the "Rosewater Dish" or the "Venus Rosewater Dish." Trophies are also presented in the other events. Prize money figures for 2004 (with the amount shown for doubles being divided equally among the partners) were:
- Gentlemen's Singles: £602,500
- Ladies' Singles: £560,500
- Gentlemen's Doubles: £215,000
- Ladies' Doubles: £200,000
- Mixed Doubles: £90,000
- The prize money was recently anounced to be raised significantly.
Wimbledon and the French Open both have higher prize money for male champions than for female ones; the US Open and Australian Open pay equal amounts.
- Wimbledon champions (Men's Singles)
- Wimbledon champions (Women's Singles)
- Wimbledon champions (Doubles)
- Wimbledon champions (Mixed Doubles)