Wimbledon - game, set and match
24 Aug 2017
The Championships, Wimbledon, commonly known simply as Wimbledon, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and is widely regarded as the most prestigious in sporting circles. The tournament has been held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London SW18, since 1877 and is played on outdoor grass courts. The two showcase courts are that of Centre Court and Court 1.
Wimbledon is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the others being the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open. Since the Australian Open shifted to hardcourt in 1988, Wimbledon is the only major tennis tournament still played on grass.
Wimbledon traditions include a strict dress code for competitors. All clothing must be white and forbidden from featuring sporting endorsements/sponsors other than the maker’s branding. By tradition, the "Men's" and "Women's" competitions are referred to as "Gentlemen's" and "Ladies'" competitions at Wimbledon.
Pimms, strawberries and cream and of course, Royal patronage are a tradition at Wimbledon. The tournament is also notable for the absence of sponsor advertising around the courts.
Each year the tournament began on the last Monday in June, two weeks after the Queen’s Club Championships held at neighbouring Baron’s Court (an inner suburb of London in Zone 2 on the London Underground District and Piccadilly Lines). This is one of the major men’s ‘warm-up’ events, together with the Gerry Weber Open, which is held in Halle, Germany during the same week. It was announced that the 2017 tournament would commence on Monday 3 July. Other grass-court tournaments before Wimbledon are Eastbourne, England and Rosmalen in the Nederlands, both of which mixed events. The other women's warm-up tournament for Wimbledon is in Birmingham, England.
Wimbledon is scheduled for 14 days, beginning on a Monday and ending on a Sunday. The five main events span both weeks, but the junior and invitational events are held mainly during the second week. Traditionally, unlike the other three tennis Grand Slams, there is no play on the "Middle Sunday", which is considered a rest day. However, rain has forced play on the Middle Sunday four times over the years. On the first of these four occasions, Wimbledon staged a "People's Sunday", with unreserved seating and readily available, inexpensive tickets, allowing those with more limited means to sit on the show courts.
The second Monday at Wimbledon is often called "Manic Monday", because it's the busiest day with the last-16 matches for both men's and women's singles, where fans have a pick of watching on a single day, any of the best 32 players left; which is also unique in a Grand Slam singles competition. Players battle it out on a variety of courts, so it’s possible to witness a duel between two highly seeded players on anything on Wimbledon’s smaller courts. However, it is on Centre Court that the showcase finale is held for both the Men’s Final and Woman’s final.
The Gentlemen's Singles champion is presented with a silver gilt cup. The trophy has been awarded since 1887 and bears the inscription: "All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Championship of the World". The actual trophy remains the property of the All England Club in their museum, so the champion receives a scaled replica of the Cup bearing the names of all past Champions.
The Ladies' Singles champion is presented with a sterling silver salver commonly known as the “Venus Rosewater Dish”. The actual dish remains the property of the All England Club in their museum, so the champion receives a scaled replica bearing the names of all past Champions.
Previously, players bowed or curtsied to members of the Royal Family seated in the Royal Box upon entering or leaving Centre Court. However, in 2003, All England Club president Prince Edward, Duke of Kent decided to abolish the firmly held tradition. Now, players are required to bow or curtsy only if HRH The Prince of Wales, or HM The Queen are present.
Wimbledon is notable for the longest running sponsorship in sports history due to its association with Slazenger who have supplied all tennis balls during the tournament since 1902. Further, since 1935 Wimbledon has had a sponsorship association with the Robinsons fruit drink brand.
In 2009, Wimbledon's Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof to lessen the loss of playing time due to rain.
Getting to Wimbledon couldn’t be easier. Attendees should hop on a District Line train with destination ‘WIMBLEDON’ on the front of the train. The trick is to get off at Southfields, SW19 and walk the 1000m or so to the All England Club which sits quaintly in all it’s very bijoux glory in the heart of a middle English suburb – Wimbledon. Getting off at Wimbledon proper will only result in a giant and totally unnecessary walk, so forewarned is forearmed!
If visiting beyond the Championships, the All England Club has an excellent museum dedicated to the sport of tennis, it’s origins and a showcasing of the many champions who have played on the hallowed courts of Wimbledon. A blue Badge Guide will provide an excellent commentary and access will be granted to Centre Court, Court 1, the player’s restaurant/café, the BBC news room from where Sue Barker, Virginia Wade and others have broadcast live commentary during the Championships and Henman Hill aka Murray Mound or Aorangi Terrace (which is surprisingly a lot smaller than it is on the television). And if you ever wondered how you could snag one of those Christy of England limited edition Wimbledon Championships towels (the one’s that all the players seem to use), the excellent onsite shop is filled to the gunnels with these and other covetable branded items.