Egh – uuh – Egh – uuh – Egh – uuh
If you read our intro to Wimbledon and the game of Tennis, you’ll have figured out that was a short rally. And – more importantly – the serving player lost the Point. But our previous intro was more about the rules of the game, and less about The Championships themselves. So we’ve decided to delve a little deeper into the annual behemoth of English Sporting Culture and share some of the history, codes, traditions and other trivia about the event.
S0, cucumber sandwiches neatly trimmed? Strawberries suitably doused with cream? Bone China teacups to the ready and little finger extended daintily? Good, because it’s time for a look at the World of Wimbledon…
For 50 weeks of the year it’s an upmarket London suburb. But for the other two the Borough of Wimbledon – and in particular the All England Tennis and Croquet Club based on Church Road – is home to The Wimbledon Championships. The only Major tournament still played on Grass.
It’s a global event – as one of the four Grand Slam competitions that take place each year – also the oldest, and arguably the most prestigious on the calendar. The Monaco Grand Prix of the Tennis World, if you like. Except – having first taken place in 1877 – it’s got 52 years on the Monaco Grand Prix. There aren’t many other trophies on the sporting calendar that started earlier (just 5 to be precise).
If that’s whetted your appetite for the competition, here’s some more “Wimble-ivia” (that’s a portmanteau we made up joining Wimbledon and Trivia) .
The Green, Green Grass
The All England Club has 19 tournament grass courts, plus a further 22 Grass practice courts in the Aorangi Park area of the grounds. Since 2001 they’ve been 100% Perennial Rye Grass and are kept to an optimum length of 8mm.
Whiter than Whites
Unlike any other of the Grand Slam Tournaments, The Championships insist that players must wear predominantly White. Well, it’s the done thing don’t you know. It’s even spawned a range of questionable attire from clothing sponsors – most notably Roger Federer’s love it or hate it 2012 cream suit by French Connection.
New Balls, Please
Unlike recreational games of tennis – when you spend half your time running round picking up errant balls – competitors at Wimbledon (and all other senior tournaments for that matter) have the luxury of Ball Boys and Girls to collect and distribute tennis balls back to the players.
At Wimbledon there’s in the region of 250 and they’re split into teams of 6 for each court. Sometimes they even upstage the players.
Strawberries and Cream
We couldn’t leave the quintessential English summer fruits out of this blog. In fact, they’re a relatively recent addition in terms of tradition. First introduced as a refreshment in the 1950s, the addition of the more calorific element of this crowd favourite – the cream- only began in the 1970s.
The Real Hawkeye
You might be familiar with Hawkeye – the electronic system that can reveal whether a ball was in or out. But there’s another Hawkeye (or rather pair of eyes) present at Wimbledon year-round. He’s called Rufus, and he’s a Harris Hawk. Like a lot of London establishments, the Wimbledon grounds tend to attract Pigeons, so Rufus (and his predecessor Hamish) were brought in as a deterrent. The Hawks’ presence has meant far fewer entertaining TV moments such as this incident on court 3 in 2014…
Rufus gets airborne from around 6am until play commences, then again in the evening once all matches are complete. Don’t worry though, he’s not trained to catch the pigeons, just scare them away, and if we were a pigeon, we’d be scared.
You can follow Rufus on Twitter
June, now July
One tradition that’s changed very recently is the dates for the Tournament. The Championships always began 2 weeks after the French open. For 2015, they’ve been pushed back 1 week. The official story is that it allows 3 weeks for players to recover from Roland Garros and make the transition from clay – the slowest surface – to grass – the quickest. But cynics might look at the conflict of major UK sporting events without the move – both the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone would have taken place on the same Sunday. Both are ‘Blue Riband’ events covered live by BBC Sport, so it’s a great move for viewers too.
So, that’s it, “Time” for our Wimbledon previews – let the Tennis commence, and good luck Andy Murry!