In 2020, the organizers cancelled the prestigious Wimbledon tennis tournament for the first time since World War II. In 2021, the play was back on the cards, albeit under very different circumstances.
Due to ongoing health concerns, some of Wimbledon’s most beloved traditions fell by the wayside, but even gloomy weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of those lucky enough to attend.
Keep reading to find out what makes Wimbledon tennis so special and why you need to add this premier sporting event to your bucket list.
1. Wimbledon Is the World’s Oldest Tennis Tournament
The first Wimbledon championship took place on July 9, 1877, on the lawns of the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. The only event was the Gentlement’s singles tournament, and just twenty-one competitors arrived on the day.
The entry fee comprised the handsome fee of one pound, one shilling. The grand prize consisted of a 25-guinea trophy and the organizers marked out a field 78 feet long by 27 feet wide for the challenge.
In those days, tennis was far from the lucrative and professional sport it is today. In fact, a member of the All England Club, Dr Henty Jones made up some of the formal rules specifically for this tournament.
Many of these regulations became part of tennis protocol and remain so to this day. For instance, Dr Jones set up six games per set, basing scoring on the clock face, and also allowed the server one fault.
Despite these humble beginnings, over 200 people bought tennis tickets to watch the final of the inaugural competition. W. Spencer Gore emerged victorious on that occasion.
2. Wimbledon Advanced Slowly
In 1884, the All-England tournament stepped things up a notch by introducing a Lady’s Singles and Men’s Doubles Championship too.
For the 1913 tournament, Mixed Doubles and Women’s Doubles entered the fray and by that time, Wimbledon had grown out of its All-England status, welcoming players from across the globe.
In 1922, the tournament moved to larger premises on Church Road but struggled to attract players as more tennis stars turned professional. Eventually, in 1968, Wimbledon opened its doors to pro players and regained its reputation as one of the world’s top tournaments.
3. It’s a Grand Slam Great
The term ‘Grand Slam’ originates in the realm of card games. It refers to winning the maximum number of tricks in an 1800s game called ‘Boston’.
Since then, it’s become associated with winning a series of major sports championships in a single season. In tennis, there are four tournaments in the Grand Slam. These are:
- The US Open
- The Australian Open
- The French Open
Wimbledon is still considered the most prestigious of these challenges.
Only five players have won all four of these singles Grand Slam tournaments in a season. These are:
- Don Budge in 1938
- Maureen Connolly in 1953.
- Rod Laver, Australia 1962 and 1969
- Margaret Smith Court in 1970.
- Steffi Graf in 1988.
Rod Laver is the only player to have completed the Golden Slam twice and Steffi Graf is the only person to achieve a Golden Slam. That means she won all four titles plus an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
4. Wimbledon Is the Only Grand Slam Played on Grass
Of the Grand Slam tournaments, the US and Australian Open feature hard courts, while the French Open has clay courts and Wimbledon is famous for its grass tracks.
These green spaces contain a 100% perennial ryegrass mix that grows rapidly during the cold season. Horticultural experts keep this greenery in fine form all year round.
The groundsmen begin renovating the courts in September every year and resow them with nine tons of fresh seed every year. In June, they stop watering the grass to keep it dry and help it cope without extensive watering during the annual 14-day tournament.
They cut the grass to exactly 8mm high before play commences and trim it every day to ensure it stays that way. These experts must keep the soil hard and dry enough to create perfect conditions for exciting play, and test the soil regularly to ensure it’s at an optimum.
This immaculate care means that the courts stand up well to the extreme wear and tear of this lengthy tournament. A total of 15 people care for the grass out of season, but that number swells to 28 during the event.
5. The BBG’s Play a Vital Role in Wimbledon
Apart from extra groundsmen, Wimbledon organizers also hire approximately 250 young men and women as ball boys and girls during the tournament.
About 250 of these come from previous years, and the rest undergo a special selection process. About 700 young people, aged between 14 and 18, apply for these positions every year.
The selection committee only considers applications from schools located near the venue in southwest London. The process begins in January when applicants complete a written and physical to test whether they’re suitable for the job.
These tests include measures of their hand-eye coordination, throwing talents, and ability to stand still for long periods of time.
Once they’re selected, the applicants undergo months of training before they can fulfil their roles. Training sessions take place every two weeks and increase in frequency as the start of the tournament nears.
Each BBG has a specific role, either at the back of the court or the net and the aim is for them to act speedily without interfering with the players.
6. The Balls Get Special Treatment
The traditions of Wimbledon even extend to the ball used in each match. Since the organizers stumbled upon the best ball for the job in 1995, they’ve used the same type in every match, every year.
There are a total of 54, 250 Dunlop Slazenger Ultra Vis Hydroguard tennis balls used in the Wimbledon tournament every year.
These balls are heavier to provide the best play on grass. They’re saturated with high visibility dye and can repel 70% more water than ordinary balls.
They’re replaced after every seven to nine games, so the players always get to play with the balls while they’re at their best.
If you have Wimbledon tickets, you can buy one of the used balls at the Wimbledon Foundation Kiosk. You’ll find this outlet near Court 14 and all the proceeds go towards this worthy cause.
Before they come out to play, the balls stay in refrigerated containers at precisely 68°F (20°C) to ensure they’re in top form for the challenges ahead.
Originally, Wimbledon used white balls in its games, but with the advent of television in 1986, they replaced these with yellow balls that are more visible to the cameras.
7. Wimbledon Has a Stringent Dress Code
Wimbledon has never strayed from its requirement that players dress in white. That’s because all-white wear is a long-held tradition that has its roots back in the 1880s.
Back in these genteel times, people considered sweat stains unsightly and improper. As a result, white clothing that hides these marks is de rigeur at Wimbledon. In fact, it’s written into the rules of the game if you want to play at this venue.
Not even the top players can get away with bending the rules, and a few of them have fallen foul of the organizers by trying just that.
Andre Agassi, known for his love of bright outfits, refused to play at Wimbledon from 1988 to 1990. The organizers wouldn’t allow him to wear his branded personal attire on the court, and thus he respectfully declined.
Even Roger Federer came under fire for wearing orange-soled shoes in one match. He had to remove this gaudy footwear before his next match.
Officials angered Martina Navratilova when they complained about her blue-striped skirt.
If you’re planning to buy Wimbledon tennis tickets for 2022, you needn’t start planning your attire now. There’s no dress code for spectators. However, it’s important to keep the prestigious nature and long-standing traditions of this tournament in mind.
You can dress casually, but you might feel a little out of place if you arrive under-dressed.
8. Strawberries and Cream Are Here to Stay
Even Wimbledon tennis hospitality reflects the long-standing traditions of this tournament. While the venue offers a wide range of food and beverage options of an exceptionally high standard, there’s no doubt that strawberries and cream are the standout offering.
Every year, tennis fans consume about 7,000 litres of cream and 27 tons of strawberries during the Wimbledon tournament. Each portion contains about ten Grade 1 English strawberries picked at 4 am every morning and inspected at 9 am before they’re served.
All the berries hail from LEAF registered farms which promote Integrated Farm Management and minimal use of chemicals.
Strawberries and cream have formed part of the Wimbledon offering since 1877, so you can rest assured they’ll be part of Wimbledon hospitality 2022, too.
There’s no particular reason why this dish became associated with Wimbledon. When the tournament started, strawberries were a favourite food of the well-heeled elite, plus they’re at their best during the English summer.
Every year after that first event, farmers picked their strawberries and sold them to the spectators and thus began a food tradition that’s now synonymous with Wimbledon.
Other popular foods at Wimbledon include:
- Sandwiches and baguettes
- Ice cream
- Stone-baked pizzas
- Fish and chips
- Frozen yoghurt
So, if you don’t like strawberries and cream, there are plenty of other things to nibble on.
9. Queuing Is a Celebration at Wimbledon
Although die-hard fans had to go without the tradition of queuing for tickets during 2021, and it’s unlikely to return soon, queuing is part of the fun at Wimbledon.
It’s such a popular pastime, that organizers are reluctant to replace it with technological means, although it’s much easier (and safer) to buy your Wimbledon tennis tickets online.
Up until 2019, the queue would start up around 10 days before the gates open, with fans packing up their tents every morning and placing them in storage before resuming their spot.
Some sign up at nearby gyms for the duration, so they have somewhere to shower during the ordeal of queuing for their tickets. Despite the deprivations of standing in line for days on end, it’s a jovial time for like-minded individuals to socialize and chat about tennis while they wait.
There’s even a 31-page guide detailing etiquette for this activity. Some pointers include no smoking or drunkenness while standing in line, no gazebos, and no food deliveries after 10 pm.
The organizers implement 24-hour monitoring to ensure order and the safety of campers.
10. Wimbledon Has Amazing Trophies
The Wimbledon trophies were first introduced in 1887 after the tournament opened its doors to professional players.
To this day, the gentlemen’s singles trophy bears the inscription, “The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World”.
This showpiece comprises a silver-gilt cup with a lid bearing a pineapple on top. It’s 18.5 inches tall and 7.5 inches around. Pineapples were rare when Wimbledon first started, and the fruit symbolizes prosperity and hospitality.
The classically styled trophy has two handles, diverse engravings, and a raised foot. Each handle has a head with a winged helmet underneath it.
The decorative borders have hand-engraved floral art and there are oval styled mouldings on the handles and the bowl of the cup.
The ladies final winner receives a partly gilded sterling silver salver, called the “Venus Rosewater Dish”, considered appropriate for the fairer sex. This elaborate piece bears various mythological figures and other decorative elements symbolizing virtue, knowledge, and the elements.
Both these valuable pieces remain at the All England tennis club, while the players receive a three-quarter-size replica for their trophy cabinets.
Apart from the trophies, the tournament awards millions of Pounds worth of cash prizes during the tournament.
11. Wimbledon Record Setters
Thanks to the long history of the Wimbledon tournament, there’s no shortage of outstanding feats associated with this competition.
Martina Navratilova has won nine Wimbledon trophies, more than any other male or female player. Roger Federer has five titles to his name and won 40 consecutive matches between 2003 and 2008.
Billie Jean King is one of Wimbledon’s most famous players, winning her first doubles title at the tender age of 17, and going on to secure the top spot six times. Boris Becker matched her achievement by winning the men’s singles title at just 17, in 1985.
Billie Jean King went on to become a trailblazer for women’s tennis, advocating for equal pay regardless of gender and became a champion of LGBTQ rights, too.
Enjoy World-Class Wimbledon Tennis in Person
Not only is Wimbledon one of the most prestigious and anticipated tennis events of the year, but it’s also filled with tradition, classic Wimbledon hospitality, and unforgettable experiences.
Would you like to enjoy the excitement of Wimbledon 2022 or Wimbledon 2023 first hand? Book your tickets with us now!