Wimbledon has been around for more than 130 years and was first televised in 1937. It’s a British sporting institution that millions of fans all over the world enjoy.
Given its prestige, it’s no wonder the people behind Wimbledon don’t just let any old tennis player enter their tournament. Each competitor must advance through a gruelling qualifying stage before they can play in the glorious surroundings of the All England Tennis Club. But many people have no idea how the qualifying process works.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive rundown of the qualifying process, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put this guide together to help you understand exactly how Wimbledon qualification works. Read on for more details!
There are several different categories of tournaments at each edition of Wimbledon. That means the way players qualify depends on the way they play tennis.
It’s also important to remember that qualifying has changed many times over the years and will likely change again. The process can seem a bit complicated at first glance, but it’s easy to understand once it’s broken down.
Generally, the Wimbledon organisers emphasize quality. That means the tournament is organised in such a way as to guarantee all the best players get the chance to compete.
What’s at Stake?
Qualifying for Wimbledon is big business. Not only does it allow players the chance to compete in one of the most prestigious sporting competitions in the world, but it also comes with a range of other benefits.
In 2021, simply qualifying for Wimbledon guaranteed players the sum of £45,000! That’s more than the average salary in the UK. There are other financial benefits too, with opportunities for sponsorship and endorsement.
Of course, if a player goes all the way, they could potentially make a life-changing sum of money! Winners of the singles tournaments at Wimbledon earn £1,700,000, while the runner-up bags £900,000.
Qualifying can also boost a player’s ranking, allowing them a better chance of qualifying for other Grand Slams. Making it through each round of the qualifying tournament grants a certain number of ranking points, with the maximum given out in qualifying being 25 (compared to the winner of the main Wimbledon Championships, who receives 2,000 points!).
Men and Women Singles
Some players get lucky and are given wild cards to the tournament. These are players who normally wouldn’t qualify for the tournament due to their ranking but are permitted to compete anyway.
There are approximately eight wild cards in each tournament, although this can vary. Players may choose not to accept a wild card invitation. If this happens, the organisers choose a new player to receive the wild card.
Wild cards are not chosen at random. The organisers choose players that they feel are worthy of competing at the tournament, despite not meeting the normal criteria. The selection process can be complex and the results are normally announced in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
These extra players are often selected due to narrowly missing out on qualification or to boost British interest in the tournament. A good example is Nick Kyrgios, who earned a wildcard in 2014 after winning a tour event and catching the public imagination with his flamboyant playing style.
Wild cards aren’t there just to make up the numbers. Many achieve great things on the court, and some even go all the way. In 2001, wild card Goran Ivanisevic, then ranked number 125 in the world, went on to win the tournament.
The 112 top players, minus the number of wildcards, automatically qualify for Wimbledon. Rankings are decided based on previous performance in other official tournaments.
If players choose not to participate, players further down the rankings will qualify instead. So, if ten of the top 112 don’t wish to compete, players 113 to 122 will benefit from automatic qualification instead.
Seeded players automatically qualify for Grand Slam tournaments. For example, in 2021, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was guaranteed a place in the tournament due to his status as the reigning champion.
Most players competing in the tournament are there due to their ranking. This ensures that the best players have the chance to play on the biggest stage. It also means top-tier players with busy schedules don’t have to participate in lengthy qualifying tournaments.
Along with the 112 players selected through rankings and wild cards, a further 16 players qualify from the three-round qualifying tournament.
The next 128 ranked players participate in this tournament for the remaining places.
The men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments take place at the Bank of England Sports Centre, a few miles away from the main venue. The tournament normally lasts for three days and takes place in June.
This tournament is normally fiercely competitive, featuring a mix of seasoned professionals and up-and-coming youngsters. Many of today’s tennis superstars earned valuable experience in the Wimbledon qualifying tournaments as they rose through the rankings.
What About Tennis Player Drop Outs?
It must be frustrating to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, only to suffer an injury and need to withdraw. Sadly, it’s a common occurrence, as some of these highly-trained athletes break down every year.
In the case of a drop-out, a lucky loser is the beneficiary. So, a player who lost their final game of the qualifying tournament could find themselves bumped up to full qualification status.
Breaking it Down
It can be hard to visualise this complicated system. Let’s imagine an example tournament.
- The top 104 players are invited to take part. 28 of these players decline the invitation due to injury, scheduling conflicts, or other reasons. As a result, the players ranked 105 to 132 are invited to compete in order to fill in the missing spots.
- Eight wildcards are invited to compete.
- Players ranked 133 to 260 receive invitations to the qualifying tournament. Five players decline, so players ranked 261 to 265 are invited to take part in qualifying instead. 16 players make it through the qualifying tournament and are invited to compete at the main tournament.
- 128 players have been chosen for the main Wimbledon tournament. Two drop out, so the organisers draw out two losing finalists from the qualifiers as “lucky losers” who compete at the main tournament!
The various Wimbledon doubles tournaments have their own qualification procedure, since members of a duo might have vastly different rankings.
Each player has a separate singles and doubles ranking. A player can choose which ranking they want to use, then the rankings for the two players are added together. The lowest 57 totals are the qualifiers.
There are typically seven wildcards in doubles. There is no qualifying tournament for doubles.
Wimbledon also features various age-group tournaments, known as the Boys’ and Girls’ competitions.
Both of these tournaments work similarly to their senior counterparts, with selections made through rankings, wild cards, and a qualifying tournament.
You might have heard about ‘seeding’ in tennis. This is a form of internal ranking which makes the tournament more exciting.
The top 32 ranked players are all seeded to prevent them from meeting each other until the third round. The top two players are always seeded so that they can only meet in the final.
This is why Wimbledon finals are generally played between two top players, like Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Without seeding, you could have these big clashes taking place in early rounds, while unknown players make it to the final. That wouldn’t be great for spectators or players, who want to see the best tennis players participating in the final.
Wimbledon Qualification Trivia
Wimbledon qualifying is a weird and wonderful world where anything can happen. Although it takes place only a ten-minute drive from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the qualifying tournament is a world apart.
Here are some interesting facts about the qualification.
- In 2019, the number of players, including those in qualifying tournaments, was 790.
- Until 1914, there was no official ranking system or qualification tournament. Anyone could apply to play.
- Wimbledon qualifying often features some seriously big names. In 2018, former world number five Eugenie Bouchard had to come through the women’s qualifying tournament.
- There are no permanent seats at the qualifying venue. Although temporary stands are sometimes erected, these are returned if the tournament goes on longer than expected.
Get Tickets For the Greatest Tennis Tournament in the World!
It’s not just the average tennis player scrambling to get to Wimbledon. It’s the fans, too! Luckily, you don’t need to take part in a rigorous selection process to reach Centre Court.
We offer tickets to all Wimbledon matches, including the showpiece matches. We can also offer hotel and transport packages! Find out more about our Centre Court tickets today.