Wimbledon is more than just a tennis tournament. It’s a kind of sporting frenzy which grips Britain for two weeks of the year.
It whips us into an all-consuming passion for tennis, tennis, tennis and then it sends us crashing back down to our default state – a mild interest unless a Brit happens to be playing.
So with Wimbledon 2013 set to start on June 24, it’s time to prepare yourself for entry into this strange alternate sporting universe; a land with its own rules and bizarre customs.
WHERE’S IT HELD?
Erm…it’s held in Wimbledon, actually. It’s that des-res pocket of south west London where they’ve been holding the competition since 1877 – making it the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
It started out as a tiny amateur event for the slightly posh members of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club but has mutated over the years into today’s Grand Slam tournament, and the only one played on grass.
WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT IT?
The whole tournament is delightfully batty and out-of-step with today’s brash world of professional sport. It’s the fact that it’s still played on the traditional playing surface; it’s the hearty applause whenever the rain covers are pulled over the courts (before they had the sliding roof installed over Centre Court). Most of all it’s multi-millionaire athletes being given a stern ticking off for breaching Wimbledon’s all-white clothing code, and not bowing or curtseying to the Royal Box.
Top 5 Wimbledon facts to annoy people with
- A chap called Brame Hillyard caused a sensation on court 10 at Wimbledon, 1930 by – wearing shorts. It would be another three years before a player dared expose their knees on Centre Court.
- Nobody has ever been able to explain why the iconic trophy handed to the winner of the men’s championship features a large pineapple on the top.
- It’s more than 30 years since a married woman managed to win the women’s singles championship, the last one being Chris Evert-Lloyd in 1981. She has since remarried, more than once.
- Cuddly Tim Henman was the first player to ever be disqualified from Wimbledon after a 1995 incident in which he lost his temper and smashed a ball away, which hit a ball girl in the face.
- Up until 1986 the tennis balls used at Wimbledon had to be white; they were changed to yellow after grumbles from TV producers.
ISN’T IT IMPOSSIBLE TO GET TICKETS?
No, it’s one of the few major sporting events in the world where you can still turn up on the day and buy a ticket. Although, bagging a centre court ticket requires lots of luck and a willingness to stand in a queue next to people with mad stares and Union Jack jester hats.
The queue starts forming in the early hours, with around 500 seats being made available for each of the main courts. They cost around £50. But general ground tickets on the day shouldn’t be a problem.
If you’re not into queuing, then you’ll need to have entered a public ballot. The closing date is the December before each tournament with tickets randomly allocated by a computer.
WHICH IS THE BEST COURT?
It depends what you’re after. If you want pomp, prestige and the chance to spot a royal stifling a yawn, then go for the Centre Court. If you’re after a thrilling match and the chance of watching an upset then Court Three has a fearsome reputation as the Graveyard of Champions.
It’s still optional. But more than 61,000 pounds of them will be guzzled during the fortnight. It’s a tradition which started back in 1953 when they first allowed a strawberry vendor onto the site. And then sometime in the early 70s they started dunking them in cream. Bit odd really – but nice.
WHO SHOULD I BE CHEERING FOR?
This is down to personal preference but a rough guide would be: anyone British, anyone considered an underdog, any former champions and generally anyone who’s a bit rubbish.
Look disapprovingly at anyone you hear utter either of these terms. The correct name for the grassy bank next to No 1 Court is Aorangi Terrace. It’s a Maori name, as it used to be the site of London New Zealand Rugby Club’s ground.
This is where you can watch the big screen and soak in all the atmosphere/rain without the cost of a main court ticket. The only downside is that there’s a constant risk of being accosted by a BBC reporter type and asked to say something banal.
DO SAY ‘The game of lawn tennis was actually invented in Birmingham in 1865 by Harry Gem and Juan Bautista Augurio Perera.’
DON’T SAY ‘Wahey! I can see her pants from here.’