Ahh, the Wimbledon Championship, both the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Commencing this year, 27th June and ending 10th July, the prize pool is a staggering £28.1 million. Therefore, the all-star “racqueteers” are sure to provide an intense competition in their endeavour to succeed, bringing about a thrilling couple of weeks. Many have come, but only the alpha-players emerge with the trophy in their grasp (and cash down their socks!).
The name of this highbrow event derives from Wimbledon, a suburb of London, which has been host to the competition since 1877. Of all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the All England Club court used for Wimbledon is the only arena to use real grass, withholding tennis tradition. In fact, many traditions have been upholstered over the years, let’s take a look at just a couple of them:
Strawberries and Cream
Ever since we can remember, strawberries and cream have been the go-to appetiser for the Wimbledon Tournament. Forget your hot dogs and heavily salted peanuts, a whopping 23 tonnes of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are consumed every year at the tournament, that’s a whole lot of Vitamin C!
Strawberries are said to of represented the beginning of a beautiful British summer (back when that statement would ring true with the weather). The idea of mixing strawberries and cream dates back to Tudor times, the seemingly wild concoction of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a high-ranking official in the court of Henry VIII. Before the days of refrigeration, seasonal fruits such as strawberries were a luxury, therefore eating them in public proved to be a sign of wealth and prosperity.
A more modern inclusion is a nice glass of Pimms to accompany the sweet dish, a picturesque start to summer if we do say so!
Pack the whites
The Wimbledon dress code is one which proves to be on-par with the likes of the Royal Ascot, regarding their strictness. Players must dress entirely in white, “lacking any solid mass of colouring”, at risk of potential disqualification, and before you ask, that includes your underwear! Bear in mind that this code does not apply to spectators, so don’t worry, you’re free to brandish a pair of Henry J Socks. However, we would advise keeping your boxer shorts to yourself!
Many world class players have found themselves on the wrong end of this stringent rule in the past – so from where does it originate? Well, deodorant wasn’t around back in the 1800’s, so when tennis was a common recreational activity, particularly among women of wealthy occupation, the colour white was worn to avoid embarrassment from perspiration.
The All England Club introduced Lawn Tennis in 1875 when the practice of wearing tennis whites was still common, so the rule has stuck since then.
Ball Boys and Ball Girls
Ball boys were first introduced to Wimbledon in 1920, ball girls in 1977. Though not essential to actual play, they are necessary to reduce idle game time, by keeping a constant supply of balls for the players. This speeds up the game, keeping audiences entertained to the very end. They can also be a helping hand to players during breaks, providing a much-needed drink and towel to wipe the face.
A squad of six boys and girls manage each court, two on the nets and four on the corners; this role is far from easy. Candidates must prove their prowess through a series of gruelling fitness and mobility tests. Over 700 young people apply, with only 250 passing the selection process to appear on-court. Ball boys and girls are seen but not heard, working together to ensure uninterrupted play.
Indeed, history and tradition are a huge part of Wimbledon’s character. The perpetual All England Club upholds the rules and regulations that bring the tournament to be recognised around the globe as the most prestigious and honour-bearing of the four majors. Whether you plan to put your feet up and watch from home or appear court-side, nothing is to stop you from getting your hands on a bowl of succulent strawberries and cream, and a refreshing glass of “Perfect Pimms”. Make the most of Wimbledon 2016, in style!
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