For the 2018 edition of The Championships at Wimbledon, ‘History’ has been the theme for the event’s content campaign, in celebration of 150 years of the All England Club and 50 years of Open Era tennis. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to delve deeper into some of the reasons that make Wimbledon the tournament British people love so dearly.
When Spencer Gore became the first ever Wimbledon champion in 1877 he said he doubted the game would catch on. How wrong Spencer was. Wimbledon inspires devotion among Brits more than most other sporting events. For the briefest of moments, Wimbledon fills the British population with hope, determination and a will to see one of their own players win the ultimate tennis title. Not only does it fill them with inspiration, but it binds people together from all walks of life – from attracting royalty and celebrities to your average Joe, Wimbledon is a unifying power among the British population. Furthermore, Wimbledon doesn’t just attract big players and royalty, but also big matches. The longest match in history was played on Court 18 between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, lasting an epic 11 hours 5 minutes, with the final set lasting eight hours alone.
Hawk-Eye & Rufus the Hawk
Wimbledon is not only the oldest tennis tournament in the world, but also unique and eccentric in its own individual way. Since the creation of the tournament, competitors have always had to wear full whites, making Wimbledon distinct in its strict approach to rules. Another element of Wimbledon’s idiosyncratic approach is its own official “pigeon scarer” – Rufus the Hawk, who flies for an hour every morning before the gates are open to the public to ward off local bird life.
Find out more about Rufus the Hawk here.
Wimbledon is unusual in providing spectators the opportunity to purchase tickets for Centre Court, as well as No. 1 & No. 2 Courts on the day. Consequently, while the best tennis players from around the world put on their finest displays of skill and ability, the public is busy showing off one of the things the British do best – queuing. However, unlike elsewhere, the queue at the All England Club is an integral part of the authentic Wimbledon experience. Queue cards are distributed daily to each arrival, representing a precise spot in the queue, and a Queue Code of Conduct is strictly adhered to. The levels of dedication are high; for example, in 2017, the first person to take their place in the queue arrived 40 hours before the gates opened on Monday morning.
So well regarded is the queue, even professional tennis players are keen to get in on the act.
I’m gonna stand in The Queue one day for the experience 🤓
— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) July 4, 2018
34,000 Kilograms of Strawberries
Another of the quirks of Wimbledon is that fans will queue for hours to enter the grounds only to sit on a grassy hill and watch a big screen TV, while drinking Pimm’s and eating strawberries with cream, synonymous with the Wimbledon fortnight. All of which are consumed en masse by the 39,000 spectators that are in the grounds at any one time. It’s estimated that 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s are drunk and 34,000 kgs of strawberries are eaten throughout the two-week extravaganza.
Over the years players have been increasingly financially rewarded throughout all stages of the tournament. Spencer Gore won a grand total of 12 guineas upon his win at the first ever championships. Fast forward almost 60 years to when Fred Perry won Wimbledon and his prize was a £25 shopping voucher. 2007 brought in equal pay for both male and female competitors at the competition, and as times have progressed so have the total winnings for Wimbledon, as Sir Andy Murray won nearly £2 million for his 2013 Championship title. In 2018, there will be prizes of £2.25 million for both the men’s and women’s champions.
UNIQLO 10-Year Federer Deal
It is not just the players’ winnings that have increased over the years, but the sponsorship deals that have been created due to tennis players’ world influence. Roger Federer has just signed a £230 million clothing deal with UNIQLO for the next 10 years, demonstrating the financial power of the world’s best players. Furthermore, Wimbledon is a competitive playing field for brands wanting to be on centre stage at the tournament, for example Evian has been the official bottled water of The Championships since 2008 and has just announced an extension until 2022. Similarly, Slazenger has been the Official Supplier of tennis balls to The Championship since 1902, making it one of the longest partnerships in sporting history. On average, Slazenger supplies 54,250 tennis balls throughout The Championships, each of which will be tested for weight, bounce and compression.
Although Sir Andy Murray is not participating this year, Brits will still follow Wimbledon as religiously as ever. Wimbledon is special for a lot of reasons, not least for its significance amongst the international tennis fraternity, but it will always unite the nation with a profound sense of positivity. Even if it is just for two weeks each year.