For two weeks every summer, London is gripped by Wimbledon fever. Almost half a million fans – many queuing from the crack of dawn – come to see the action. Millions more watch on TV at home, in the pub and even (shhhh!) at the office. Here is all you need to know about tennis’s oldest and most famous tournament.
674 matches are played in total across 18 courts during the fortnight, with a whopping £34 million of prize money up for grabs. Both the men’s singles champion and women’s singles champion earn a handsome £2.25 million each, while the runners-up get exactly half the amount. But it’s not just finalists who get a generous pay-out; even players knocked out in the first round go home with £39,000 in their pocket.
The current Wimbledon singles record-holder is the legendary Martina Navratilova, who won the competition an impressive nine times. She retired back in 2006, so won’t be adding to her tally anytime soon.
Roger Federer has eight Wimbledon championships under his belt, including last year, when he became the oldest man to win the competition at the ripe old age of 35 years 11 months. He didn’t even drop a single set.
Arguably, the most impressive record of all belongs to John Isner and Nicholas Mahut for their first-round match on court 18 in 2010. The pair played for an unbelievable 11 hours and five minutes (over the course of three days) – by far the longest professional tennis match in history. You could have watched the whole of Westworld season two in that time!
Federer is one of the favourites once again, and has the chance to equal Navratilova’s record of nine singles wins. He could also break his own ‘most elderly Wimbledon winner’ record, although he is currently only ranked as the world No.2 behind Rafael Nadal.
Garbiñe Muguruza won her first Wimbledon last year but isn’t in the best form, so Petra Kvitová could be hot on her heels. The Czech left-hander recently defended her Birmingham title, also on a grass court.
The British public also have to deal with the fact that Andy Murray won’t be taking part this year, as he continues to struggle with fitness, meaning the current UK No.1, Kyle Edmund, will have to carry the nation’s expectations. Or perhaps this could be the year when Johanna Konta becomes the first British woman since Virginia Wade to win the women’s championship.
Yellow balls were only introduced at Wimbledon in 1986 (before then, they were white) and around 54,250 are used during the tournament. They have to be stored at precisely 68.4°F otherwise they become too bouncy on the court (yes, really). The first new ball in a match is introduced after seven games, then after every nine games.
Ever dreamt of being a ball-boy or ball-girl? Well, you’re probably too old now, but 250 children from local schools are given the chance to be bumped into, shouted at and hit with balls during Wimbledon! But there’s also the chance to meet some of the game’s superstars. The average age of ball-children is 15 and most do it for two tournaments. It’s no stroll on the court though; training for the tournament starts in February.
Even more important than the tennis itself is Wimbledon’s long-standing love of the quintessential British summertime dessert: strawberries served with cream. The luscious ripe local strawberries are in season and priced at a fairly reasonable £2.50 per bowl. 34 tonnes of the highest quality strawbs are munched by spectators every year in 166,000 portions. They’re so good, it almost makes queuing from 6am worthwhile.
Tickets to the world’s premier tennis competition are notoriously hard to come by. The only way to guarantee a spot is by buying a debenture seat, starting at £13,700, or a hospitality ticket, which usually includes luxury accommodation or a fancy restaurant lunch. Most fans apply through the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club ballot, but it is a lottery, and if you are chosen, there is no guarantee which day or courts you will get offered, and you also have to pay the price suggested (usually £100 a ticket). The final option is to get there early in the morning to grab one of the 500 on-the-day seats. Visit wimbledon.com for the latest updates.