Get your strawberries, Pimms and sunglasses at the ready… Wimbledon season is upon us!
One of the most famous and highly anticipated sporting events across the globe will come to the south London suburb in a few weeks, and to celebrate, we’ve taken a look at the game’s incredible history and ins-and-outs. Have a read below for 15 fun facts about Wimbledon, which truly are ace.
Top tip: If you’re travelling to the capital for the exciting event, book as early as possible to take advantage of London hotels special offers.
1. Where it all began
Back on 9th June 1877, the first Wimbledon Championships were held at Worple Road in Wimbledon, making it the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
Of course, it was pretty different to the tournament we know and love today.
For starters, the tournament was advertised as a ‘lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs’ – yes, that means anyone could enter, whether you were a player or not. The only event played that year was Men’s Singles. Ladies’ Singles and Men’s Doubles events only came onto the Wimbledon scene in 1844, before Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added in 1913.
2. The green, green grass
The courts are sown with 100% perennial ryegrass, and interestingly, Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event in the world played on grass. The grass is tended to year-round to ensure it stays in tip top condition, and during the event, it’s cut to a height of exactly 8 mm.
3. Tennis balls at the ready
During the tournament, 54,250 tennis balls are used. The balls are replaced after every seven to nine games to make sure they’re in perfect shape throughout the match. Those not in current use are even stored in a refrigerated container to keep them match-ready. Not many people know that Wimbledon once used white tennis balls. But they were replaced with yellow balls in 1986 to make them more visible to TV cameras.
4. Ball boy and girl dedication
About 250 ball boys and girls – known as BBGs – have the tough job of keeping track of all those fast-moving tennis balls, and it’s a lot harder than it looks! Months before the tournament, BBGs go through intense training sessions to prepare for Wimbledon. BBGs are drawn from schools in local London boroughs. Candidates are nominated by their head teachers for the position, and must pass a written test and a fitness test among others. The average age of a BBG is 15. Ball Girls did not appear on Centre Court until 1985.
5. Keeping the rain at bay
Centre Court is now fitted with a retractable roof to help avoid rain delays that have been an infamous feature of the tournament throughout its history. This was a much-welcomed game addition, dude to the city’s unpredictable weather conditions!
6. Just the ticket
Tickets are secured mostly through ballot however, you may queue for tickets on match days as well. Just make sure you arrive early as queues begin from as early as 2 AM!
7. Not so lucky with a ticket?
Didn’t manage to nab a ticket, or can’t make this year’s Wimbledon? Tours of the grounds and museum are available throughout the year, and are easily accessible from The Devonshire London Paddington.
8. One very famous hawk
Every morning during the tournament, a Harris hawk named Rufus is set free to circle the sky above the Wimbledon grounds to scare away the local pigeons.
He doesn’t harm them – just deters them away from the games so they don’t cause any disruptions. Rufus has over 10,000 followers on Twitter and sent the nation into panic when he was stolen in 2012. Thankfully, he was returned home safely not long after.
9. Did someone say strawberries?
In 2017, 23 tonnes of strawberries and 7,000 litres of fresh cream were served to attendees.
If you were to lay these berries in a line, they’d stretch almost 37 miles end-to-end! That’s a lot of strawberries. The price for a bowl of strawberries and cream hasn’t changed since 2010 – it’s a bargain at just £2.50. And the fragrant, refreshing strawberries you nibble on beside Centre Court were picked in Kent that morning at 4 AM, in the packing centre at 9 AM and delivered to the Club by 11 AM.
10. Playing the long game
Matches can go on for hours, and sometimes even days!
The longest ever Wimbledon match was at the 2010 tournament, where John Isner of the United States won against French player Nicolas Mahut. The match lasted a staggering 11 hours and five minutes, and was played over three consecutive days, which has left us tired just thinking about it…
11. String theory
During the course of Wimbledon fortnight, the repairs team string about 2,000 rackets and use more than 40 miles of string. It’s a myth that violin strings were once made from a cat’s gut — they never have been.
Instead, they were made from ‘catgut’, which is made from the intestine of a sheep, goat, pig or cow.
12. Three cheers for the staff
…As there’s a lot of them that make Wimbledon possible. Some 613 stewards work over the Championships, along with 400 housekeeping staff, 22 massage therapists and physios, 31 groundstaff, 2,200 catering staff, 30 dressing room attendants and 50 data collectors.
13. The winner takes it all
The total prize money for Wimbledon is £26,750,000 – not bad, is it?
The single Grand Slam champions will receive £1.88 million each, while competitors who lose in the First Round will receive £29,000 each. Of course it’s not all about the money, it’s about the trophy as well, which is presented each time by HRH Duke of Kent
14. Eye watering speeds
The fastest serve ever recorded was hit by Australian Samuel Groth in 2012, who reached a speed of 163.7 mph, and the fastest ever serve at Wimbledon was hit by American Sam Querrey in 2009, when he smashed the ball over the net at 141 mph.
15. Serious sponsorships
It turns out The All England Club are very strict when it comes to brands and advertising. In 2006, 57-year-old Marilyn Still had two pots of yoghurt and a chocolate milkshake confiscated from her because they were produced by Alpro, who were not the official sponsor of Wimbledon.