Wimbledon is one of the four annual Grand Slam tennis events – along with the Australian, French and US Opens – and is the only “lawn tennis” championship because it is played on natural grass courts, the sport’s original surface. The French Open is played on clay courts whereas the US and Australian Opens are played on hard courts.
The district of Wimbledon has been the home of the world’s greatest tennis tournament since 1877. For two weeks in high summer – late June and early July – this quiet and green suburb of southwest London becomes the center of the sporting universe.
Picture by Paulinagarcia2. Creative Commons License.
For 140 years, the oldest and most prestigious tennis championship in the world has been held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, most commonly known as the All England Club. The sports venue was founded in 1868 and only eight years after its foundation, a new sport created by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield was included in the list of activities offered by the club.
The first championship was played in 1877 and 22 players participated in the tournament. The winner was Spencer Gore, a 27-year-old sportsman who excelled at many sports, especially football, tennis and cricket. The prize at that time consisted of a silver challenge trophy and 20 guineas.
For the next couple of years, the championship was regarded as a simple pastime for the members of the British gentry. But as time went by, the popularity of the game and the competition grew and broadened all over the UK and people from all walks of life started to attend this prestigious sporting event. As the tournament became more and more popular, so did its traditions and customs.
Picture by Benjamí Villoslada. Creative Commons License.
Wimbledon is home to some of the greatest legends in tennis history, such as Rod Laver, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
Picture by Nikola Spicar. Creative Commons License. Players from left to right: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, David Ferrer, Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez and Richard Gasquet.
Here are some Wimbledon customs and traditions that have survived over the years:
* Spectators enjoy eating strawberries with cream and drinking champagne before and after the matches, both habits intrinsically associated with the arrival of the British summer.
* The tournament has a very strict dress code for competitors: all players must wear white clothing while they play.
* Sponsorship is not allowed on the boards around the courts. Wimbledon boasts the patronage of the English Royal family, which has supported and attended the sporting event since 1907.
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