Top 10 Wimbledon Traditions
Published June 28, 2011 12:00
A great deal of Wimbledon's charm stems from its often quirky adherence to tradition, without which it simply wouldn't be the same. Here are 10 noteworthy traditions at the All-England Club:
Strawberries And CreamStrawberries and cream are the quintessential Wimbledon treat. During the fortnight, spectators will munch their way through over 28,000 kilos of Kent strawberries doused with more than 7,000 liters of double cream.
This delicious combination dates back to the 1500s when Cardinal Wolsey - Henry VIII's one time right-hand man - was the first to pour cream over these summer-sweet berries.
Strawberries and cream have been featured at Wimbledon since the first tournament in 1884. Indeed, strawberries and tennis are a match made in heaven, both signifying the arrival of the British summer.
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam to still be played on grass.
As one would expect, the science of maintaining Wimbledon's courts has been subject to rigorous research - the current formula is 100% Perennial Ryegrass, cut to a height of exactly 8mm.
This natural surface gives Wimbledon's courts an unpredictability that spectators love. The weather running up to and during Wimbledon and gradual compacting of the soil all affect the surface, meaning players need to be adaptable to perform well.
It almost always rains during Wimbledon and stalwart fans know to come prepared with a stiff upper lip, unfading optimism and a large umbrella.
Indeed, since 1922, only seven tournaments have not been interrupted by England's soggy summer weather.
On Centre Court at least, the rain is no longer a problem. The court's retractable roof was installed in 2009 and can be closed in less than 10 minutes, allowing play to resume within just 10-30 minutes.
The Royals have attended Wimbledon since 1907 when the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary - soon to be King George V and Queen Mary - were seated in the then temporary Royal Box, until rain put an end to the day's play.
The Duke of Kent became President of the Club in 1929 - a tradition that has been passed down through the Kent family to this day, with the current Duke and Duchess of Kent presenting the winners' trophies.
Following the wishes of the Duke, etiquette changed in 2003 so that players no longer bow or curtsy to the Royal Family on entering and leaving Centre Court, unless the Queen or the Prince of Wales are in attendance.
'All White' Rule
Players enter court looking crisp and smart thanks to the 'all white' rule.
Players started wearing white in the 1880s, as they found it masked perspiration, but the 'all white' rule only went into effect in 1963.
Despite being very much 'all in white', Anne White's body stocking of 1985 did not pass Wimbledon dress standards. Umpire Alan Mills asked White to return the next day wearing something 'more appropriate.'
In charge of keeping the courts pristine is Wimbledon's Hawk in Residence, whose job is to deter the local pigeons from the grounds during the Championships.
The days when pesky pigeons distracted players and even interrupted play are gone, thanks to Rufus the Harris Hawk.
Rufus is flown around the Wimbledon courts by his trainer, Wayne Davis, three mornings a week during the tournament and once a week at other times during the year.
The British love to queue. It conforms to their sense of propriety and is undeniably preferable to the uncertainty and unfairness of unordered chaos.
To that end, Wimbledon has a 'Code of Conduct' that applies to the Queue, and is policed by Honorary Stewards. The code states that those queueing must be present in person and may not place 'equipment' in the queue to keep their place.
The Queue is an experience in itself, with thousands of fans camping overnight in Wimbledon Park hoping to gain tickets to matches the following day.
On a grassy hill outside Centre Court, disappointed queuers and never-intended-to-queuers brave the elements to watch their idols play live on the big screen.
Formerly known as Henman Hill, this terrace has been renamed Murray Mound in recent years, in the hope that one year, perhaps this year, it will witness the triumph of the young Scot.
Thousands of fans gather here, come rain or shine, to watch tennis, eat, drink and make merry.
Male players, however, are only called 'Mr' when using the replay challenge.
Formerly, the names of women players were also prefixed with 'Miss' or 'Mrs' on the scoreboards. This tradition was abandoned in 2009 to match the treatment of male players, whose names have never been prefixed with 'Mr' on the boards.
Ball Boys & Girls
Each year there are approximately 250 ball boys and girls (BBGs) at Wimbledon, with an average age of 15 years.
Ball boys and girls were originally selected from children's homes, but are now chosen from local schools.
These fortunate young people have to work hard for this privilege. They start training in February, building up to two hour sessions, four times a week. They must also be experts on tennis scoring and learn to move and stand correctly, including 'pivoting using correct foot movement' on the grass court.