What a time to be alive. One tournament ends only to give way to a new, even more prestigious tournament. Copa America ended last night leaving millions of Argentinians heartbroken but they, at least those who haven’t allocated all of their heart’s space for football, can find some solace in tennis’ most prestigious grand slam, Wimbledon which is starting with all its history and aura on 27th June. It is the season of ice creams and sunhats and umbrellas and rains. We get to see all of this in every year’s Wimbledon which is as much about the ambiance as much it is about Tennis. No matter how many times they reassert about the equality of all grand slams, deep down all of us know that Wimbledon is the biggest. The whole ambiance and all those traditions that we get at Wimbledon, they can’t be reproduced elsewhere.
Let us see how Wimbledon fares apart from all other grand slams.
Oldest Grand Slam Tournament
Founded in 1877, Wimbledon is the oldest of the four grand slam tournaments. US Open is closest to it in age as it was founded in 1881, followed by French in 1891 and Australian in 1905. But till 1924/25, Wimbledon held the honor of being the only grand slam tournament and after this time the other three big tournaments were also categorized as grand slams. Since 1877, Wimbledon has been organized at the All England Club located at Wimbledon near London. The first edition of the tournament had only one event, Gentlemen’s Singles whose final was watched by 200 people who paid a shilling a piece to become part of history.
While the other three grand slams have moved on to newer and less archaic forms of courts, Wimbledon prides itself for being the only grand slam featuring grass courts. The inconsistent bounce that breeds out of grass adds allure to the game by providing augmented advantage to players resting their believe in aggressive style of play than the ones who try to exhaust their foes out. Wimbledon turf is perennial rye grass which is cut to a height of exactly 8 mm. As the two week tournament progresses, grass starts to fade out and what was a picture full of lush green becomes marred with isolated regions of browning grass especially from the regions where the players serve from.
White Dress Code
The All England Club maintains its tradition of letting the players wear only white if they are to compete in this tournament. There have been times when major players have been threatened of disqualification when their dress wasn’t in accordance with Wimbledon’s dress code. In 2013, Roger Federer was told not wear his orange soled trainers. It might be a petulance for some players to wear even the undergarments which were white but for some it is a depiction of attachment with tradition and this white dress code has now become some sort of identity for Wimbledon.
Center Court’s Retractable Roof
The 3000 ton retractable roof which costed 80 million pounds is also something Wimbledon exclusive. Rain used to be the biggest spoiler for tennis fans who had to wait for hours for play to resume but now the Center Court has been provided with a retractable roof which takes 10 minutes in covering the whole arena and play needs to be stopped for only 20 minutes in case of rain. The roof is flooded with lights that can create an effect just as the open roof court would have and is provided with nine Air Conditioning Units which pump 143,000 liters of air into arena each second to maintain the interior at 24 C and 50% humidity.
Since it’s a grass court that Wimbledon is being played on so it is important that all petulance engendering out of grass’ usage are removed. The last thing that we would want to see on a pitch in the middle of a final would be a swarm of pigeons landing and taking off so to avoid such pesky fowls a Harris Hawk named “Rufus” serves as guard against the pigeons. Rufus has been diligently serving by taking a flight of 4 hours over the center court and adjoining courts making sure that no pigeon finds home in the Center Court’s roof which seems like a pretty fine place to be selected as abode by pigeons. In 2016, the veteran Rufus has got an apprentice named “Pollux” who has been spotted gliding high over Center Court.
Center Court Bombing
I can’t recall to have ever heard of any other grand slam’s venue to have been bombed other than Wimbledon’s Center Court which was the site of landing of five bombs during the World War II.
Twelve hundred seats were damaged in this attack and it took nine years to fully restore the court.
Number of Balls Used in the Tournament
Wimbledon uses a fixed number of tennis balls for every edition of the tournament. That number is 54, 250. This number of balls is exclusive for Wimbledon. A ball is used for seven to nine games and a number of ball boys and girls are vigilantly surrounding the court during each game to take care of each wandering ball. Those balls which are not being used are kept in special refrigerated containers to preserve their quality.
Wimbledon has a completely unique seeding system for the players featuring in it which has been confounding for most of the fans. It might seem unjust to some fans, seeing their beloved stars seeded much lower than they had expected them to be but at the back of it there is a complete mathematical formula that comes into play. The accumulated ATP points are not the only factor All England Club takes into account while seeding players at Wimbledon but a host of other factors are also incorporated while doing the calculations and discussing them here isn’t the point.
Highest Prize Money
With 5% increment in last year’s prize money, Wimbledon has become the highest paid tennis event in the world with a prize money of whooping 28.1 million pounds.