Strawberries and Cream at Championships Wimbledon Tennis

Wimbledon Major Tennis Tournament

A Guide to The Wimbledon Grand Slam

Wimbledon is one of the most important tennis events in the world and remains the only Grand Slam tournament that is still played on grass. However, if you look back in time, it has very modest and inauspicious origins.

If you’re not a tennis lover, you could find yourself at a loss for topics to discuss with any tennis-loving family members or friends when the games start at the All England Club in June or July. We’re here to help with that.

Tennis is a test of extraordinary physical and psychological endurance. Perhaps because of the high level of competition, the sport and its audience are surrounded by long-standing customs and conventions.

This guide dives into the history of the sport, how far it has come, notable events in its history, everything you need to know to get in on the traditions, and much more.


The History of Wimbledon

The inaugural Wimbledon tournament was staged in 1877 when the title of the All England Croquet Club was changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The All England Croquet Club was established in 1868 as a centre for croquet, which was significantly more popular than tennis during this period. As tennis became more popular, the club altered its designation to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club and then omitted the reference to croquet entirely.


The Early Days

The first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877 and is regarded as the world’s first recognized tennis event, although it was known as ‘lawn tennis’ at the time. The competition was held at the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club and was designed to generate funds to refurbish the club’s lawn-rolling equipment.

By 1882, the All England Club’s focus had shifted almost entirely to lawn tennis, with the addition of Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles in 1884. However, the All England Club would not see Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles competitions until 1913.

Many regulations have remained unchanged throughout the years, although some essential revisions have been made.

Wimbledon added a women’s championship in 1884, and the national men’s doubles were transferred there from Oxford. Wimbledon Championships are held on the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) grass courts at Wimbledon, London, England. The AELTC was the tournament’s original home and continues to be so to this day.


Wimbledon’s English Origins

Wimbledon has had limited success with domestic talent in the Gentlemen’s Singles, despite being a defining British championship. Since 1910, only two British men have won at the All England Club, and until Andy Murray won the championship in 2013, there had been a 77-year title drought dating as far back as Fred Perry’s 1936 victory.

Until 1968, Wimbledon and the other four ‘Majors’ were exclusively open to amateur tennis players, with professional players barred from competing. The decision to let professional players compete in significant events ushered in the ‘Open’ era of tennis.

To reduce weather-related delays, a retractable cover was installed on Centre Court in 2009. On 29 June of the same year, Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Murray played the inaugural match under the dome.

Andy Murray participated at Wimbledon (courtesy of the roof) in 2012, ending his match against Marcos Baghdatis at 11:02 pm, as well as playing in the first Men’s Singles final to be contested under the dome, against Roger Federer in that same year.

The inaugural Wimbledon Championships looked nothing like they do now. The field consisted of 22 amateurs who entered after spotting an advert in a leisure magazine and paying 11 shillings to participate. There were 200 people in attendance to see the historic inaugural final match.

Who was the first to win the Wimbledon Championship? Spencer Gore, who was also a successful cricket player, won the first Wimbledon Championship. The initial tournament had no ladies’ final because women were not allowed to compete until 1884.


A Tournament Among Tournaments

Wimbledon may be one of the most hyped tournaments. However, it is one of many tennis tournaments known as Grand Slams.

The Grand Slams constitute the most coveted rewards in tennis, occurring year-round on diverse surfaces in far-flung, prestige locations.

They are:

Wimbledon is a tennis tournament that is part of the Grand Slam series. This is one of four main competitions held throughout the year. The four events represent the pinnacle of professional tennis, with the largest prize pot and ranking points in play.

Each of these Grand Slam tournaments occurs in different countries and on a different surface. Wimbledon is the sole Grand Slam event held on grass in London, England.

Though not an officially-sanctioned view, Wimbledon is seen by fans of the sport as the top crown to win in tennis, owing to its pedigree, longevity and links to the sport’s early days. 


Wimbledon Tennis Competition

The first Wimbledon was contested solely by males, but the modern-day version of the tournament features a variety of events catering to a wide spectrum of players. As of 2016, the competitions include:

  • Disabled Doubles – 12 teams
  • Girls’ Doubles – 32 teams
  • Boys’ Doubles – 32 teams
  • Girls’ Singles – 64 players
  • Boys’ Singles – 64 players
  • Mixed Doubles – 48 teams
  • Ladies’ Doubles – 64 teams
  • Gentlemen’s Doubles – 64 teams
  • Ladies’ Singles – 128 players
  • Gentlemen’s Singles – 128 players.

Five additional invitational events include:

  • Ladies’ Wheelchair Doubles – 4 teams
  • Gentlemen’s Wheelchair Doubles – 4 teams
  • Ladies’ Invitational Doubles – 8 teams
  • Senior Gentlemen’s Invitational Doubles – 8 teams
  • Gentlemen’s Invitational Doubles – 8 teams.

Now that you know which competitions to expect, you must have, no doubt, heard of at least one weird or odd thing about the tournament that made you go “wait, is that actually a thing?”

To find out more, let’s talk about Wimbledon traditions.


Wimbledon’s Traditions and Trivia

Wimbledon has several traditions, and with such a long history, some of them have stuck. Some norms are new, but they are what you are here to know about. Here, we will look at the odd, the unique and the interesting.

The Grass Surface

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament that continues to be played on a grass surface. All four Grand Slam events were originally played on grass (thus the term ‘lawn tennis’), but the Australian Open and US Open have since relocated to hard courts and the French Open to clay. Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam played on grass.

 The Wimbledon Queue

Wimbledon, as opulent as it appears, has one incredibly egalitarian feature. Wimbledon is still one of the few big athletic events in the United Kingdom where viewers can purchase premium tickets on tournament days.

However, doing so nearly often necessitates staying overnight in the Queue or spending all day long in line. Those who do so frequently bring tents, games, food and folding chairs. Each participant is given a card that indicates their position in the queue, with no option to hold a spot for anybody else.

Queuing is an established tradition among local guests, so despite the hot weather and the wait, you can expect the energy to be high.

The White Dress Code

Wimbledon has the most stringent dress code of any Grand Slam tennis event. At the competition, players may only wear white. This regulation is taken extremely seriously by the All-England Club. The rule has only grown more stringent over time.

In 2014, the club released a 10-part ‘decree’ that was included in the competitor’s handbook, which all players were required to obey. The decree imposed new guidelines for wearing white, including the following requirements:

  • White does not include cream or off-white.
  • There is only one single trim colour allowed, which shouldn’t exceed a centimetre in width.
  • Coloured undergarments that can be seen during play (including sweat-induced showings) are not allowed.

Until 2006, all personnel (including ball boys and girls, linesmen and umpires) wore green. Following this, the club asked American designer Ralph Lauren to create official clothes, debuting the new navy blue and cream versions.

What about spectators? Is anyone checking what you wear?

Fortunately, not really. While there is no official dress code for visiting Wimbledon, fans should dress appropriately. Smart casual attire is required in the Centre and Number One Courts. Jackets and ties are not compulsory but are frequently worn. Certain items are forbidden, including soiled sneakers, active sportswear and cut-off shorts.

Formal Address

Wimbledon, unlike other tennis championships, still refers to the men’s and women’s contests as ‘gentlemen’s’ and ‘ladies’ events, even after so many years. Female players are addressed as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’, depending on their marital status. However, no male athlete is addressed as ‘Mr’ for some reason. 

Strawberries and Cream

The customary stall food for spectators and players at the event is strawberries and cream. This is a significant Wimbledon tradition. It is said that the strawberry tradition began in 1953 and the cream was introduced in 1970. Others, however, claim that strawberries were served as early as 1877.

Both strawberries and tennis herald the approach of summer. The two have progressively become an important element of the competition. Wimbledon prepares almost 9,000 servings every day, using only the best strawberries from the county of Kent.

The berries are gathered the day before they are served and arrive at Wimbledon around 5:30 am, where they are examined before being hulled. Wimbledon’s spectators consume 7,000 litres of cream and 28,000 kilograms of strawberries each year.

Ball Boys and Girls

Ball boys and girls are a fixture at Wimbledon and play an important part in the tournament’s efficient operation, with the proviso that a competent BBG (as they are known) should not be noticed.

They should fade into the background and go about their business silently. BBGs work in teams of six, with two at the net and four at the corners, and teams cycle one hour on the court and one hour off during the day’s action.

At Wimbledon, 250 ball boys and girls are hired each year. They are typically 15 years old and earn around £150 for every two weeks of employment.

Royal Family Attendance

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam attended by the Royal Family. They are die-hard Championships fans who have attended several games. The All England Club was sponsored by the Queen of England, who frequently visited Wimbledon and greeted the players.

Even Princess Diana was a regular spectator at Wimbledon. The Royal Family sits in the Royal Box, and it was formerly a Wimbledon tradition for players to curtsy to all members of the family.

However, the All England Club’s president, the Duke of Kent, halted the practice in 2003. Players are only required to bow if the King is present.

No Ads on the Court

There is no sponsored advertising on the courts at Wimbledon. Avoiding blatantly commercializing the grounds, the Club has always attempted to preserve the Championships’ distinct image and identity.

Equal Pay for Men and Women

Initially, champions of the gentlemen’s competitions received far more money than those of the ladies’ events. Wimbledon modified its approach in 2007, offering the same prize per event class to both men and women.

Many have criticized the move, claiming that women spend significantly less time playing than men because their wins are based on the best of three sets, while men’s are based on the best of five sets.

Pimm’s Cup

The Pimm’s Cup is another popular Wimbledon tradition. This drink was originally introduced at Wimbledon in 1971 and has since emerged as the most well-known beverage associated with the competition. Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based liqueur named after its creator, James Pimm, and serves as the foundation for the Pimm’s Cup. The libation includes cucumber, mint, lemonade and fruit (orange and strawberries).

The Longest Match

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut battled in a first-round match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, which would go on record as the longest match ever contested in a tennis Open. The event lasted three days and 183 games were played. As the match progressed, both players broke the previous record for the most aces in a single game, which Isner eventually won.

Rufus the Hawk

Rufus the Hawk is not some mascot – he is a real live hawk. The All England Lawn Tennis Club uses Rufus the hawk to keep pigeons at bay. Rufus, a Harris’s Hawk, is at the club regularly throughout the entire year to repel nearby pigeons, including for several mornings during Wimbledon. Rufus has kept the pigeons at bay for almost 15 years.


Wimbledon’s Overall Records

If you would like to know who has won the championship the most times or who holds which record, this section is for you. Let’s talk numbers, shall we?

Wimbledon’s Gentlemen’s Records

Most Gentlemen’s Singles Titles Roger Federer (8)
Most Consecutive Gentlemen’s Singles Titles William Renshaw (6)
Most Gentlemen’s Doubles Titles Todd Woodbridge (9)
Most Consecutive Gentlemen’s Doubles Titles Reginald Doherty & Laurence Doherty, and Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde (5)
Most Mixed Doubles Titles Ken Fletcher & Vic Seixas, and Owen Davidson & Leander Paes (4)
Most Championships (Mixed, Doubles, Singles) Laurence Doherty (13)


Wimbledon’s Ladies’ Records

Most Ladies’ Singles Titles Martina Navratilova (9)
Most Consecutive Ladies’ Singles Titles Martina Navratilova (6)
Most Ladies’ Doubles Titles Elizabeth Ryan (12)
Most Consecutive Ladies’ Doubles Titles Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver and Natasha Zvereva (4)
Most Mixed Doubles Titles Elizabeth Ryan (7)
Most Championships (Mixed, Doubles, Singles) Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King (20)


Wimbledon Tennis Prize Money

We are sure you have been wondering how much the winners get from this tournament. The total prize money for Wimbledon in 2022 was £40,350,000. The victors of the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles titles each received £2,000,000.

The five main events are broken down as follows:

  • Mixed Doubles (per pair) – £124,000
  • Ladies’ Doubles (per pair) – £540,000
  •  Men’s Doubles (per pair) – £540,000
  • Ladies’ Singles – £2,000,000
  • Men’s Singles – £2,000,000.


The Centre Court

You cannot discuss Wimbledon without hearing about the Centre Court, so we need to talk about it.

Wimbledon’s renowned Centre Court is perhaps the world’s most popular tennis court. It has a rich history dating back to 1922 and being the tournament’s primary court, it has featured many of the most memorable tennis matches in the history of the sport.

It hosts the men’s and women’s championship finals. A retractable roof was built into the court in 2009 to provide shelter from the weather, particularly the London rain.

The Centre Court has a seating capacity of 14,979.

Though seating is mostly a matter of personal taste, debenture seats are among the best seats at Centre Court. In addition to the spectacular views, debenture tickets grant access to the exclusive Debenture Holders Lounges.

How to Get Tickets to Wimbledon

Wimbledon normally launches its public vote (draw) procedure in September for UK residents and in December for international residents. A tiny fraction of those applicants will be picked and provided a court date and time at random by a computer.

On every single day of the competition, several hundred tickets are made publicly available on Ticketmaster. These frequently sell out in seconds. Of course, as previously said, there is also the option to line up for tickets each morning.


How Do Spectators Get to Wimbledon (Travel Plans)?

We strongly advise using public transportation to Wimbledon due to traffic congestion. There are several ways to get to Wimbledon, including:

  • The Tube: Take the District Line to Southfields Station on the Underground/Tube. It takes around 5 minutes to walk from Southfields to the entrance to Wimbledon Park.
  • The train: South West trains connect Waterloo Station to Wimbledon.
  • Tramlink: From East Croydon to Wimbledon, use the Tramlink. The trams operate every 5-8 minutes and the trip takes roughly 30 minutes.
  • Buses: London General runs a bus from St. Pancras, Euston, Baker Street, Marble Arch, and Victoria to Wimbledon every 30 minutes.
  • Car: The Wimbledon car park opens every day at 6 am. Morden Park also provides a park-and-ride service.


Wimbledon’s Celebrity Attendance

Wimbledon attracts some of the biggest names in the world of athletics, music, politics and so much more. If you somehow manage to get tickets to be in attendance, you may spot some of them. In 2022, the most recent tournament at the time of writing this guide, some of the spectators included:

  • Hugh Grant
  • Kate Middleton and Prince William
  • Rami Malek
  • David Beckham
  • Ciara
  • Tom Cruise
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Billie Jean King
  • Vera Wang
  • Kate Winslet

Chances are that if you are at the Wimbledon tournament, there will be celebrities present and you might get to see some of them, depending on where you are.


Epic Moments from Wimbledon’s History

Wimbledon has given us some particularly outstanding moments in the sport. Some of the most memorable include:

  • Isner and Mahut’s three-day record-breaking battle ended with an amazing fifth-set score of 70-68.
  • The dramatic 2008 final between Nadal and Federer is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time.
  • Andy Murray’s championship victory in 2013 made him the first British man since 1936 to triumph.
  • Martina Navratilova won her ninth Wimbledon title (and sixth in a row) in 1990.
  • Djokovic and Federer’s record-breaking 2019 final, which lasted just under five hours.
  • In 1975, Arthur Ashe as the underdog defeated Jimmy Connors.

If you want to go down memory lane, there is plenty to see.

Now that you know all this, you too can participate when people talk about the tournament – and hopefully, chime in with a newly-learned fact.