The Championships, Wimbledon – About

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The Championships, Wimbledon
150ph
Official website
Founded 1877; 141 years ago
Editions 132 (2018)
Location London
England, UK
Venue The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Surface Grass outdoors
Prize money £34,000,000 (2018)
Men’s
Draw 128S (128Q) / 64D (16Q)
Current champions Novak Djokovic (singles)
Mike Bryan / Jack Sock (doubles)
Most singles titles Roger Federer (8)
Most doubles titles Todd Woodbridge (9)
Women’s
Draw 128S (96Q) / 64D (16Q)
Current champions Angelique Kerber (singles)
Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova (doubles)
Most singles titles Martina Navratilova (9)
Most doubles titles Elizabeth Ryan (12)
Mixed doubles
Draw 48
Current champions Nicole Melichar / Alexander Peya
Most titles (male) Ken Fletcher (4)
Vic Seixas (4)
Owen Davidson (4)
Leander Paes (4)
Most titles (female) Elizabeth Ryan (7)
Grand Slam
Last completed
2018 Wimbledon

The Championships, Wimbledon, commonly known simply as Wimbledon, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It has been held at the All England Club in WimbledonLondon, since 1877 and is played on outdoor grass courts.

Wimbledon is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the others being the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open. Since the Australian Open shifted to hardcourt in 1988, Wimbledon is the only major still played on grass.

The tournament traditionally took place over two weeks in late June and early July, starting on the last Monday in June and culminating with the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals, scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday at the end of the second week. However recent changes to the tennis calendar have seen the event moved back by a week to begin in early July. Five major events are held each year, with additional junior and invitational competitions also taking place.

Wimbledon traditions include a strict dress code for competitors and Royal patronage. Strawberries and cream is traditionally consumed at the tournament. In 2017, fans consumed 34,000 kg of English strawberries and 10,000 litres of cream. The tournament is also notable for the absence of sponsor advertising around the courts. In 2009, Wimbledon’s Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof to lessen the loss of playing time due to rain.

History

Beginning

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is a private club founded on 23 July 1868, originally as “The All England Croquet Club”. Its first ground was at Nursery Road off Worple Road, Wimbledon.

In 1876, lawn tennis, a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier as an outdoor version of court tennis and originally given the name Sphairistikè, was added to the activities of the club. In spring 1877, the club was renamed “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club” and signalled its change of name by instituting the first Lawn Tennis Championship. A new code of laws, replacing the code administered by the Marylebone Cricket Club, was drawn up for the event. Today’s rules are similar except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.

The inaugural 1877 Wimbledon Championship started on 9 July 1877 and the Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event held. It was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.

The lawns at the ground were arranged so that the principal court was in the middle with the others arranged around it, hence the title “Centre Court“. The name was retained when the Club moved in 1922 to the present site in Church Road, although no longer a true description of its location. However, in 1980 four new courts were brought into commission on the north side of the ground, which meant the Centre Court was once more correctly described. The opening of the new No. 1 Court in 1997 emphasised the description.

Ladies Championship, 1884. First prize, awarded to Maud Watson, was a silver flower-basket worth 20 guineas.

By 1882, activity at the club was almost exclusively confined to lawn tennis and that year the word “croquet” was dropped from the title. However, for sentimental reasons it was restored in 1899.

In 1884, the club added Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles competitions. Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events were added in 1913. Until 1922, the reigning champion had to play only in the final, against whomever had won through to challenge him/her. As with the other three Major or Grand Slam events, Wimbledon was contested by top-ranked amateur players, professional players were prohibited from participating. This changed with the advent of the open era in 1968. No British man won the singles event at Wimbledon between Fred Perry in 1936 and Andy Murray in 2013, while no British woman has won since Virginia Wade in 1977, although Annabel Croft and Laura Robson won the Girls’ Championship in 1984 and 2008 respectively. The Championship was first televised in 1937.

Though properly called “The Championships, Wimbledon”, depending on sources the event is also known as “The All England Lawn Tennis Championships”, “The Wimbledon Championships” or simply “Wimbledon”. From 1912 to 1924, the tournament was recognized by the International Lawn Tennis Federation as the “World Grass Court Championships”.

21st century

Wimbledon is considered the world’s premier tennis tournament and the priority of the Club is to maintain its leadership. To that end a long-term plan was unveiled in 1993, intended to improve the quality of the event for spectators, players, officials and neighbours. Stage one (1994–1997) of the plan was completed for the 1997 championships and involved building the new No. 1 Court in Aorangi Park, a broadcast centre, two extra grass courts and a tunnel under the hill linking Church Road and Somerset Road. Stage two (1997–2009) involved the removal of the old No. 1 Court complex to make way for the new Millennium Building, providing extensive facilities for players, press, officials and members, and the extension of the West Stand of the Centre Court with 728 extra seats. Stage three (2000–2011) has been completed with the construction of an entrance building, club staff housing, museum, bank and ticket office.

A new retractable roof was built in time for the 2009 championships, marking the first time that rain did not stop play for a lengthy time on Centre Court. The Club tested the new roof at an event called A Centre Court Celebration on Sunday, 17 May 2009, which featured exhibition matches involving Andre AgassiSteffi GrafKim Clijsters and Tim Henman. The first Championship match to take place under the roof was the completion of the fourth round women’s singles match between Dinara Safina and Amélie Mauresmo. The first match to be played in its entirety under the new roof took place between Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka on 29 June 2009. Murray was also involved in the match completed latest in the day at Wimbledon, which ended at 11:02 pm in a victory over Marcos Baghdatis at Centre Court in the third round of the 2012 Championships. The 2012 Men’s Singles Final on 8 July 2012, between Roger Federer and Murray, was the first singles final to be partially played under the roof, which was activated during the third set.

A new 4000-seat No. 2 Court was built on the site of the old No. 13 Court in time for the 2009 Championships. A new 2000-seat No. 3 Court was built on the site of the old No. 2 and No. 3 Courts.

Events

Wimbledon consists of five main events, four junior events and seven invitation events.

Main events

Centre Court with open roof at the 2010 Championships

The five main events, and the number of players (or teams, in the case of doubles) are:

  • Gentlemen’s Singles (128)
  • Ladies’ Singles (128)
  • Gentlemen’s Doubles (64)
  • Ladies’ Doubles (64)
  • Mixed Doubles (48)

Junior events

The four junior events and the number of players or teams are:

  • Boys’ Singles (64)
  • Girls’ Singles (64)
  • Boys’ Doubles (32)
  • Girls’ Doubles (32)

No mixed doubles event is held at this level.

Invitation events

The seven invitational events and the number of pairs are:

  • Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles (8 pairs Round Robin)
  • Ladies’ Invitation Doubles (8 pairs Round Robin)
  • Senior Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles (8 pairs Round Robin)
  • Gentlemen’s Wheelchair Singles
  • Ladies’ Wheelchair Singles
  • Gentlemen’s Wheelchair Doubles (4 pairs)
  • Ladies’ Wheelchair Doubles (4 pairs)

Match formats

Matches in the Gentlemen’s Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles are best-of-five sets; all other events are best-of-three sets. A tiebreak game is played if the score reaches 6–6 in any set except the fifth (in a five-set match) or the third (in a three-set match), in which case a two-game lead must be reached.

All events are single-elimination tournaments, except for the Gentlemen’s, Senior Gentlemen’s and the Ladies’ Invitation Doubles, which are round-robin tournaments.

Until 1922, the winners of the previous year’s competition (except in the Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles) were automatically granted byes into the final round (then known as the challenge round). This led to many winners retaining their titles in successive years, as they were able to rest while their opponent competed from the start of the competition. From 1922, the prior year’s champions were required to play all the rounds, like other tournament competitors.

Schedule

Each year the tournament began on the last Monday in June, two weeks after the Queen’s Club Championships, which is one of the men’s major warm-up tournaments, together with the Gerry Weber Open, which is held in Halle, Germany, during the same week. It was announced that the 2017 tournament would begin on Monday 3 July. Other grass-court tournaments before Wimbledon are Eastbourne, England, and Rosmalen in the Netherlands, both combining mixed events. The other women’s warm-up tournament for Wimbledon is Birmingham, also in England. The only grass-court tournament scheduled after the Championships is the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Newport, Rhode Island, USA, which takes place the week after Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is scheduled for 14 days, beginning on a Monday and ending on a Sunday. Before 1982 it ended a day earlier, with the women’s singles final on the Friday and the men’s singles final on the Saturday. The five main events span both weeks, but the junior and invitational events are held mainly during the second week. Traditionally, unlike the other three tennis Grand Slams, there is no play on the “Middle Sunday”, which is considered a rest day. However, rain has forced play on the Middle Sunday four times, in 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016. On the first of these four occasions, Wimbledon staged a “People’s Sunday”, with unreserved seating and readily available, inexpensive tickets, allowing those with more limited means to sit on the show courts.

The second Monday at Wimbledon is often called “Manic Monday”, because it is the busiest day with the last-16 matches for both men’s and women’s singles, where fans have a pick of watching on a single day, any of the best 32 players left; which is also unique in a Grand Slam singles competition.

Since 2015, the championships have begun one week later than in previous years, extending the gap between the tournament and the French Open from two to three weeks. Additionally the Stuttgart Open men’s tournament converted to a grass surface and was rescheduled from July to June, extending the grass court season.

Players and seeding

Both the men’s and ladies’ singles consist of 128 players. Players and doubles pairs are admitted to the main events on the basis of their international rankings, with 104 direct entries into the men’s and 108 into the ladies’ competitions. Both tournaments have 8 wild card entrants, with the remainder in each made up of qualifiers. Since the 2001 tournament, 32 players have been given seedings in the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ singles, 16 teams in the doubles events. The system of seeding was introduced during the 1924 Wimbledon Championships. This was a simplified version allowing countries to nominate four players who were placed in different quarters of the draw. This system was replaced for the 1927 Wimbledon Championships and from then on players were seeded on merit. The first players to be seeded as no. 1 were René Lacoste and Helen Wills.

The Committee of Management decide which players receive wildcards. Usually, wild cards are players who have performed well during previous tournaments or would stimulate public interest in Wimbledon by participating. The only wild card to win the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship was Goran Ivanišević in 2001. Players and pairs who neither have high enough rankings nor receive wild cards may participate in a qualifying tournament held one week before Wimbledon at the Bank of England Sports Ground in Roehampton. The singles qualifying competitions are three-round events; the same-sex doubles competitions last for only one round. There is no qualifying tournament for Mixed Doubles. The furthest that any qualifier has progressed in a Singles tournament is the semi-final round: John McEnroe in 1977 (Gentlemen’s Singles), Vladimir Voltchkov in 2000 (Gentlemen’s Singles), and Alexandra Stevenson in 1999 (Ladies’ Singles).

Players are admitted to the junior tournaments upon the recommendations of their national tennis associations, on their International Tennis Federation world rankings and, in the case of the singles events, on the basis of a qualifying competition. The Committee of Management determines which players may enter the four invitational events.

The Committee seeds the top players and pairs on the basis of their rankings, but it can change the seedings based on a player’s previous grass court performance. Since 2002 a seeding committee has not been required for the Gentlemen’s Singles following an agreement with the ATP. While the seeds are still the top 32 players according to rankings, the seeding order is determined using the formula: ATP Entry System Position points + 100% points earned for all grass court tournaments in the past 12 months + 75% points earned for the best grass court tournament in the 12 months before that. A majority of the entrants are unseeded. Only two unseeded players have won the Gentlemen’s Singles: Boris Becker in 1985 and Goran Ivanišević in 2001. In 1985 there were only 16 seeds and Becker was ranked 20th; Ivanišević was ranked 125th when he won as a Wild Card entrant, although he had previously been a finalist three times, and been ranked no. 2 in the world; his low ranking was due to having been hampered by a persistent shoulder injury for three years, which had only just cleared up. In 1996, the title was won by Richard Krajicek, who was originally unseeded (ranked 17th, and only 16 players were seeded) but was promoted to a seeded position (still with the number 17) when Thomas Muster withdrew before the tournament. No unseeded player has captured the Ladies’ Singles title; the lowest seeded female champion was Venus Williams, who won in 2007 as the 23rd seed; Williams was returning from an injury that had prevented her playing in previous tournaments, giving her a lower ranking than she would normally have had. Unseeded pairs have won the doubles titles on numerous occasions; the 2005 Gentlemen’s Doubles champions were not only unseeded, but also (for the first time ever) qualifiers.

Grounds

Aerial view of the grounds

Since 2001, the courts used for Wimbledon have been sown with 100% perennial ryegrass. Prior to 2001 a combination of 70% ryegrass and 30% Creeping Red Fescue was used. The change was made to improve durability and strengthen the sward to better withstand the increasing wear of the modern game.

The main show courts, Centre Court and No. 1 Court, are normally used for only two weeks a year, during the Championships, but play can extend into a third week in exceptional circumstances. The remaining 17 courts are regularly used for other events hosted by the Club. The show courts were in action for the second time in three months in 2012 as Wimbledon hosted the tennis events of the 2012 Olympic Games. One of the show courts is also used for home ties of the GB teams in the Davis Cup on occasions.

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event played on grass courts. At one time, all the Majors, except the French Open, were played on grass. The US Open abandoned grass in 1975 and the Australian Open in 1988.

The principal court, Centre Court, was opened in 1922 when the Club moved from Worple Road to Church Road. The Church Road venue was larger and was needed to meet the ever-growing public demand.

The order of play for all courts is displayed on boards around the grounds

Due to the possibility of rain during Wimbledon, a retractable roof was installed prior to the 2009 Championship. It is designed to close/open in about 20 minutes and will be closed primarily to protect play from inclement (and, if necessary, extremely hot) weather during The Championships. When the roof is being opened or closed, play is suspended. The first time the roof was closed during a Wimbledon Championship match was on Monday 29 June 2009, involving Amélie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina. The first full match played and completed under the roof featured Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, played on the same date.

The court has a capacity of 15,000. At its south end is the Royal Box, from which members of the Royal Family and other dignitaries watch matches. Centre Court usually hosts the finals and semifinals of the main events, as well as many matches in the earlier rounds involving top-seeded players or local favourites.

The second most important court is No. 1 Court. The court was constructed in 1997 to replace the old No.1 Court, which was adjacent to Centre Court. The old No.1 Court was demolished because its capacity for spectators was too low. The court was said to have had a unique, more intimate atmosphere and was a favourite of many players. The new No.1 Court has a capacity of approximately 11,000. Construction on a new retractable roof on the No.1 Court began after the 2017 Championships and is set to be completed in 2019. The capacity of the stadium is also set to rise by 900 taking the total capacity up to 12,400.

From 2009, a new No. 2 Court is being used at Wimbledon with a capacity for 4,000 people. To obtain planning permission, the playing surface is around 3.5m below ground level, ensuring that the single-storey structure is only about 3.5m above ground level, and thus not affecting local views. Plans to build on the current site of Court 13 were dismissed due to the high capacity of games played at the 2012 Olympic Games. The old No.2 Court has been renamed as No.3 Court. The old No.2 Court was known as the “Graveyard of Champions” because many highly seeded players were eliminated there during early rounds over the years, including Ilie NăstaseJohn McEnroeBoris BeckerAndre AgassiPete SamprasMartina HingisVenus WilliamsSerena Williams and Maria Sharapova. The court has a capacity of 2,192 + 770 standing. In 2011 a new No.3 Court and a new Court 4 were unveiled on the sites of the old No.2 and 3 courts.

View from seats of Wimbledon Court No. 1

Because of the summer climate in southern England, Wimbledon employs ‘Court Attendants’ each year, who work to maintain court conditions. Their principal responsibility is to ensure that the courts are quickly covered when it begins to rain, so that play can resume as quickly as possible once the referees decide to uncover the courts. The court attendants are mainly university students working to make summer money. Centre Court is covered by full-time groundstaff, however.

At the northern end of the grounds is a giant television screen on which important matches are broadcast. Fans watch from an area of grass officially known as the Aorangi Terrace. When British players do well at Wimbledon, the hill attracts fans for them, and is often renamed after them by the press: Greg Rusedski‘s followers convened at “Rusedski Ridge”, and Tim Henman has had the hill nicknamed Henman Hill. As both of them have now retired and Andy Murray is the number 1 British player, the hill is occasionally referred to as “Murray Mound” or “Murrayfield“, as a reference to his Scottish heritage and the Scottish rugby ground of the same name, but this has largely failed to catch on – the area is still usually referred to as Henman Hill. None of these nicknames are official.

Bank of England Sports Centre

The qualifying matches, prior to the main draw, take place at the Bank of England Sports Ground, in Roehampton, 3.6 miles (5.8 km) from the All-England Club.

Traditions

Court 10 – on the outside courts there is no reserved seating

Social commentator Ellis Cashmore describes Wimbledon as having “a David Niven-ish propriety”, conforming to the standards of behaviour common in the 1950s. Writer Peter York sees the event as representing a particular white and affluent type of Britishness, describing the area of Wimbledon as “a southern, well off, late-Victorian suburb with a particular social character”. Cashmore has criticised the event for being “remote and insulated” from the changing multicultural character of modern Britain, describing it as “nobody’s idea of all-things-British”.

Ball boys and ball girls

In the championship games, ball boys and girls, known as BBGs, play a crucial role in the smooth running of the tournament, with a brief that a good BBG “should not be seen. They should blend into the background and get on with their jobs quietly.”

From 1947 ball boys were supplied by Goldings, the only Barnardos school to provide them. Prior to this, from the 1920s onwards, the ball boys had been provided by The Shaftesbury Children’s Home.

Wimbledon ball girl at the net, 2007

Since 1969, BBGs have been provided by local schools. As of 2008 they are drawn from schools in the London boroughs of MertonSuttonKingston, and Wandsworth, as well as from Surrey. Traditionally, Wandsworth Boys Grammar School in Sutherland Grove, Southfields and Mayfield Girls School on West Hill in Wandsworth, both now defunct, were the schools of choice for selection of BBGs. This was possibly owing to their proximity to the club. BBGs have an average age of 15, being drawn from the school years nine and ten. BBGs will serve for one, or if re-selected, up to five tournaments, from Year Nine to Year Thirteen.

Starting in 2005, BBGs work in teams of six, two at the net, four at the corners, and teams rotate one hour on court, one hour off, (two hours depending on the court) for the day’s play. Teams are not told which court they will be working on the day, to ensure the same standards across all courts. With the expansion of the number of courts, and lengthening the tennis day, as of 2008, the number of BBGs required is around 250. From the second Wednesday, BBGs are told to leave the Championships, leaving around 80 on the final Sunday. Each BBG receives a certificate, a can of used balls, a group photograph and a programme when leaving. BBG service is paid, with a total of £120-£180 being paid to each ball boy or girl after the 13-day period depending on the number of days served. Every BBG keeps all of their kit, typically consisting of three or four shirts, two or three shorts or skorts, track suit bottoms and top, twelve pairs of socks, three pairs of wristbands, a hat, water bottle holder, bag and trainers. Along with this it is seen as a privilege, and seen as a valuable addition to a school leaver’s curriculum vitae, showing discipline. BBG places are split 50:50 between boys and girls, with girls having been used since 1977, appearing on centre court since 1985.

Prospective BBGs are first nominated by their school headteacher, to be considered for selection. To be selected, a candidate must pass written tests on the rules of tennis, and pass fitness, mobility and other suitability tests, against initial preliminary instruction material. Successful candidates then commence a training phase, starting in February, in which the final BBGs are chosen through continual assessment. As of 2008, this training intake was 600. The training includes weekly sessions of physical, procedural and theoretical instruction, to ensure that the BBGs are fast, alert, self-confident and adaptable to situations. As of 2011, early training occurs at the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis Club Covered Courts, to the side of the Grounds, and then moves to outside courts (8, 9, 10) the week before the Championships for a feel of the grass court.

Colours and uniforms

Sébastien Grosjean takes a shot on Court 18 during the 2004 Championships.

Dark green and purple are the traditional Wimbledon colours. However, all tennis players participating in the tournament are required to wear all-white or at least almost all-white clothing, a long-time tradition at Wimbledon. Wearing white clothing with some colour accents is also acceptable, provided the colour scheme is not that of an identifiable commercial brand logo (the outfitter’s brand logo being the sole exception). Controversy followed Martina Navratilova‘s wearing branding for “Kim” cigarettes in 1982. Green clothing was worn by the chair umpire, linesmen, ball boys and ball girls until the 2005 Championships; however, beginning with the 2006 Championships, officials, ball boys and ball girls were dressed in new navy blue- and cream-coloured uniforms from American designer Ralph Lauren. This marked the first time in the history of the Championships that an outside company was used to design Wimbledon clothing; the contract with Polo Ralph Lauren ended in 2015.

Referring to players

By tradition, the “Men’s” and “Women’s” competitions are referred to as “Gentlemen’s” and “Ladies'” competitions at Wimbledon. The junior competitions are referred to as the “Boys'” and “Girls'” competitions.

Prior to 2009 female players were referred to by the title “Miss” or “Mrs” on scoreboards. As dictated by strict rule of etiquette, married female players are referred to by their husbands’ names: for example, Chris Evert appeared on scoreboards as “Mrs. J. M. Lloyd” during her marriage to John Lloyd, since “Mrs. X” essentially designates the wife of X. This tradition has continued at least to some extent. For the first time during the 2009 tournament, players were referred to on scoreboards by both their first and last names.

The title “Mr” is not used for male players who are professionals on scoreboards but the prefix is retained for amateurs, although chair umpires refer to players as “Mr” when they use the replay challenge. The chair umpire will say “Mr is challenging the call…” and “Mr has X challenges remaining.” However, the umpires still say Miss/Missus when announcing the score of the Ladies’ matches.

If a match is being played with two competitors of the same surname (e.g. Venus and Serena Williams, Bob and Mike Bryan), the chair umpire will specify to whom they are referring by stating the player’s first name and surname during announcements (e.g. “Game, Miss Venus Williams”, “Advantage, Mike Bryan”).

Royal family

The Royal Gallery at Centre Court, Wimbledon

Previously, players bowed or curtsied to members of the royal family seated in the Royal Box upon entering or leaving Centre Court. However, in 2003, All England Club president Prince Edward, Duke of Kent decided to discontinue the tradition. Now, players are required to bow or curtsy only if The Prince of Wales, or The Queen is present, as was in practice during the 2010 Championships when the Queen was in attendance at Wimbledon on 24 June. On 27 June 2012, Roger Federer said in his post-match interview that he and his opponent had been asked to bow towards the Royal Box as Prince Charles and his wife were present, saying that it wasn’t a problem for him.

Services stewards

Prior to the Second World War, members of the Brigade of Guards and retired members of the Royal Artillery performed the role of stewards. In 1946 the AELTC offered employment to wartime servicemen returning to civilian life during their demobilisation leave. Initially, this scheme extended only to the Royal Navy, followed by the Army in 1947 and the Royal Air Force in 1949. In 1965 London Fire Brigade members joined the ranks of stewards. The service stewards, wearing uniform, are present in Centre Court and No.’s 1, 2, 3, 12 and 18 courts. In 2015, 595 Service and London Fire Brigade stewards attended. Only enlisted members of the Armed Forces may apply for the role, which must be taken as leave, and half of each year’s recruits must have stewarded at Wimbledon before. The AELTC pays a subsistence allowance to servicemen and women working as stewards to defray their accommodation costs for the period of the Championships. The Service Stewards are not to be confused with the 185 Honorary Stewards.

Tickets

Wimbledon operates a ticket resale system where returned Show Court tickets can be purchased. All proceeds go to charity.

Queue cards are presented to those queuing for admission to Wimbledon. This helps to prevent queue jumping.

The majority of centre and show court tickets sold to the general public have since 1924 been made available by a public ballot that the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club holds at the start of the year. The ballot has always been substantially oversubscribed. Successful applicants are selected at random by a computer. The most recent figures from 2011 suggested there were four applicants to every ballot ticket. Applications must be posted to arrive at the AELTC by the last day of December in the year prior to the tournament. Seats and days are allocated randomly and ballot tickets are not transferrable.

The All England Club, through its subsidiary The All England Lawn Tennis Ground plc, issues Debentures to tennis fans every five years to raise funds for capital expenditure. Fans who invest thus in the club receive a pair of tickets for every day of the Wimbledon Championships for the five years the investment lasts. Only debenture holders are permitted to sell on their tickets to third parties and demand for debentures has increased in recent years, to such an extent that they are even traded on the London Stock Exchange.

Wimbledon and the French Open are the only Grand Slam tournaments where fans without tickets for play can queue up and still get seats on the three show courts on the day of the match. Sequentially numbered queue cards were introduced in 2003. From 2008, there is a single queue, allotted about 500 seats for each court. When they join the queue, fans are handed queue cards. Anyone who then wishes to leave the queue temporarily, even if in possession of a queue card, must agree their position with the others nearby in the queue and/or a steward.

To get access to the show courts, fans will normally have to queue overnight. This is done by fans from all over the world and, although considered vagrancy, is part of the Wimbledon experience in itself. The All-England Club allows overnight queuing and provides toilet and water facilities for campers. Early in the morning when the line moves towards the Grounds, stewards walk along the line and hand out wristbands that are colour-coded to the specific court. The wrist band (and payment) is exchanged at the ticket office for the ticket when the grounds open. General admission to the grounds gives access to the outer courts and is possible without queuing overnight. Tickets returned by people leaving early go on sale at 2:30 pm and the money goes to charity. Queuing for the show courts ends after the quarter finals have been completed.

At 2.40pm on Day Seven (Monday 28 June) of the 2010 Championships, the one-millionth numbered Wimbledon queue card was handed out to Rose Stanley from South Africa.

Sponsorship

Wimbledon is notable for the longest running sponsorship in sports history due to its association with Slazenger who have supplied all tennis balls during the tournament since 1902. Since 1935 Wimbledon has a sponsorship association with the Robinsons fruit drink brand.

Media

Radio Wimbledon

Until 2011 when its contract ended,  Radio Wimbledon could be heard within a five-mile radius on 87.7 FM, and also online. It operated under a Restricted Service Licence. Presenters included Sam Lloyd and Ali Barton. Typically they worked alternate four-hour shifts until the end of the last match of the day. Reporters and commentators included Gigi Salmon, Nick Lestor, Rupert Bell, Nigel Bidmead, Guy Swindells, Lucie Ahl, Nadine Towell and Helen Whitaker. Often they reported from the “Crow’s Nest”, an elevated building housing the Court 3 and 4 scoreboards which affords views of most of the outside courts. Regular guests included Sue Mappin. In later years Radio Wimbledon acquired a second low-power FM frequency (within the grounds only) of 96.3 FM for uninterrupted Centre Court commentary, and, from 2006, a third for coverage from No. 1 Court on 97.8 FM. Hourly news bulletins and travel (using RDS) were also broadcast.

Television coverage

Beginning with the 2018 tournament, an in-house operation known as Wimbledon Broadcasting Services (WBS) has served as the official host broadcaster of the tournament, replacing BBC Sport.

United Kingdom

People watching the Championships’ broadcast in Canary Wharf

Since 1937 the BBC has broadcast the tournament on television in the UK. The matches covered are primarily split between its two main terrestrial channels, BBC One and BBC Two, and their Red Button service. This can result in live matches being moved across all 3 channels. The BBC holds the broadcast rights for Wimbledon until 2024. During the days of British Satellite Broadcasting, its sports channel carried extra coverage of Wimbledon for subscribers. One of the most notable British commentators was Dan Maskell, who was known as the BBC’s “voice of tennis” until his retirement in 1991. John Barrett succeeded him in that role until he retired in 2006. Current commentators working for the BBC at Wimbledon include British ex-players Andrew CastleJohn LloydTim HenmanGreg RusedskiSamantha Smith and Mark Petchey; tennis legends such as John McEnroeTracy AustinBoris Becker and Lindsay Davenport; and general sports commentators including David MercerBarry DaviesAndrew Cotter and Nick Mullins. The coverage is presented by Sue Barker (live) and Claire Balding (highlights). Previous BBC presenters include Des LynamDavid VineJohn and Harry Carpenter.

The Wimbledon Finals are obliged to be shown live and in full on terrestrial television (BBC Television Service, ITV, Channel 4, or Channel 5) by government mandate. Highlights of the rest of the tournament must be provided by terrestrial stations; live coverage (excepting the finals) may be sought by satellite or cable TV.

The BBC was forced to apologise after many viewers complained about “over-talking” by its commentary team during the TV coverage of the event in 2011. It said in a statement that views on commentary were subjective but that they “do appreciate that over-talking can irritate our audience”. The BBC added that it hoped it had achieved “the right balance” across its coverage and was “of course sorry if on occasion you have not been satisfied”. Tim Henman and John McEnroe were among the ex-players commentating.

Wimbledon was also involved in a piece of television history, when on 1 July 1967 the first official colour television broadcast took place in the UK. Four hours live coverage of the 1967 Championships was shown on BBC Two, which was the first television channel in Europe to regularly broadcast in colour. Footage of that historic match no longer survives, however, the Gentlemen’s Final of that year is still held in the BBC archives because it was the first Gentlemen’s Final transmitted in colour. Since 2007, Wimbledon matches have been transmitted in high-definition, originally on the BBC’s free-to-air channel BBC HD, with continual live coverage during the tournament of Centre Court and Court No. 1 as well as an evening highlights show Today at Wimbledon. Coverage is now shown on BBC One and Two’s HD feeds. Beginning 2018, all centre court matches are televised in 4K ultra-high-definition.

The BBC’s opening theme music for Wimbledon was composed by Keith Mansfield and is titled “Light and Tuneful”. A piece titled “A Sporting Occasion” is the traditional closing theme, though nowadays coverage typically ends either with a montage set to a popular song or with no music at all. Mansfield also composed the piece “World Champion”, used by NBC during intervals (change-overs, set breaks, etc.) and at the close of broadcasts throughout the tournament.

Ireland

In Ireland, RTÉ broadcast the tournament during the 1980s and 1990s on their second channel RTÉ Two, they also provided highlights of the games in the evening. The commentary provided was given by Matt Doyle a former Irish-American professional tennis player and Jim Sherwin a former RTÉ newsreader. Caroline Murphy was the presenter of the programme. RTÉ made the decision in 1998 to discontinue broadcasting the tournament due to falling viewing figures and the large number of viewers watching on the BBC. From 2005 until 2014 TG4 Ireland’s Irish-language broadcaster provided coverage of the tournament. Live coverage was provided in the Irish language while they broadcast highlights in English at night.

In 2015 Wimbledon moved to pay TV broadcaster Setanta Sports under a 3-year agreement. Its successor, Eir Sport, currently hosts broadcasting rights in Ireland.

Americas

In the United States, ABC began showing taped highlights of the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Final in the 1960s on its Wide World of Sports series. NBC began covering Wimbledon in 1969, with same-day taped (and often edited) coverage of the Gentlemen’s Singles Final. In 1979, the network began carrying the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Singles Finals live. For the next few decades, Americans made a tradition of NBC‘s “Breakfast at Wimbledon” specials at weekends. Live coverage started early in the morning (the US being a minimum of 5 hours behind the UK) and continued well into the afternoon, interspersed with commentary and interviews from Bud Collins, whose tennis acumen and (in)famous patterned trousers were well known to tennis fans in the US. Collins was sacked by NBC in 2007, but was promptly hired by ESPN, the cable home for The Championships in the States. For many years NBC’s primary Wimbledon host was veteran broadcaster Dick Enberg.

From 1975 to 1999, premium channel HBO carried weekday coverage of Wimbledon. Hosts included Jim LampleyBillie Jean KingMartina NavratilovaJohn Lloyd and Barry MacKay among others.

Previously, weekday coverage in the United States was exclusively handled by ESPN2 during the tournament’s first week. During the tournament’s second week it was split between ESPN2 and NBC. ESPN’s online service ESPN3 provides full coverage of courts not televised using BBC graphics and commentary. Since the 2012 tournament, all live coverage, including the Finals, has been exclusively on ESPN and ESPN2, marking the second major tennis championship (after the Australian Open) available in the United States exclusively on pay television (although taped highlights from the tournament are presented at weekend afternoons on sister network ABC). Taped coverage using the world feed is aired in primetime and overnights on Tennis Channel and is branded Wimbledon Primetime.

In Canada, coverage of Wimbledon is exclusively carried by TSN and RDS, which are co-owned by Bell Media and ESPN.

In Mexico, the Televisa family of networks has aired Wimbledon since the early 1960s. Presently, most weekend matches are broadcast through Canal 5 with the weekday matches broadcast on the Televisa Deportes Network. As Mexico is six hours behind the U.K., some Canal 5 affiliates air the weekend matches as the first program of the day after sign-on. Although Mexico had begun broadcasting in colour in 1962, Wimbledon continued to air in black and white in Mexico until colour television came to the United Kingdom in 1967.

In most of the remainder of Latin America, Wimbledon airs on ESPN, as do the other Grand Slam tournaments. In Brazil, SporTV has exclusive rights to the broadcast.

Other countries

In several European countries, Wimbledon is shown live on Eurosport 1Eurosport 2 and the Eurosport Player. Although there are some exceptions, as in Denmark, where the Danish channel TV3 Sport and Viaplay, holds the rights to show Wimbledon until 2019. In the Netherlands Center Court is shown live on Eurosport 1 and all other courts are shown live on the Eurosport Player. But Court One is covered live on Ziggo Sport/Ziggo Sport Select.

In Australia, the free-to-air Nine Network covered Wimbledon for almost 40 years but decided to drop their broadcast following the 2010 tournament, citing declining ratings and desire to use money saved to bid on other sports coverage. In April 2011, it was announced that the Seven Network, the host broadcaster of the Australian Open, along with its sister channel 7Two would broadcast the event from 2011. Pay television network Fox Sports Australia also covers the event. In India and its Subcontinental region, it is broadcast on Star Sports.

Coverage is free-to-air in New Zealand through TVNZ One, beginning each night at 11 pm (midday in London). In 2017 their new channel, TVNZ Duke (also free-to-air), carried an alternative to the main feed, including (for example) matches on outside courts involving New Zealand players.

Fox Sports Asia holds broadcasting rights across Southeast Asia.

Most matches are also available for viewing through internet betting websites and other live streaming services, as television cameras are set up to provide continuous coverage on nearly all the courts.

Trophies

The Ladies’ (top) and Gentlemen’s singles trophies

The Gentlemen’s Singles champion is presented with a silver gilt cup 18.5 inches (about 47 cm) in height and 7.5 inches (about 19 cm) in diameter. The trophy has been awarded since 1887 and bears the inscription: “All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Championship of the World”. The actual trophy remains the property of the All England Club in their museum, so the champion receives a three-quarter size replica of the Cup bearing the names of all past Champions (height 13.5 inches, 34cm).

The Ladies’ Singles champion is presented with a sterling silver salver commonly known as the “Venus Rosewater Dish“, or simply the “Rosewater Dish”. The salver, which is 18.75 inches (about 48 cm) in diameter, is decorated with figures from mythology. The actual dish remains the property of the All England Club in their museum, so the champion receives a miniature replica bearing the names of all past Champions. From 1949 to 2006 the replica was 8 inches in diameter, and since 2007 it has been a three-quarter size replica with a diameter of 13.5 inches.

The winner of the Gentlemen’s Doubles, Ladies’ Doubles, and Mixed Doubles events receive silver cups. A trophy is awarded to each player in the Doubles pair, unlike the other Grand Slam tournaments where the winning Doubles duo shares a single trophy. The Gentlemen’s Doubles silver challenge cup was originally from the Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club and donated to the All England Club in 1884. The Ladies’ Doubles Trophy, a silver cup and cover known as The Duchess of Kent Challenge Cup, was presented to the All England Club in 1949 by The Duchess of Kent. The Mixed Doubles Trophy is a silver challenge cup and cover presented to the All England Club by the family of two-time Wimbledon doubles winner S.H. Smith.

Todd Woodbridge holding the Gentlemen’s Doubles silver challenge cup in 2004

The runner-up in each event receives an inscribed silver plate. The trophies are usually presented by the President of the All England Club, The Duke of Kent.

 

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