The toughest stretch of the tennis calendar ramps up again on Monday with the start of this season’s 3rd major, Wimbledon. It is known for being steeped in tradition like no other sporting event on earth. Here are just a few of the many Wimbledon traditions that make the event the biggest in the sport. I hope this knowledge will enhance your viewing of The Championships.
All white everything- This tradition is fairly straightforward. The tournament venue, The All England Club strictly enforces an all-white dress code. No one knows just where this tradition started, but it is been around since the 1800s. Former rebel child and American legend Andre Agassi once said the early 90s that the dress code was “stupid” and that he would where jean shorts to Wimbledon. The club said that he would not be allowed to play, Agassi backed down and went all white. He eventually won the event in 1992. The dress code was briefly lifted in 2012 for the London Olympics in which players were allowed to where the colors of their countries.
Naming of courts- All of the main courts at the other 3 majors are named after former players. Not at Wimbledon. The main court is Centre Court, the next court is Court 1, and so on. This tradition has also been around since the 1800s and is going nowhere. The club feels naming courts after players’ borders on advertising. There is zero commercial advertising on the grounds of Wimbledon, unless it is for the venue or event itself. I cannot tell you how much I love this tradition. It is a fantastic change of pace from the overly corporate world we live in. For these two weeks, is all about tennis, as it should be.
No play on the middle Sunday- The Australian, French, and U.S. Opens are all held in massive metropolitan cities. Wimbledon is held in a village. So every year, six days after the tournament begins, it stops for a day to allow small village and its residents to attend church and catch their breath without a single tennis ball being struck. The men’s final is traditionally played on Sunday, but that is the only Sunday play there is at Wimbledon each year. Even if weather forces the tournament behind schedule, there will be no play on the middle Sunday. This tradition can be kind of a buzz kill, but is highly practical.
Defending champs first up- Every year, the reigning gentleman’s singles champion opens up playing the first match on the first day of the event on Centre Court. The reigning ladies singles champion is given the same honor on day 2. This is a nice feather in the cap of the previous year’s winner. This year, the honor will belong to top ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day 1. and second ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on day 2.
Rain early and often- Ok, so this one isn’t exactly a tradition in the prototypical sense. However, rain is a part of any United Kingdom summer, and Wimbledon is not spared. Every year, fans can pretty much bank on at least one rain soaked day, and usually more. By now, everyone has a good sense of humor about it. Watching the players hustle off the court and almost get run over by ground crew as they race to get the covers on has almost become part of the fun. The days of total washouts ended in 2009 with the addition of a roof over Centre Court. So, those matches are sure to be played every day. However, when you consider the frequency of rain in the area and how quickly the grass surface can become slick and dangerous, nothing else is guaranteed.
Some may call these traditions unnecessary or overly particular, I call them refreshing and a crucial part of what makes Wimbledon so special. I hope you now feel a bit more knowledgeable about the most prestigious event in tennis before it begins on Monday. The ESPN family of networks will have exclusive live coverage from first ball to last. Coverage will start at 7 AM for the first several days of the tournament. My previews are coming tomorrow and Sunday.