What Makes Wimbledon the Most Unique Tennis Tournament in the World
Tennis is a fast-paced sport that requires incredible athleticism and talent in addition to mental toughness. Players don’t worry about team-focused stats or metrics like point spread or over/under. Instead, they’re locked in with an intense focus through the duration of a match with the only goal of overcoming their opponent by any means necessary.
Both on the ATP and WTA Tours, the tennis schedule can be pretty demanding, with tournaments held every week. However, players can pick and choose tournaments in which to participate and can even take time off as appropriate for rest and recovery.
Most of the top players in the world make it a priority to attend Masters 1000 events, which have larger prize pools, and the four Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open). These four events stand out in their own right, but none are more unique and have quite the history of Wimbledon.
This year’s tournament will be held from June 27 to July 10. Novak Djokovic will try to defend his championship, while a new champion will be crowned on the women’s side due to the surprise retirement of last year’s champion, 26-year-old Ashleigh Barty.
The Oldest Tennis Tournament in the World
Wimbledon is easily the most prestigious tournament globally due in large part to its history. The oldest annual tennis event in the world has been played every year (with some exceptions) since 1877 at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club in London.
In contrast to the raucous crowds at the Australian and U.S. Open, Wimbledon is known for adhering to a high standard of class and sportsmanship. This is evident in its branding; the male tournament is known as the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship.
Spencer Gore was the first male winner at Wimbledon in 1877, while Norman Brookes (Australia) was the first player born outside of England to win the event in 1907. In the Open Era (beginning in 1967), the tournament was dominated by Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Djokovic.
Maud Watson was the first Ladies Singles Champion at Wimbledon in 1884. Martina Navratilova won the event for six consecutive years, from 1982 to 1987. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams have combined for 12 championships.
All White Clothing
Most tennis tournaments either have loose clothing standards or absolutely none at all. Players typically wear clothing from the athletic brand that sponsors them.
However, male and female players must wear exclusively white clothing at Wimbledon. This has been the case since the tournament’s inception and was made so because officials during the Victorian era believed this was the ideal color to minimize visible sweat stains and promote cooling.
There was a loosening of these guidelines during parts of the 1900s and even in the early 21st century. However, a new 10-part clothing and equipment decree was announced in 2014.
Some of the specific rules in this decree include “white does not include off white or cream” and “shoes must be almost entirely white.” Don’t expect to see any flashy clothing at Wimbledon.
Only Grand Slam Played on Grass
One of the unique aspects of tennis is that it can be played on multiple surfaces. You won’t see soccer, football, or golf played on diverse surfaces such as grass, clay, asphalt, or concrete.
Wimbledon stands out as the only one of the four Grand Slams on grass courts. Both the Australian Open and U.S. Open were played on grass courts once upon a time, but these tournaments adopted hard courts in 1988 and 1975, respectively.
It’s much more difficult to maintain grass courts than hard courts composed of concrete or asphalt. The grass courts must be maintained in advance of and throughout the tournament, which features more than 600 matches and thousands of hours of competition.
About nine tones of seeds are required for grass seeding in April, following which the grounds crew will conduct daily inspections. The grass is cut three times per week once the blades reach 15 mm, and white markings are made on the court near the end of May, about one month before the start of the tournament.
More than two dozen groundskeepers work on the court throughout the tournament, yet ground conditions still deteriorate near the end. It’s not uncommon to see brown patches of grass near both baselines by the finals.