20 Jun 2011

10 Interesting and Little-known facts about Wimbledon

 

Strawberries and cream, grass courts, umbrellas, tennis players in white, this is all part of Wimbledon and today the landmark 125th edition of this renowned Grand Slam will start. You probably know a couple of things about the world’s most famous tennis competition, like recent winners or the fact that it’s played on grass but.. we’ve collected some interesting and little-known facts about the tournament that I’m sure you’ll like.

  • The first championship took place in 1877 as an amateur competition with just 22 players playing their best for a breathtaking prize of just 12 guineas which went to Spencer Gore, the very first Wimbledon Champion. I have no clue what’s that in today’s money, but I think it was enough for a six-pack of beer. It was just a men’s singles tourney and 7 seven years later the first women’s singles and men’s doubles began.
  • Tim Henman became the first player in the entire history of the tournament to be disqualified after losing his tempter and hitting a ball in anger into the face of a young ball girl. He gave her some flowers and even liked her face to say sorry after the event but that makes things even more weird, right?
  • Dressing up for the event. Every competitor at Wimbledon must adhere to an all-white dress code giving the impression of simplicity and cleanliness and perfection in tennis. Back in 1930, Brame Hillyard became the first man to play wearing shorts and years later almost ever player was doing it.
  • At the 1968 edition of Wimbledon, the championships were opened up to both professionals and amateurs for the first time, with Rod Laver and Billie Jean King winning the singles titles in that year.
  • The 2011 prize purse for men’s and women’s singles winners is £1,100,000 while the runners up will get £550,000 and semi-finalists  £275,000. Back in 1968, at the first championship with pro tennis players, the prize money was £2,000 for the male champion and £750 for the female champion. Aside from cash, the men’s singles winner receives a silver gift cup and the women’s singles winner gets a silver gift salver which are displayed at the Wimbledon museum for most of the year.
  • During World War II, the All England Club was open and used for a variety of civil defence and military functions such as fire and ambulance services. The Centre court was struck by a bomb and 1,200 seats were lost but fortunately no one was there at the time.
  • For years every competitor at the Wimbledon used to play with wooden rackets until 1987 when the last wooden racket was used. It was a lot harder to win and play really well with that, I guess.
  • Left handers are about ten per cent of the world’s population but when it comes to Wimbledon singles champions, the percentage is even lower. Just nine left handed players, seven men and two women, managed to win the singles titles, the most recent being Rafael Nadal.
  • The country that has provided the most singles title winner in the entire history of Wimbledon is… wait for it… the United States. US players managed to win 33 men’s titles and 50 women’s titles. Britain is second with British players winning 32 men’s titles and 29 ladies titles.
  • Last year, at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, the longest match in tennis history took place between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut with Isner beating Mahut after 11 hours and 5 minutes of play over three days for a total of 183 games. The final set of the game lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes with both players braking several Wimbledon and tennis records. In a twist of fate, both men are scheduled to face each other again in the first round of this year’s edition.