Many people don’t know this, but I am a closet tennis fan. I don’t know much about the players and the exact rules, but I can literally sit in front of a TV and watch that little green ball go back and forth allllllllll day long.
And of all the tennis matches, Wimbledon is my favorite. Even though it super early on the east coast, I usually wake up early and watch the matches. The history of the event is intriguing, plus I love the British, and the movie with Kirsten Dunst didn’t hurt either.
So in good Wimbledon spirit, here are some traditions that I found on foxsports.com that help it stand apart from any other major.
- Strawberries: While it’s much more fun to believe that King George V introduced the summer delicacy of strawberries and cream to courtside fans, the reality of the tradition is much more “common”. Strawberries and tennis both happened to signal the start of summer. The red berries are typically only available during the time in which the Wimbledon fortnight fell and thus coincided with the event. The heavy cream — and occasional sprinkling of sugar depending on the ripeness of the strawberries — provides the perfect balance in this Wimbledon staple.
- White: At Wimbledon, players must follow the strictest of tennis tournament dress codes by wearing all white attire. In 1877 prior to the first Wimbledon Championships, the All England Club (then called the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club) commissioners laid down a set of rules that are still enforced to this day, one of which was stating that players must wear white attire. Umpires, linesmen and ball boys and girls were required to wear green until 2006 when Ralph Lauren became the club’s official designer and created navy blue and cream outfits to wear.
- Sunday rest day: While sometimes criticized, Wimbledon is the only one of the four major tournaments that uses the first Sunday or Middle Sunday as a true day of rest with no match play scheduled. And despite the rain and notorious weather delays at the All England Club, only three times in the history of the tournament has Middle Sunday been used to make up matches — in 1991, 1997 and 2004.
- Formal titles: Prior to 2009 female players at Wimbledon were represented on the scoreboard with a “Miss” or “Mrs.” followed by a surname, a tradition that stood for 132 years. Since 2009 — just after it was announced that women would earn the same prize money as men at Wimbledon — the prefix was dropped from scoreboards. But umpires will still refer to female players as Miss or Mrs. followed by their names.
- Royalty: Players have not had to bow or curtsy to the royal box when entering and leaving Centre Court since 2003 when the Duke of Kent, who was President of the All England Club, deemed the tradition a bit outdated. Now, players are only required to bow or curtsy when Queen Elizabeth II or the Prince of Wales is present, as was the case in 2010.
- Trophy: The ladies’ singles champion is awarded the Venus Rosewater Dish presented by the Duke and Dutchess of Kent. The dish is 18 3/4 inches in diameter and was made in 1864. It is a copy of a pewter original dating back to the 1500s which resides at the Louvre. While the champion gets to hold this beauty decorated with mythological figures and symbols and parade it around Centre Court, they do not keep it. The champion is given an 8-inch replica to keep, oh and well over $1 million in prize money.
- Playing surface: Grass was once the most popular surface for tennis, but Wimbledon is the last of the tennis Slams to be played on the natural surface. In the past, both the Australian Open and the US Open used grass courts but Wimbledon remains as the last major rooted in the grass tradition.