Engulfed in rich tradition, the Championship is not just a tennis tournament but an annual pilgrimage to the hallowed lawns for the connoisseurs of the sport. The royal patronage, incessant supply of delectable strawberries mixed in scrummy cream and the fast-paced action of players dressed in royal white, make it the most prestigious event in the tennis calendar.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and the only Grand Slam to be played on grass courts. The Championships is held annually six weeks before the first Monday in August. The main draw consists of Men's Singles, Ladies' Singles, Men's Doubles, Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles in addition to the Junior, Senior Invitational and Wheelchair events. Players from more than 60 countries regularly compete in one or more events, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is a private club founded in 1868 and is responsible for staging the tournament. Today, the Grand Slam event is attended by more than 500,000 people as well as carried to millions around the world through mass media and the Internet.
The Championships, held on the lush lawns of London, is a celebration of the British way of life as a sporting occasion. The Wimbledon tradition comes from another day and age, rooted in its deep history. Nowhere else in the world are the players still required to wear predominately white clothing. Advertising and sponsorship takes the prime place everywhere but at Wimbledon the commercial aspect of the sport is kept at bay. Since the late 19th century, Wimbledon has been more than a venue for the greatest players to enthrall on the grandest stage; often, it has shaped the entire sport.
You can't visit Wimbledon without the dose of strawberries and cream. People devour berries while they watch the games, whether it's at the court, outside on the screen fields, at home, or in a pub. Every year, spectators consume over 28,000 kilos of strawberries and almost 6,000 litres of cream.
Wimbledon is also the only Grand Slam where you see players at their modest best as no color except white is allowed. So Nadal's shiny pink and screaming yellow and Serena's bling have to wait every year until the US Open.
The female players are always referred to as 'Miss' or 'Mrs', which some feel is patronizing. Until recently, all the officials, ball boys wore the traditional colour of green, but the outfits have now been redesigned by Ralph Lauren in navy blue and cream.
Earlier, the players were required to bow before the royal box, but in 2003, it was decided that players no longer would need to bow or curtsy after consulting the Duchess of Kent. Instead, players only are required to pay homage if Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles is present and neither has stopped by to watch tennis since the 1970s.This is certainly good news for the players who were very cautious about making the gesture, with the monarchs around. Nine times Wimbledon ladies' champion Martina Navratilova had once said: "Men have it easy . . . the curtsy is the toughest part of the match."
One tradition, though, that most of the Englishmen would like to see broken is that of the Britons consistently losing in their own tournament at their home-venue.
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