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‘Why We Love…’ The Traditions of Wimbledon

Strict rules on all-white kit cause debate to re-ignite each year, and everyone knows about strawberries and cream… But what about some of the other interesting Wimbledon traditions?

For better or worse, the All England Tennis Club honours plenty of customs and practices. Some maintain the ‘prim and proper’ character associated with the sport while some are just a bit quirky! Regardless, they all come together creating one of the most iconic sporting events in the world.

New to Wimbledon in 2018 was the official YouTube channel streaming matches live (and free!) all round the world. So why not see how many you can spot whilst you watch this year’s championships?

The ‘Opening’ of Centre Court

Every year, the defending Wimbledon champions are amongst the first to play on Centre Court. However, this is no ribbon-cutting ceremony… there’s a lot more grunting and no giant scissors!

This Wimbledon tradition can be particularly special for the opponent as a chance to make a splash. Of course, when facing the titleholder, it’s important to focus on the match, not the occasion! That’s because it’s just as serious as any other Grand Slam match; the winner progresses to the next round while the defeated player is knocked out.

As heart-breaking as a loss can be, it’s not all bad; a defeated first-round singles player leaves Wimbledon with a cool £39,000 in their pocket.

For 2019, Novak Djokovic opens Centre Court on the first day of the tournament facing Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. Germany certainly have a big presence on Centre Court this year as last 2018’s champion, Angelique Kerber opens with fellow German, Tatjana Maria.

Wimbledon Traditions - Stadia Sports

The Championships 2018. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. {iptcdate} .Credit: AELTC/Bob Martin

David Spearing, Seat no.7

If you’ve ever watched a broadcast of a Centre Court match, you will have probably seen one particular man in the players’ box. Always sporting a smart suit and a somewhat unconventional Stetson, David Spearing is Wimbledon’s longest serving steward!

Mr. Spearing is in his 80s and his role as honorary steward always sees him looking after the players’ families. Look out when the camera focuses on the players’ box at tense moments in the match; he’s sure to be in shot.

2018 marked our favourite steward’s 45th Wimbledon. Spearing hopes to still be stewarding at 100, so you’ve still time to spot him in the years to come!

Wimbledon Umpires

In contrast to football’s referees, tennis umpires have the best seat in the house. (Even if a traditional umpire’s seat does look like a cross between a step ladder and a high chair!)

The seat and the microphone are not exclusive to Wimbledon, but the sharp blazers and off-white separates certainly are!

Highlighting the umpire’s status can add even more drama to the game, and even a little contention. In his singles career, John McEnroe was known for frequent ‘verbal altercations’ with umpires. In recent years, McEnroe has actually suggested they be done away with completely in favour of ‘Hawk-Eye’ technology.

However, we think the game just wouldn’t be the same without umpires. There’s nothing quite like that electrifying introduction when the crowd is hushed and two words cut through the silence: “Ready? …Play.”

Wimbledon Traditions - Stadia Sports

AELTC/Joel Marklund . 05 July 2016

Rufus the Hawk

The technology used for officiating and instant replays is not the only Hawk at the All England Tennis Club…

Rufus the Hawk has the exceptionally important job of scaring away pigeons from the courts!

After 15 years of service, the Official Bird Scarer is something of a hit on Twitter; Rufus has even had his own line of merchandise launched in 2018!

Grounds Tickets

To avoid touts and unused tickets, the majority of grounds passes are only available via The Queue. No, that’s not a hipster name for an online administrator – it’s the real thing!

Queuing for tickets is an event in itself, and it certainly classes as one of the quirkier Wimbledon traditions. We’re talking tents, picnic blankets, games and costumes – it’s even more sociable than the bars and food courts!

With a “Guide to Queuing” pamphlet and weather-specific stickers handed out, this really feels like a particularly British institution.

Once you reach the grounds themselves there’s the added excitement of looking out for an official broadcasting camera. As you recline on Murray Mount (with surprisingly well-priced strawberries and an ice-cold drink of choice), make sure you’re ready to drop it all for a Mexican wave!

Wimbledon Traditions - Stadia Sports

AELTC/Jon Buckle . 26 June 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen

Alongside the fun, there’s also a certain level of decorum associated with Wimbledon. There’s a stringent ban on vuvuzelas and selfie-sticks, and calls from the umpires for “quiet, please,” within the courts.

But it’s not only about what not to do; language is just as important. Everywhere else in the world of tennis refers to the men’s and women’s games. However at the All England Tennis Club, players are not ‘men and women’ but ‘ladies and gentlemen’.

Wimbledon Traditions - Stadia Sports

Wimbledon staff assemble the Order of Play. The Championships 2018. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day -2 Saturday 30/06/2018. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

Wimbledon is probably the only sporting event in the world where you’ll find such classiness alongside such silliness… and we wouldn’t have it any other way!


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‘Why We Love…’ The Commonwealth Games

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Top 10 Athletics Moments Over the Years

A Buyer’s Guide to the Finest Tennis Nets in the World