Wimbledon begins on 27 June 2022. And for the first time in three COVID-hit years, there will be full capacity crowds pouring into the pristine grounds in South West London.
But for the 500,000 people who walk through the Wimbledon gates over the fortnight, there are a number of Wimbledon traditions they savour just as much as the actual competition. From pristine white outfits to tonnes of strawberries and cream, here are 7 things that make tennis’ most prestigious event even more special.
We can’t all be lucky enough to get the hottest ticket in tennis. And the organisers recognise that. That’s why around 7,000 tickets are available on a first-come-first served basis for those who join ‘The Queue’. Setting your alarm in the early hours (or camping at the grounds the night before) is a rite of passage for true tennis fans. And while the wait until the gates to open at 10am is long, time flies in the queue. Music plays. Pimm’s is drunk (yes, even in the morning). And laughter fills the air. There are even people playing mini tennis. This gigantic line of snaking people is a sight in itself – and everyone is energised at the start of seeing their tennis idols glide across the grass.
Sitting on Henman Hill (or Murray Mound)
First nicknamed after British player Tim Henman’s success in the 1990’s, ‘Henman Hill’ is an iconic spot to watch tennis at Wimbledon. Spectators sit on this hill and watch enormous live screens of Centre Court and Court 1 matches. You’ll hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as epic points are played out. And see the occasional champagne cork flying overhead. There’s a debate whether to call this spot ‘Murray Mound’ after two-time men’s champion Andy Murray. But we’ll leave that to you. Regardless, ticket-holders simply cannot leave SW19 without a moment here. And if you haven’t got a ticket, relax. You can soak in the atmosphere and at one of the many live TV screenings around London.
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All whites (‘no off-white or cream’)
Wimbledon’s player dress code is as strict as it gets. All competitors risk disqualification if they don’t wear all white clothing, and they are reminded that ‘white does not include off-white or cream’. In fact, even undergarments must be white – and even the great Roger Federer had to change his tennis shoes in 2013 because they had orange soles! This rule was born in the Victorian Era when sweat marks were seen as improper during tennis matches, and the tradition is still alive today.
Strawberries and cream
This delicious tradition has stuck ever since strawberries and cream were served at the first Wimbledon Championships in 1877. Incredibly, about 25 tonnes of strawberries and 7,000 litres of fresh cream are devoured every Wimbledon fortnight. And just a glimpse of these huge, juicy red fruits will make you run to a ‘strawberries and cream’ stand for a tub. Yum.
Pimm’s and lemonade
Did you know Wimbledon is largest single annual sporting catering operation in Europe? Pimm’s and lemonade definitely has a say in that – with 320,000 Pimms glasses sold every fortnight on sight. This gin-based fruity mixer comes with large chunks of fruit, plus a straw to sip through as you stroll the pristine grounds looking for your next match to watch. The perfect cocktail to watch Wimbledon with, wherever you are.
The Royal Family loves to watch
Being a quintessentially British event, it’s only right members of the Royal Family are there. King George V and Queen Mary were the first to start this tradition in the early 1900’s. And today, Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton and Prince William (and more) are invited by the Chairman of the All England Club to sit in the ‘Royal Box’ – the best seats in the 14,979 seater Centre Court. A Royal also traditionally hands the men’s and women’s singles trophy to the champion. And with celebrities also keen to catch the action, you may find your eyes wandering to more than just the tennis!
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Immaculately groomed grass courts
Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam, and the only one to be played on grass. This pristine surface – and the care given to it – make it unlike any other sporting event in the world.
As the sun rises over the grounds every morning, all courts are mowed (to exactly 8mm tall), rolled and painted with fresh lines. There are more inspections than we can keep track of. And preparations for next year’s Wimbledon begin days after each tournament ends. Put simply: there is an aura of prestige here that puts a day here high on the bucket lists of sports fans and cultural travellers alike.
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British spirit: ‘Come on, Andy!’
Cheering local favourites like Andy Murray, Emma Raducanu, Katie Boulter and Cameron Norrie is a British tradition. Full of first pumps! So whether you’re watching on Murray mound, Centre Court or one of London’s many beer gardens showing Wimbledon matches, you’ll want to get involved. Just remember that cool glass of cool Pimm’s.
What is your favourite Wimbledon tradition? Tell us in the comments below.