For tennis fans all over the world, summer doesn’t start until late June, when The Championships at Wimbledon begin, and professional athletes from around the world come together to compete on grass for prize money totaling over $22.2 million. And as 2011 marks the 125th year that The Championships have been played at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in a southwestern London suburb, we’re paying tribute to the historic event, the oldest of its kind, by looking at five of its longest-standing traditions.
Wimbledon is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, but has some unique differences. While The Championships are now considered “the granddaddy of them all,” according to John Barrett, the author of Wimbledon: The Official History of The Championships, they began as a simple summer pastime in 1877. For over 90 years, the event was only open to “amateur” players, or gentlemen, according to The Smithsonian magazine — no professionals.
And true to its Victorian roots, Wimbledon has remained charming and steeped in the proper etiquette of its earliest fans. Then, tennis was a sport that only affluent members of exclusive clubs did in their free time; those who played for a living were viewed as second class, more like manual laborers than athletes. And while players like Federer and Djokovic claim that the lawn at Wimbledon is not as fast as it once was, it remains the last Grand Slam tournament to still be played on grass.
While Wimbledon spectators might enjoy one of the 300,000 cups of tea or coffee or the 30,000 portions of fish and chips served at Wimbledon each year, many of us stateside have started our own Wimbledon traditions, enjoying breakfast over that morning’s match aired live. Tuning into the action on Centre Court this weekend? Make watching the matches a real celebration, with some of Wimbledon’s oldest traditions — like Pimm’s Cups and strawberries and cream.