5 Classic Wimbledon Traditions Slideshow
June 22, 2011
1. Grass Courts
It’s what gave lawn tennis its name — the natural surface on which this championship has been played since 1877. Previously a mix of 70% rye grass and 30% fescue, the courts are now 100% rye and kept at a trim 8 millimeters. Why the change? The head groundskeeper at Wimbledon hoped it would be more durable under the increased wear and tear from today’s more athletic players. It also requires less moisture, resulting in a more compact surface that can also withstand the heavy rollers used daily — and the hot British summer sun.
While the change might make the groundskeepers' job easier, players like Roger Federer have found that it has slowed down the once lightning-fast game — and has also reduced the occurrence of bad bounces (as the grass causes the ball to bounce higher).
DIY: Instead of watching the matches at home over breakfast alone, invite over your friends for a “Breakfast at Wimbledon” gathering. Set the scene with trays or pots of grass to decorate the table instead of flowers. Here’s a step-by-step how-to — or follow these tips for using faux wheatgrass. Don’t have room to plant your own? You can also purchase flats of wheatgrass at your local nursery store (or Jamba Juice locations).
2. Wimbledon Attire: The Purple and Green
Since 1909, purple and dark green have been the traditional colors of Wimbledon, as worn by officials and referees, found on Club ties, and in the title of Radio Wimbledon’s theme song. But since 2006, the frumpy green blazers of yore have been exchanged for dapper navy blue get-ups from designer Ralph Lauren, the current official outfitter of the championships.
While the officials will be sporting blue, the players, in accordance with the stringent Club rules, will be wearing nearly all white. So where is color allowed? Shorts, skirts, and the backs of shirts must be entirely white, while hats, socks, and shoes can be almost entirely white.
DIY: Let tradition rule when setting the scene at your “Breakfast at Wimbledon” gathering. Set the table with crisp, starched white linens and choose green and purple napkins when serving Pimm’s cups. When inviting guests, ask them to adhere to Wimbledon's rules (dressing up as their favorite player is up to them). And if they want to add a little color, why not do as Venus Williams did this year and paint your fingers green and purple?
3. Strawberries and Cream
While popular legend states that the tradition of serving strawberries while watching tennis in Britain goes back to the days of King George V, berries and cream has been a Wimbledon tradition since 1877. It's a treat that signals the beginning of summer for many Brits — and the start of The Championships. In recent years, over 8,615 small baskets, called punnets, filled with about 10 berries and a good bit of cream are served daily. This means that over 59,000 pounds of strawberries and 2,000 gallons of cream are devoured over the two weeks by spectators and officials — which is a lot considering the berries are picked fresh the day before they are served at LEAF-certified farms throughout Kent.
DIY: Whether you’re hosting a “Breakfast at Wimbledon” celebration or not, watching the match on Centre Court would not be complete without a bowl of this British favorite. Looking for something more substantial to feed your guests? Make a proper British trifle filled with berries and cream, or bake them into cakes to serve with Chantilly cream. Or if you’re the type that can never give up dessert, indulge your sweet tooth with this super-easy Strawberry Icebox Pie.
4. Pimm’s Cups
Once the drink of choice for British socialites; nowadays it’s the official drink of this historic sporting event. Traditionally made with the gin-based Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, lemon juice, a soda like 7-Up or ginger ale, and garnished with a cucumber slice, a Pimm’s Cup is filled with aromas of citrus and spice and served over ice. It’s just right for summer, and, when served with a bowl of strawberries and cream, the perfect drink for watching Wimbledon. And given that over 150,000 glasses of Pimm’s Cups were served last year — it’s no surprise the cocktail is also easy to drink.
DIY: When planning the menu, be sure to have plenty of Pimm’s Cups on hand to serve your guests (in addition to British delights like scones and cream, tea sandwiches, strawberries and cream, and an eggy strata). Read our tips for making pitchers of Pimm's here — or try a fruiter, modern-day alternative made with port wine.
5. Old-World Etiquette
The ties between British royalty and The Championships date back to 1907. In fact, players were expected to curtsy or bow to the Royal Box until 2003, when the Duke of Kent (and President of The All England Lawn Tennis Club) had the rule removed. Together with old-fashioned traditions like the dress code and lawn courts, it's evident old-world etiquette is one Wimbledon tradition that will never end.
Simply look at the different draws, with events for “ladies” and another for the “gentlemen” rather than men and women, like you’d see at other Grand Slam events. And while married players were once called by their husband’s last names, it wasn’t until 2009 that the scoreboard displays of “Miss” and “Mrs.” were finally dropped. If you listen closely, you’ll still hear officials address female players with these salutations today.
DIY: Channel your inner Brit and bring back old-world etiquette when hosting your own “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” Address each guest with the proper salutation when they arrive, and then test their etiquette skills by offering a proper royal tea — just be sure to read our tips for brewing and serving tea first. Looking to add a little life to the party? Print out pictures of the Queen and stash them around your house within your guests’ sight. Whenever they spot one, they must bow or curtsy — or risk being dismissed from the party!