by Rebecca Astill
It’s that special time of the year again, uniting all sports fans alike – the Wimbledon fortnight.
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly preserves the magic of the tournament these 143 years on. In that time, we have seen the most extraordinary moments in tennis, from the historic rivalry between Borg and McEnroe, the three-day slog between Isner and Mahut, to the recent superstar 15-year-old Gauff beating her idol Venus Williams.
2019 has been the most accessible Wimbledon to date, with every court being shown in HD by the BBC. Thousands of fans have attended, many via the traditional Wimbledon Queue, and some just to soak up the atmosphere on Henman Hill. Everyone has had the chance to see the powerful mixed doubles partnership of Serena Williams and Andy Murray, Kyrgios’ fiery outbursts at his umpire against Nadal, and Konta calling out a ‘disrespectful and patronising’ journalist during a press conference.
Perhaps the most defining feature of Wimbledon is its unique white dress code. The rule is representative of how the tournament has progressed while maintaining tradition, from voluminous skirts over petticoats and long trousers to today’s short, figure-hugging dresses and shorts. Adidas sponsored players are also wearing Stella McCartney’s new sustainable kit this year, marking Wimbledon as a hotspot of social progress.
Certain traditions such as Pimms, strawberries and cream and the purple and green colour scheme continue to be at the forefront of the tournament brand. Despite becoming unavoidably more commercialised, Wimbledon has a tradition of loyalty to suppliers, including Ralph Lauren, Robinsons, IBM and HSBC.
The sense of history is also captured by the famous trophies. The Venus Rosewater Dish awarded to the ladies’ singles winner features Minerva, the Roman goddess of strategic warfare, and the men’s pineapple topped trophy encapsulates the prestigiousness of the tournament.
Founded in 1877, Wimbledon is the oldest and only Grand Slam to still be played on grass, the original surface. Since then, the sport has a rich history of attracting spectators, including celebrities and even royalty in the Royal Box. Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the most famous court in the world, was established in 1881. Despite the court’s 15,000 capacity, the intimacy felt at the tournament is second to none.
This was particularly felt when teenager Coco Gauff stormed her way to the third round of Wimbledon last week, breaking numerous records along the way. In her press conferences, she came across as controlled and respectful, whose age was the only thing separating her from the more experienced players. Wimbledon fans became invested in her story as she captured the hearts of the nation.
This differs from bad boy Kyrgios’s behaviour in his match against Nadal. His anger at the umpire and opponent was channelled into an incredible 143mph serve. When asked in his press conference if he was sorry for smacking a formidable forehand at Nadal’s body at the net, he replied ‘Why would I apologise… I don’t care.’ Every sport needs a villain for the excitement – a position which Kyrgios unashamedly fulfils. It wouldn’t be Wimbledon without a bit of drama.
The personalities of the players are always evident at Wimbledon, proving the passion felt for the tournament. Notable moments are McEnroe’s famous ‘you cannot be serious’ in his 1981 showdown against Gullikson, and Murray’s break down after losing the 2012 Wimbledon final to Federer. In 2013, he went on to beat Djokovic in an emphatic victory to become the first British man to win the singles trophy since Fred Perry in 1936 – a moment celebrated throughout the UK.
Murray has offered hope to Britain to reclaim tennis again, and since his success, a new spring of hopefuls have emerged, including Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans, Katie Boulter, Johanna Konta and Heather Watson.
The magic of Wimbledon is evident in the testimonies of the players themselves. Czechoslovakian Navratilova said, ‘it’s like coming home’, and German Becker called it the ‘most important of them all’ – words you would not hear about the French, Australian or US Open.
Wimbledon has seen the emergence of new heroes and been the chosen place for the last hurrah of many of the best.
For a sport often criticised for its elitist nature, it has found a quintessentially British home welcoming all, to celebrate the beauty and complexity of such a timeless game.