Quiet Please - The Wimbledon Championships Start Today

24 June 2013

It is that time of year again, when the English summer sun pokes its way through the clouds to shine its light on The Wimbledon Championships. A pilgrimage for tennis fans worldwide, Wimbledon is regarded by many as the most prestigious Grand Slam of all.

Hosted by the  All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in a leafy part of south London, the inaugural Wimbledon Championships took place in 1877. Grasscourt tennis was quick to capture the public's imagination and by 1924, The Championships had become so popular that a public ballot was deemed the only fair means of distributing Show Court tickets.

 Wimbledon Starts Today

Today, the ballot closes some six months in advance and demand for tickets far outstrips supply. If you're willing to chance your arm, the only other way to obtain tickets is to join The Queue. This pointedly-named oddity is a Wimbledon institution and combines an English love of queuing with the wildly optimistic belief that one of the few tickets held back for public sale awaits at the end of the line. It's common for fans to start queuing from the early hours of the morning, so bring a cushion if you plan to join the convivial line of early risers snaking down from the Gate 3 turnstiles.

Inside the grounds

Getting into the All England Club is no mean feat but once you're inside the grounds, you're faced with a dizzying array of venues. Wimbledon's most famous court is the 15,000-capacity Centre Court, which is used for just two weeks a year during The Championships. A retractable roof was installed in 2009 owing to London's notoriously drizzly summer weather, making the interminable rain delays which once plagued the tournament a thing of the past.

The nearby No. 1 Court is an impressive 11,000-seater arena built in 1997 and which has since hosted some of Wimbledon's most famous modern matches. Behind it is the famous Aorangi Terrace, however these days it's better known as 'Murray Mound.' Not since Fred Perry lifted the 1936 trophy has a British player won a Wimbledon men's singles title, leading excitable Brits everywhere to ignore the fact Andy Murray was actually born in Scotland and anoint him the new king-in-waiting of the All England Club.

Murray Mound is actually a throwback to the days when this gently-sloping grassed terrace was called 'Henman Hill,' after popular English player Tim Henman. Sitting on the hill to watch play on the giant video screen outside the No. 1 Court - preferably with some strawberries and cream in hand - is today a popular Wimbledon pastime.

On-court traditions 

Depending on your point of view, The Championships are either the last bastion of traditional values or a hotbed of English snobbery. To this day, players must wear all-white on court and are expected to bow or curtsy towards the Royal Box if the Prince of Wales or The Queen are in attendance.

Some players have fallen foul of Wimbledon's notoriously high standards, including defending women's singles champion Serena Williams - whose choice of attire is eagerly anticipated each year- and fellow American Jeff Tarango. His legendary 1995 tantrum resulted in his expulsion from Wimbledon and subsequent ban from the following year's tournament.

Seven-time men's singles winner and defending champion Roger Federer has no such qualms upholding tradition, with the Swiss master a living reminder of the genteel days of yore. He is one of the favourites to lift the 2013 men's singles title, and his expected tussle with Serbian number one Novak Djokovic ensures thousands of tennis fans will once again descend upon the quiet streets of south London to be part of one of world sports' greatest spectacles.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.