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Wimbledon Tennis - A Few Interesting Facts
ANYONE FOR TENNIS?
Here in the UK, whether you're a devout tennis fan or not, Wimbledon fortnight is arguably the biggest event of the sporting calendar, and we hope against hope that this year one of our own is going to do well. Once every four years though we have the leap of faith that our football team is going to excel and bring home the gold, so for some the tennis gets put on the back burner. But with the English football team embarrassingly crashing out of the World Cup at the weekend, all eyes (and hopes) have once again turned to Wimbledon. We still have Andy Murray fighting our corner, and even though he's a Scot, we've taken him to our hearts and love him like one of our own - (even though he rarely smiles, and allegedly is not keen on us English). But he's a subject of the British Empire, so we will support him and cheer him on. He's pretty good at his game too. so he deserves to do well.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON
The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club - to give it its full title - was launched in 1875 by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield. The original name for the game was 'Sphairistike', which thankfully was later changed to Tennis. In the beginning the only event was the men's singles, and was won by Spencer Gore in 1877, when two hundred spectators paid one shilling to watch the match.
In 1882 the croquet was dropped and Wimbledon was used exclusively for tennis, and 1884 saw the first womens singles event, which was won by Maud Watson.
In the early 1900s interest in the game dwindled, but it wasn't long before players from overseas were coming over to compete, and in 1905 May Sutton from the USA won the ladies title, followed by Norman Brookes from Australia, who took the men's
Since those early days, only two English men - Arthur Gore, and Fred Perry - have won the mens trophy, and five women - Kitty Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade - have won the ladies title.
For many years America and Australia dominated the game, until 1959, when Maria Bueno from Brasil won.
1977 was a very special year. It was the games' centenary and also Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee year, and it was only fitting that Virginia Wade lifted the 'Venus Rosewater Dish' for England, which was presented to her by the Queen herself.
THE BALL BOYS AND GIRLS
When I was young my mum told me that all the ball boys came from Doctor Bernado's children's home. She wasn't quite right, but almost. In the beginning the boys were provided by Shaftsbury Homes, which was a charity formed for homeless children by William Williams in1843. It gained support from the 7th Earl Shaftsbury, which is how it aquired its name.
These days, the boys and girls are made up of year 9 and 10 students from schools in the surrounding areas, but some of them are also picked from the junior members of the tennis club. The ratio is roughly 50/50 boys and girls, and they undergo intensive training from February until the start of the tournament. Out of 700 applicants, only 250 are chosen, and they normally have just two seasons to perform their duties.
GOING TO WIMBLEDON
The good thing about Wimbledon is, it's the only sporting event where you can actually queue on the day to buy tickets to see the matches, but if you plan to do this beware - it's a long queue. People take tents and stake their place in the line the night before. This is all well and good if the weather is fine, but not so good if we have the typical British summer rain, which always seems to fall at this time of year. Nevertheless, it's worth it once you're in there.
Another way of obtaining tickets is by the public ballot. This is a sort of lottery system whereby, if your name gets drawn out you get offered tickets, which you can pay for online. The ballot doesn't open until August and closes in December. If you are lucky enough to be selected, you get a letter inviting you to buy tickets. This is the only way to purchase a ticket for the men's and women's finals, as you cannot queue on the day for these tickets.
The prices of the tickets range from £41.00 to £104.00 (the latter figure being for the finals)
Tickets to enter the grounds and watch the matches on the big screen from what has become known as 'Henman Hill' are around £20.00 for a day pass.
These days the centre court holds a capacity of 15,000 spectators, and after a recent refurbishment now has a retractable roof in case of bad weather, so major matches no longer have to be interrupted by rain.
So what spoils await the victors? Apart from the coveted title of Wimbledon Champion, both the men's and ladies' winners walk away with the trophy and a cheque for £1,000,000.
One small piece of trivia; 27,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are consumed throughout the duration of the tournament. That's a lot of strawberries!
For loads more information about tickets, how to get there, and the history of the club, check out the website www.wimbledon.org where you can also see the live scores on all the matches as they come in.
Another piece of trivia; You have to be a member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club to play on the courts, and to become a member you need to know four people who are already members and who are willing to give you a reference. The hallowed Centre court and court 1 only get used for the championships, so no-one but the cream of the tennis world get to play there.
So come on Andy, You've earned your right to play on the most famous court in the world and we're all behind you to win this year. Good luck!