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The Beginner’s Guide to Wimbledon
The Beginner’s Guide to Wimbledon

Beneath the country club aesthetics, the sport of tennis is a test of incredible physical and mental endurance. Perhaps because of the extreme intensity of play, the sport and its spectatorship are surrounded with longstanding traditions and manners that pay respects to the difficulty endured by the players.

If there is one nation that does tradition and manners better than any other, it is Great Britain. Accordingly, every summer in the outskirts of the British capital Wimbledon takes place. Wimbledon is the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament, a distinction that the tournament’s British hosts treat very lovingly and seriously.

Attending the Championships, Wimbledon should be a top line-item on every tennis fan’s bucket list. Even for casual viewers of the sport, Wimbledon is a massive cultural force and a fabulous reason to visit beautiful London. If you’re looking to attend Wimbledon for the first time, here is everything you need to know about the tournament, from its history, to the dress code, to the traditions, to waiting in the Queue.

 

The History of Wimbledon

Did you know that the world’s most famous tennis tournament originated as a croquet event? Properly known as “The Championships, Wimbledon”, the tournament was first organized in 1876 at what was then known as the All-England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. The first matches were played the following year. Since then, the club’s name has been reversed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, and croquet has hardly featured at all since 1882, despite being the club’s founding motive.

The tournament was open only to amateur players until 1968, when qualifying rounds were introduced. The whole modern tournament consists of sixteen events played over the course of two weeks in June and July each year. The five main events are the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles and Doubles matches, and the Mixed Doubles event.

Mixed Doubles and the History of Wimbledon

Mixed doubles has been an official part of the Wimbledon tournament since 1888, which is exceptionally progressive in the world of professional athletics. Source.

 

The Centre Court Stadium

The main stadium where the tournament is held, known as Centre Court, has been greatly expanded and improved over the years. It now features a retractable, translucent roof and nearly 16,000 seats, making it one of the largest and most impressive tennis facilities in the world. There are 19 additional tournament grass courts on the club grounds, including the similarly large No. 1 Court stadium, and the smaller stadium at No. 2 Court and No. 3 Court. The club and adjacent Aorangi Park also feature multiple additional grass practice courts, and several clay, acrylic, and indoor tennis courts. Centre Court Wimbledon is certain to impress any sports fans who appreciate a good facilities.

Centre Court Wimbledon

The Centre Court stadium roof is retractable, allowing matches to be held even when it rains. Source.

Wimbledon Traditions 

The English have a reputation for being terribly polite and traditional, and this really shows at Wimbledon. Wimbledon is now the only one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments which still uses grass courts (the French Open takes place on clay courts, while the U.S. and Australian Open are on hard courts), and the Brits take their lawn maintenance incredibly seriously. Furthermore, there are no advertisements at the All England Club, as the club’s patrons are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Especially at Centre Court Wimbledon spectators maintain silence even between points. Naturally, players bow to the Queen and the Prince of Wales when they visit.

Other traditions to look forward to are the famous refreshments of strawberries and cream, a welcome change of pace from the typical American stadium fare of chili dogs and fries. There is also a trained hawk named Rufus who scares away other birds that might interrupt a match. It’s also worth noting the extensive team of rigorously tested Ball Boys and Girls, or BBGs, who assist on the courts.

 

Rufus the Hawk Wimbledon

Rufus, one of the hardest working employees at Wimbledon. Source.

 

The Wimbledon Queue

As fancy as Wimbledon may seem, there is one aspect of the tournament that is very egalitarian. Wimbledon remains one of the only major sporting events in the UK where spectators can buy premium tickets on the day of the event. To do this, however, almost invariably requires spending the night in The Queue, or waiting all day in line. Those who do so often bring tents, folding chairs, games, and food with them. Each person receives a card indicating their place in the queue, and there is no way to hold a place for anyone else. Queuing is something of a tradition among local attendees, so you can expect that everyone will be in good spirits despite the heat and the wait. You might even make friends with your neighbors!

Wimbledon Queue

Many would say you haven’t really done Wimbledon if you haven’t camped out for an entire day in the Wimbledon Queue. Source.

 

The Wimbledon Dress Code

The Wimbledon dress code is serious business for its players. This tournament differs from other Grand Slams in that it strictly enforces an all-white dress code for competitors. Since the last update in 2014, the Wimbledon dress code now forbids any non-white clothing that could at anytime become visible during play due to movement, lighting, or perspiration. The Wimbledon dress code is reportedly so strict that players even need to ensure that their underwear is white enough. Why do they wear all white at Wimbledon? Officials say that the all-white dress code ensures that players don’t stand out for anything other than excellent play.

Wimbledon dress code

Wimbledon competitors must wear all-white outfits. Source.

There is no official Wimbledon dress code for spectators beyond a few forbidden items: no torn jeans, running vests, dirty sneakers, or sport shorts. Though this is all that will be formally enforced, visitors to Centre Court are still expected to dress up for the tournament in a way that is very different from most other sporting events. Obviously, this isn’t the kind of event you wear a jersey and face paints too. Wimbledon attire is much more refined. Men traditionally wear fashionable suits and ties at Wimbledon, and while women have a bit more latitude, they often wear white dresses, or similarly summery outfits. What to wear to Wimbledon is essentially what you might wear to an outdoor summer wedding – except of course that women can wear white. Sunglasses and summer scarves are some of the most-worn accessories at the tournament. If you plan to do any shopping during your time in London, be on the look out for classic, chic pieces that you can wear to Wimbledon!

 

The Royal Box & Celebrities at Wimbledon

One key feature of the Centre Court stadium is the Wimbledon Royal Box, where the members of the British royal family and those they invite can watch the matches with one of the best possible vantage points. Here and elsewhere in the stadium it’s likely that spectators will include a number of prominent celebrities, including musicians, actors, athletes from other sports, and UK politicians. Attendees at recent tournaments have included the likes of Beyonce and Jay-Z, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper, Irina Shayk, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Portman, David Beckham, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and of course, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge themselves, Prince William and Kate Middleton.

 

Wimbledon Royal Box

Prince William and Kate Middleton attend the men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in 2014. Source.

 

Unforgettable Moments in Wimbledon History

Some incredible moments in Wimbledon history include the longest match ever played (11 hours and 5 minutes), with a final score of 70-68, between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010. Another would be Andy Murray’s championship win in 2013, making him the first Briton to win the tournament since 1936. There’s also Martina Navratilova’s record 9th career Wimbledon win in 1990, and John McEnroe’s epic 1981 “You can NOT be serious” rant against a chair umpire, a moment that many fans remember fondly as their very favorite moment in tournament history. Few events can compare, however, to the incredible 2008 tie-breaking match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, which Nadal won after rain delays and gathering darkness had begun to set in.

John Isner is finally victorious after more than 11 hours of play against Nicholas Mahut. Source.

 

Wimbledon on the Cheap

For those who wish to attend, but also save a bit of money, tickets are much less expensive towards the end of the second week of the tournament. At that stage of the tournament, it’s less likely that spectators will see much of the current top players, but they will get a chance to see many talented up-and-coming stars. And for those who want to have a real local experience, queuing is the real deal. Bring a tent, lawn chairs, and plenty of snacks and refreshments. You’ll be waiting a long time, but the spirit of queuing is jovial and you’ll score tickets for a fraction of the pre-order price.


You haven’t truly experienced tennis til you’ve attended Wimbledon. Start planning your trip to the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in beautiful London. Our Bucket List Travel Experts are here to assist you with lodging, city tours, transportation, and ticket purchases. Take a look at our Wimbledon travel packages and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

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