Wimbledon – 140 glorious years of outstanding tennis

  • Popular arts
  • The Championships, Wimbledon, commonly known simply as Wimbledon, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and this year, as they celebrate 140 glorious years of outstanding tennis, we take a look at some of the incredible facts behind this annual sporting event.

    Last year 493,928 attended over the two week period, getting through an astonishing amount of food and drink, supplied by the 2200 catering staff.
    320,000 glasses of Pimm’s alongside 29,000 bottles of champagne and 110,000 pints of draught beer and lager were consumed, but the humble bottle of water proved far less popular with sales of only 230,000.
    The traditional fare of the tournament is strawberries and cream with over 8,600 punnets usually consumed daily. 10,000 litres of fresh cream and a total of 28,000 kg of the Grade 1 Kent berries are brought in over the tournament. The berries are picked From LEAF-registered farms (LEAF is a charity promoting Integrated Farm Management balancing organic with chemical practices) at 4.00am, collected from the packing plant at 9.00am and are delivered to the Club by 11.00am for inspection and hulling — ensuring only the most perfect are selected and can be enjoyed by guests on the same day.

    The Championships employ around 6,000 staff including 305 cleaners, 700 security guards, seven ball distributors and 250 ball boys and girls. There’s stiff competition for the role of ball boy/girl — over 750 apply and the chosen ones complete a rigorous training programme. Perhaps the most unusual staff member is a Harris hawk called Rufus who is responsible for keeping the grounds pigeon-free. He’s specially trained for the task and flies across the courts each morning before play, discouraging pigeons from roosting by making them aware of his predator status.

    The typical unpredictable nature of the English summer has meant that most years play is interrupted by rain. In fact since Wimbledon weather records started in 1922, there have only been seven championships recorded without rain interruptions. 1931, 1976, 1977, 1993, 1995, 2009, 2010. The Centre Court has had its retractable rain-proof covering since 2009, taking a maximum of 10 minutes to close but play still has to wait for 30 minutes to resume to ensure that the internal environment is controlled and stabilised. Eight litres per second of fresh air per person is pumped into the bowl to manage the environment. An astonishing 7,500 Wimbledon umbrellas would be needed to cover the same area as the retractable roof.

    The competition gets through an astounding number of tennis balls. 54,250 were used in the Championships period last year. These are stored at 68°F and new balls are brought out after the first seven games (to allow for warm up), then renewed every nine games. You can even buy the used balls after — it’s £2.50 for a can of three with the proceeds going to the Wimbledon Foundation Charity.
    Yellow balls were used for first time in 1986.

    The “predominately in white” rule was introduced in 1963 before the “almost entirely in white rule” was brought in in 1995. Accessories were included in the rule from 2014. Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround.

    The Championships stringing team string on average over 2,000 rackets comprising 60% for men and 40% for women. In total this adds up to over 40 miles of string.

    The total prize money allocated for 2017 is 31,600,000
    Having the home advantage has certainly not benefited British players over the years, with the UK only producing three Wimbledon champions since 1968 – Ann Jones, Virginia Wade and Andy Murray. Visitors can watch the centre court action on Murray Mound (formally known as Henman Hill, after the British player Tim Henman, but renamed after Andy Murry secured his victory). This is a bit of high ground adjoining Court No 1, which has a big screen on the outside wall, and is the place to go if you don’t have tickets for Centre Court.

    While nobody has won a singles title on their first appearance at Wimbledon, Britain’s Virginia Wade waited longer than anyone else to achieve her first and only Wimbledon title, taking a massive 16 attempts before her success in 1977.

    The youngest player ever to win a Wimbledon singles event was Charlotte (Lottie) Dod when, in 1887, she won at the age of 15 years, 285 days. In 1996 Martina Hingis became a Wimbledon doubles champion at 15 years, 282 days. Boris Becker is the youngest Wimbledon men’s champion, claiming his victory when he was 17.

    The United States has produced 43 winners. Fifteen American men, boosted significantly by Pete Sampras’ seven titles, have claimed 31% of the Open Era titles.
    But that is far below their female compatriots, who have won 28 singles’ titles. Led by Martina Navratilova and the Williams sisters, they have dominated the Open Era at SW19 – winning 58% of the titles since 1968.

    Only one man has won Wimbledon without dropping a set, a feat achieved in 1976 by Bjorn Borg, on the way to the first of his five titles. However with the men having to win 21 sets on their way to becoming Wimbledon champion – compared to the 14 for their female counterparts – it is little wonder far fewer have recorded a flawless victory.

    The longest match was between John Isner (USA) and Nicolas Mahut (FRA) and took place over a period of three days in 2010. The 11 hours 05 minutes duration included a final set that lasted a staggering 491 minutes (8hrs11mins), 1hr 38mins longer than the previous longest match in tennis history. In total 980 points were played, using 123 balls and after 113 aces served during the match by Isner, the final score was a victory to the American player.
    John Isner (USA) v Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68

    The fastest serve of all time was the swift swiping Taylor Dent at 148mph in 2010. The speediest women’s serve was Venus Williams in 2008 — at a wind-whistling 129mph.

    The Williams sisters – Serena and Venus – are the only black women to win the ladies’ singles in the Open Era, while Aboriginal Australian Evonne Goolagong won two titles. That means 73% of female champions are white.

    The men’s singles has only been won by one non-white player – Arthur Ashe in 1975.

    All facts and figures are correct as of June 2017, from the official Wimbledon website.

    To indulge your love of the game, why not take a look through our Sport Art collections and find your favourite Tennis themed artwork?