Behind the scenes of tennis’ holy grail: The Wimbledon Championships
‘Why is Wimbledon considered to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of tennis? Why does it stand out when compared to other Grand Slams?’ These are the questions you must be reflecting on, aren’t they? Tune into Star Sports to understand the reasons why Wimbledon is not only unique but a spectacle in itself!
The shortest tennis season of the year is also the most anticipated one as it involves the most prestigious Grand Slam of the year, Wimbledon. The oldest tennis tournament in the world, it has long been regarded as the most prestigious as well.
Players and fans love the tournament for mostly the same reasons, as it provides the ultimate experience in terms of enjoying pure, unadulterated tennis. A tournament steeped in tradition, The Championships, as it is also known, has always attracted athletes and fans because of its unique charm and practices.
No other Grand Slam is played on grass, and Wimbledon remains the only one to persist with the green stuff as the organisers have embraced its uniqueness, improving the facilities and making the experience for players and fans a memorable one.
What stands out is its all-white dress code, as players are expected to wear clothing that is only white, with very small exceptions made for the brand logo of the outfitter.
In what was a well-documented case of a player trying his best to get the rule changed, tennis legend Andre Agassi boycotted the tournament for four years from 1987 to 1991 because of this rule, before eventually returning and winning in 1992.
He eventually said, "Wimbledon is a place where I learnt to wear white, where I learnt to bow. It's a place where I learnt to accept and have come to appreciate [the tradition]."
Another very unique tradition of Wimbledon is that the most common stand food available is strawberries and cream, which is said to signify the onset of summer. It is estimated that every year, 28,000 kgs of strawberries are consumed, along with 7,000 litres of cream.
One of the tournament's other well-known tradition are the courts themselves, with specific focus on Centre Court. The Centre Court, around which the entire complex is now designed, has always featured the best matches, and is probably the most iconic arena in tennis – rivalled probably only by the Arthur Ashe stadium at Flushing Meadows in the US Open.
Seating around 15,000 people, Centre Court has come a long way from being the arena that was partially destroyed by World War II. Redeveloped for the modern era, the complex now has a retractable roof that allows matches to be completed without any interruptions, and is viewed with great reverence by players.
The Royal Family of Britain are the patrons of Wimbledon and are generally in attendance during the tournament's closing stages. The players are required to curtsey if either the Prince of Wales or the Queen of Britain are at the match, before they can walk off the court – a tradition unique only to Wimbledon.
Another factor that stands out from all other Grand Slams, and in general most tennis tournaments, is the absence of sponsorship around the courts. A step that keeps the focus purely on the sport in a very commercialised modern world, this is a stance appreciated by fans and players alike.
A big reason for the tournament's increased credibility was the organisers’ decision to award equal prize money to the winners of the Men's and Women's titles in 2007, making Wimbledon the first Grand Slam to take that bold and important step.
Apart from all these traditions and popular steps taken that have helped the tournament remain the most watched and respected on the tennis calendar, it is the fact that most of the sport's greatest ever players have dominated the hallowed grass of Wimbledon that is the tournament's crowning glory.
Decade after decade, the best players in the world have written their names in the annals of the tournament's glorious history. Some of the greatest players ever who have been exceptional at Wimbledon include Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras in the past.
Among the currently playing stars, possibly the greatest male tennis player ever, Roger Federer, needs one more tournament win to become the man with most Wimbledon singles titles. Among the women, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have 12 titles between them, as they aim to catch up with Navratilova, who won an incredible nine singles titles at The Championships.
The success of some of the greatest gentlemen and ladies (the unique way in which players are grouped at the tournament) adds to the aura of Wimbledon, and makes it the holy grail of tennis. This was best explained by German legend and three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, who once said, "Wimbledon is obviously the most important tournament of all of them and once you become champion your life changes forever. It's a very special tournament."
Watch the Wimbledon Finals on 15th July (Ladies Final) and 16th July (Gentlemen’s Final) on Star Sports.