by Roger Childs
Inside the grounds, it’s heaven: you’re hit by the sophisticated, well-groomed Britishness that the All England Club does so well. –Veteran Wimbledon watcher, Pippa Middleton
The most prestigious of the grand slams
It may lack the flamboyance of Roland Garros, however Wimbledon has its unique English character, rituals and prestige. In the words of coach, Dan Bloxham, it reminds everyone of the heritage of the game. Players regard it as the top grand slam and the competition is always fierce. But don’t you dare wear any colour other than white and that includes everything you’ve got on!
The 2019 gentlemen’s final was one of the best ever, but covid-19 put paid to the scheduled 2020 tournament — with Novak Djokovic outlasting Roger Federer in five sets. He freely admitted that on the day the Swiss maestro was the better player, however the Serb hung in and survived two match points to take the longest Wimbledon final in history 7-6,1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12. In contrast the ladies final saw Simona Halep easily beat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3. Sadly the Romanian has had to pull out of this year’s tournament because of injury.
The strange and wonderful world of Wimbledon
Wimbledon is the oldest of the four tennis grand slams. The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club held its first tournament in 1877 and prior to World War One, New Zealand’s greatest tennis player, Anthony Wilding, won the gentlemen’s singles title four times.
It is the only grand slam to be played on grass and inevitably the surface deteriorates as the tournament progresses. The first centre court match this year between defending champion Novak Djokovic and Jack Draper was played on a beautifully groomed, blemish-free lawn. However, in fourteen days’ time, the finalists will have to contend with worn and dusty baselines which will cause them on occasions to slip and slide.
Tradition is a key part of the Wimbledon fortnight. In the seats at one end, fashionable dresses and suits, collars and ties are de rigeur for the rich and famous who attend and strawberries and ice cream is the favoured lunch time snack (in 2017 a remarkable 27,887kg of Kentish strawberries were consumed.) The Ralph Lauren fashion house dresses the ball girls and boys in conservative navy blue and the umpires and line officials to provide the right Wimbledon look. As a spectator you can get the Ultimate Wimbledon Fan Pack which includes towels, caps, tennis balls, umbrella, water-bottle, shopper bag and official history
The two individual competitions are quaintly referred to as the ladies’ and gentlemen’s singles. If royalty is present, women finalists curtsey before starting their pre-match hit up.
Cv-19 has meant that the crowds are limited to 50% capacity until the finals which will lessen the pressure on the strawberry fields of south-east England.
Who’s competitive in the ladies’ singles?
Australian Ashleigh Barty is seeded number one, however she will have plenty of competition from eastern Europeans, Aryna Sabalena, Elina Svitlolina, Iga Swiatek, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova.
However, in women grand slams seeding don’t mean a lot. In the recent Roland Garros tournament none of the top 17 seed made it the semi-finals. As it happens neither of the two finalists from the Paris are ranked in top ten at Wimbledon this year. Expect to see women’s seeds drop like flies in the first four rounds.
Serena Williams is seeking her 24th grand slam to equal the record of Australia’s Margaret Court, but the experts feel she is unlikely to do it at Wimbledon this year. At 40 she is probably too old and too heavy to match the speed and skill of the many talented players in the draw, some of whom are half her age.
Tough competition amongst the men
The French Open finalists, Stephanos Tstisipas and Novak Djokovic will be in the mix as the Wimbledon finals approach. As world number one Djokovic has to be the favourite, having won his 19th grand slam in Paris. If he pulls off the 2021Wimbledon title the Serb will equal the record held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Sadly the Spaniard is not playing in this year’s tournament.
Although seven times winner Roger Federer is very much at home on grass, his lack of match play this year makes him unlikely to be a threat to the top seeds. However, the crowds will still enjoy watching him play and local hero Andy Murray.
As well as Djokovic and Tsitsipas, players likely to make the quarter finals include Danill Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Mateo Berrittini. The men’s seeds are always more predictable than the women.
One thing is certain over the next two weeks – Wimbledon will live up to expectations with plenty of exciting, top quality matches and numerous upsets.