Martina Navratilova described playing on its courts as “like coming home”. Steffi Graff said it was the tournament she has always loved. Boris Becker called it the “most important tournament of them all”.
Wimbledon is seen as tennis’ most prestigious grand slam, and the tournament elite players say they most want to win. Held in the London borough of Wimbledon since 1877, it’s a staple event in the British summer calendar.
If you’ve been lucky enough to get tickets, you’ll want to make sure you look the part and don’t make a dreaded faux pas. And even if you haven’t got tickets, we’ve got some advice for you too.
Let us be your guide…
How to behave during the match
You won’t be allowed to leave or take your seats once play has started – so don’t be late or you could miss a nail-biting centre court rally.
It’s fine to show support by clapping and cheering for your favourite between shots, but remember to have respect for the players and don’t go overboard.
Players need absolute silence during a game, so no off-putting shouting just before they serve or during a rally and certainly no mobile phones going off during play. Similarly, turn off the flash on your camera so it doesn’t distract the players at a crucial point in the match.
And while rivalries between players can make a game more interesting, it’s bad form to jeer at Wimbledon, which prides itself on its tradition of good sportsmanship. Never cheer at a double fault or a net point, however pleased you might feel inside.
Wimbledon has loosened its buttons in recent years: players only need to bow if Prince Charles or the Queen are in the Royal Box.
And the practice of doing a Mexican wave has nestled its way into part of the tournament’s culture. Don’t be afraid to join in if one starts coming towards you – even Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge took part last year, good sports that they are, and Pippa Middleton gave it her blessing in her recent Vanity Fair column.
What to wear
The players have to abide by strict rules when it comes to their attire (they even have to submit their chosen outfit for approval ahead of the tournament). Flashes of red, black and pink might be allowed at other tournaments, but not Wimbledon. Everything must be in a shade of gleaming tennis white.
And while the rules are less structured for the spectators, the All England Club (who organise Wimbledon) issued a dress code for spectators for the first time last year because they were getting so concerned that most people weren’t hitting the right sartorial note. Their exact words were: “No riff-raff please, we’re Wimbledon”.
To make sure you don’t get refused entry, avoid:
• flip flops
• bare midriffs, strapless tops or overly short skirts
It’s a great chance to dress up and parade your smartest summer clothes. Men should don a good linen suit with polished shoes while ladies can’t go wrong with a well-cut cotton dress with a light jacket and a great blow dry.
There are also certain unwritten rules you should be aware of: Wimbledon is probably one of the few events where you shouldn’t wear an extravagant hat – it might obscure the view of someone behind you.
While it’s usually very warm during the day, it could cool down later on in the evening, especially if you’re sitting down for long periods. Some matches can go on for hours, like the epic match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut which lasted over 11 hours over the course of three days.
What to do if it rains
Wimbledon wouldn’t be Wimbledon without a bit of rain. You’ll be fine on centre court where they’ve installed a retractable roof to make sure play carries on, but you won’t be as lucky on other courts.
We suggest that instead of complaining or fleeing at the slightest sign of a raindrop, you should embrace the British “keep calm and carry on” mentality and persevere on. Or reference the year Cliff Richard famously got the crowd to sing along to Summer Holiday to pass the time. You may want to bring a waterproof jacket and an umbrella too.
Eating and drinking
Wimbledon has become synonymous with that classic pairing of strawberries and cream, so go ahead and indulge in a bowl.
The tradition dates back to 1884 and every year spectators gorge on roughly 28,000 kilos of strawberries which swim in more than 7,000 litres of fresh double cream. The Grade 1 Kent strawberries are picked the day before they’re shipped to Wimbledon where the important job of hulling and inspecting them begins at 5.30am sharp.
And the strawberries should taste better than ever: the prolonged winter has made this year’s crop sweeter, bigger and juicier than usual.
All those strawberries are typically washed down with a glass of chilled Champagne by Lanson, who have been Wimbledon’s official supplier for 25 years. To celebrate, they’re introducing a new strawberry Champagne cocktail called Lanson Fraise this year.
But don’t expect to be eating and drinking your way through a match and don’t bother bringing a picnic to the court: strawberries and champagne are only served in the clubhouse.
Queuing for tickets
The British have turned queuing into an art form. Throngs of people form an orderly queue every day in the hope of picking up one of the 500 tickets which go on sale every day. Don’t stand out like a sore thumb by trying to jump the queue or complaining. Instead, embrace the friendly spirit and bring a picnic to make a day of it.
If you don’t get tickets, there’s always a wonderful atmosphere on Henman Hill where you can watch all the action on the big screen. And the added benefit is that you can eat during play, so why not try making our special Wimbledon tennis ball truffles flavoured with strawberries for sustenance?
Do you enjoy Wimbledon’s age-old traditions? Who’s your favourite to win?