I’ve already brought you insights on one great British sporting event, the FA Cup, and today I’m moving on to analysis of balls of a different kind…..
Late June and early July in Britain can mean only one thing: Wimbledon! For two weeks everyone in the country goes tennis mad, and phrases such as “Game Set and Match” and “New Balls Please” can be heard on television screens all over the nation.
Wimbledon is the oldest of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, dating back to 1877, and tradition is hugely important there. It has a strictly “whites only” dress code, members of the Royal Family are often present in the Royal Box on Centre Court, and it’s also very difficult to get tickets, so there are always incredibly long queues to get in. Once inside, it’s traditional to eat strawberries and cream. Delicious!
Great champions – a fact filled review
Obviously, the tennis itself is pretty important. There have been so many classic matches at Wimbledon down the years and great rivalries. Can you remember any of these encounters? On the men’s side we’ve had Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. In the ladies’ singles, Martina Navratilova did battle first with Chris Evert, then Steffi Graf. After that came current World Number One, Serena Williams, whose biggest rival at Wimbledon was actually her sister Venus. Twelve months ago, Serbia’s Novak Djoković won the Men’s Singles, and Czech Petra Kvitova was the ladies’ champion. It’ll be interesting to see who wins this year’s clash of the titans.
What about the Brits? The bleak years.
For decades, British tennis was a bit of a joke. Although home players dominated the tournament in its early years, Fred Perry’s victory in 1936 was to be the last one of the 20th century in the men’s singles. Another great tradition was the glorious, or not so glorious, failure of the British players, male and female, to win many matches. Many players could not even qualify without being given a wild card beforehand!
Brits – starting to volley with pride.
In the late 1990s, a young man called Tim Henman arrived on the scene, and immediately captured the hearts of the Wimbledon public. Born in Oxford, he was the best British male player for generations. Sadly, Henman never reached the Wimbledon final. Would Britain ever have a men’s champion again?
As Henman headed towards retirement, another young British talent emerged: Andy Murray. Born in Scotland, he first competed at Wimbledon in 2005, and made the semi-finals four years later. For three years in a row, he exited at that stage, before finally making the final in 2012, losing to Roger Federer. How much longer could we wait?
A year later, Murray had won his maiden Grand Slam title, the US Open, and Olympic gold (back at Wimbledon). Fresh from this success, he triumphed at Wimbledon, beating Djoković. Finally he’d done it, and we Brits would no longer have to talk about Fred Perry!
Tune in to tennis
Everyone’s eyes in the UK will be glued to their screens to see if Andy can be the hero again this year. Why don’t you grab a punnet of strawberries, your best sun hat (umbrellas may also be needed!), and join us cheering on your favourite Wimbledon tennis stars.
Game set and match: the announcement of the winner at the end of the match.
New balls please: after every nine games (7 at the start) the tennis balls used are replaced by a new set.
Grand Slam tournaments: Australian Open (Jan-Feb) French Open (May-June) Wimbledon (June-July) and the US Open (Aug-Sept)
Clash of the titans: to engage in a conflict or battle
Wild card: special entry given to players whose ranking is too low for them to qualify