We’re currently into the first of the three weeks of the two week spectacle that is the Wimbledon tennis tournament. I don’t know about you because you’re a faceless and possibly pantsless stranger separated from me by thousands of miles (God-willing) but personally I find all tennis to be incomprehensibly tedious at just below the level of Formula 1 racing practised by people with personalities just below the level of Formula 1 racing car exhaust pipes.
Maybe you like tennis. Maybe you like Wimbledon. Maybe you’d like to know everything there is to know about the tennis tournament and inherently trust anyone with a website and the sheer audacity to end sentences with the phrase "Martina Navratilova’s luscious buttocks".
In that case, because I am a Nice Guy™ with a certificate from the Nice Guy Institute in Yemen available for viewing without an appointment, I’ve taken it upon myself to enlighten, divulge, and one other verb that means roughly the same thing as "enlighten" and "divulge" the traditions of Wimbledon and highlight what sets it apart from other tennis tournaments around the world.
Strawberries And Cream
You can’t visit Wimbledon without purchasing a punnet of strawberries and cream. You can try but there are cameras everywhere. A typical punnet containing six strawberries costs only £625.99. Bargain.
The first strawberries were served in 1953 when the Queen issued a decree stating that anyone who didn’t buy any when watching tennis would lose their kneecaps. The organisers of Wimbledon searched the local markets for strawberries but to no avail as all the traders were in hospital with various leg-related injuries. As luck would have it a central London-based company came to the rescue in the nick of time. The price was a little steep but a long-term contract to supply strawberries with Majesty Fruit was entered into and stands to this day.
Cream was added to the traditional fare in 1970 when concerns were raised that strawberries on their own might cause heart and weight problems.
Despite its name Henmania has nothing to do with a sudden fevered obsession with poultry. That’s called zoophilia.
Henmania started a few years ago when a young tennis player by the name of Tim Henman and with the physical appearance of Tim Henman started winning tennis games against better opponents. And worse ones too! What was the big deal? Well, he was only bloody English wasn’t he! The almost-unheard-of-in-the-modern-era event of a semi-successful Englishman in any sport whatsoever was enough to cause hordes of lonely housewives, teenage girls, a few teenage boys, and sporting journalists to place one hand in the general areas of their genitalia with excitement. Oh, they’d never admit to it, but they did it.
Wherever Henman goes the crowds follow, cheering, whooping, waving, and singing. The result of all this dreadfully American behaviour is that the poor guy’s a nervous wreck, not knowing when screams of "Henman! Henman! Tim! I love you Tim! Tim!" might interrupt a morning’s bowel movement. This may have affected his ability to win anything.
Wimbledon takes place during the Summer in England. Theoretically, this means that there is a high likelihood that the event will be blessed by sunshine and clear blue skies. And yet it never turns out that way.
Everyone likes a good theory. Try this one: the Wimbledon Championship Committee have access to a weather machine and they make it rain … on purpose!
Let’s examine the evidence. Which is the most talked-about of the Grand Slam tournaments? Wimbledon. "Why don’t they put a roof on?" "When will they cover up the courts?" "£625.99 for a punnet of strawberries and cream drenched in rain!" "I can’t hear the grunting over the sound of the thunder." "I just love to kneecap when there’s a light drizzle." Those are just some of the many weather-related comments you’ll hear every eight seconds at Wimbledon. Without inclement weather Wimbledon would be merely as popular as Baseball to a European.
And then there’s Sir Cliff Richard. Chart hits in every decade since 1820 but the man can’t get a gig to save his long life now thanks to the proliferation of common sense. In fact the only time he performs is … when it rains at Wimbledon. Weird. Would it surprise you to learn that Sir Cliff is a leading member of the Wimbledon Championship Committee? It would surprise me as I’ve not checked out whether that’s true or just one of those thoughts that pop into my head.
Yes, everything points to a weather machine. Those tennis-organising fiends.
No, I’m not talking about the hemp or the weed or the wacky baccy or the dope you crazy drug-obsessed person. You can get all those from just outside the courts but that’s irrelevant. I’m talking about the playing surface at Wimbledon: it’s grass.
So what? That’s a good point, but I only mention it because the other Grand Slam tournaments play their flavour of tennis on different surfaces altogether:
- the U.S. Open takes place on a hard surface; which particular hard surface isn’t clear but it’s probably granite because that’s really hard and the Americans don’t do anything by half,
- the French Open takes place on clay because they are artistic and like to mould scupltures during breaks in games; also, clay is cheap and does not require any care to keep it looking like clay which is handy as the people who would be responsible for such a job would most likely be on strike in support of the French truckers, farmers, air traffic controllers, onion-sellers, mime-artists, waiters, foreign legionnaires or whoever’s turn it is not to work in any particular week,
- the Australian Open takes place in a pit of Huntsman spiders with Taipans thrown at the players from the crowd when points are lost because they’re just so damned hard down there. Wait, that makes it sound like they’ve got erections. I mean they’re all rough in the Southern Hemisphere. Wait, that makes it sound like antipodean women don’t shave below their chest hair. Oh screw it, you know what I mean.
Wimbledon takes place on grass because grass is abundant in England’s green and pleasant land. Because grass gets slippery when wet and because it’s always wet Wimbledon is a favourite venue for big tennis stars about to suffer shock defeats as they are able to convincingly skid over and "hurt" their ankles.
Ballboys And Ballgirls
It’s probably politically incorrect to call them ballboys and ballgirls and they’re probably supposed to be called "ballpersons" or "little assistant umpires." Nevertheless, ballyouths are an integral part of Wimbledon and probably more traditional than the line monitor going beep in the middle of a game for no reason. Yes, more traditional than that.
Just after World War 2 ballkids were shipped in from Dr Barnardo’s, a home for orphans. A bit like the one Annie came from only English orphans weren’t permitted to have ginger hair and freckles. The need for a cheap force of labour capable of retrieving balls, rolling balls, and occasionally getting hit by balls came out of the deaths of the previous holders of the post, Montgomery’s 8th Army, all of whom had been killed in the last few months of 1945 playing a celebratory game of tennis with what turned out to be grenades painted yellow by the ghost of Rommel.
Though the ballchildren were good at their job there arose some level of disgruntlement from the public as none of the little tearaways had to pay to watch the matches nor were they ever threatened with knee-related bodily harm for failing to purchase strawberries and cream. A compromise was finally reached in 1974 whereby all the ballgits were forced to wear purple and green clothing with extra small shorts for the boys. This level of embarrassment appeased the spectators and headed off major riots at Wimbledon until 1990 when Pete Sampras was mistaken for Konga.
All that and I only ended one sentence with "Martina Navratilova’s luscious buttocks." Oh wait, two!