As Wimbledon 2012 kicks off, most people would agree that the storylines are quite predictable. We know that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer will probably win. We know that the women’s draw will be won by Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova,, or some other Russian woman with a clunky name that cannot be pronounced, and we know that nobody truly cares about doubles. But, how much do you really know about Wimbledon?
From June 25 to July 8, fans from across the globe will be watching as tennis’ top stars square off at the All-England Club, the setting for the most proper and prim Grand Slam tournament. However, besides the tennis whites, grass courts, and restrained spectators, what defines Wimbledon? Here are 4 quirky facts you might not have known about this celebrated tournament.
1) Rufus the Hawk
At any of the three other grand slam tournaments, “hawk-eye” only refers to the replay mechanism that has been installed to ensure accurate line calls and a player’s ability to challenge shots called in or out.
At Wimbledon, however, it can also refer to Rufus, a 3-year old hawk whose job it is to keep away any flying intruders from distracting gameplay or nesting, namely pigeons. Three days a week during the tournament and once weekly throughout the rest of the year, Rufus and his trainer Wayne Davis survey the grounds of the All-England Club. Rufus’s impressive résumé includes performing the same duties on Westminster Abbey and other buildings in London.
2) Strawberries and Cream
This delicious, dynamic duo has been featured at the All-England Club ever since the tournament’s inception in 1884. Though dating back all the way to the 1500s in England, this combination still proves to very popular. In 2011, over the two-week tournament, spectators consumed over 60,000 pounds of strawberries and approximately 1,850 gallons of double cream.
Most tennis fans who have been to the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, can attest to the fact that getting into the major courts is often a struggle due to a lack of organization; it is basically a free-for-all. In addition, ruthless American fans will use any tactic to get an advantage over others vying to get tickets and grounds passes for the next day.
At Wimbledon, however, there is no alternative to queuing. In fact, the All-England Club has an entire 15 rule “Code of Conduct” for The Queue, which they take very seriously. Here are some examples of the stern rulebook:
“QUEUE JUMPING IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED” “You may not reserve a place in The Queue for somebody else, other than in their short term absence (e.g. toilet break, purchase of refreshments, etc.)” “Overnight queuers should use tents which accommodate a maximum of two persons”
4) Prize Money
This year, there will be a total of £16.1 ($25) million in prize money, a 2.4% increase since last year. Although the champions of the gentlemen and ladies will win a record £1.15 ($1.78) million each, most of this increase will go to players who do not fare as well.
Interestingly, however, this equality between men and women did not always exist. Up until 2007, the purse for women was significantly lower than that of men. For example, Federer, 2006 Wimbledon champion, took home £655,000 ($1.01 million) whereas his female counterpart, Amelie Mauresmo, earned £625,000 ($969,000); the total purse for men’s events added up to £5.2 ($8.06) million whereas that of women was approximately ¾ of a million pounds less at £4.4 ($6.2) million. Many female players, namely Venus Williams, protested the inequality and prompted Wimbledon to even out the purses.
So, where do you watch the matches? Tune into ESPN2 on your TV or ESPN3 on your computer for full coverage.