15 things you probably didn’t know about Wimbledon

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire
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As Wimbledon gets to the final sprint with Andy Murray into the last-16 against Frenchman Benoit Paire, find out things you didn’t know about the tournament.

READ MORE: Five key questions ahead of Andy Murray’s fourth round tie

It’s the only Grand Slam on grass (which is 8mm long)

Of the four Grand Slam tennis events held each year, Wimbledon is the only one to be played on grass courts. The grass is tended to throughout the year, and is trimmed to precisely 8mm during the event itself. The Australian Open and the US Open are played on hard courts, while the French Open sees players do battle on clay surfaces.

The dress code is taken very seriously

The rules of the Wimbledon Championships state that all players must be dressed almost entirely in white. Umpires are allowed to ask a player to change their clothes if they don’t comply with the dress code. Andre Agassi, the eight-time Grand Slam winner, refused to play at Wimbledon for a time because of the strict dress code and the ‘stuffy’ atmosphere. In 2013, Roger Federer was told to change his shoes for the next match because they had orange soles.

54,250 balls – which are refrigerated between matches

During the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, 54,250 tennis balls are used. The balls are replaced every seven, eight or nine games. When they are not being used for a match, the balls are refrigerated. Wimbledon previously used white tennis balls, but these were replaced by yellow ones because these showed up better on television.

The longest match lasted more than 11 hours

In 2010, the longest match ever played at Wimbledon took place, between the American John Isner and the Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. Mahut was defeated by Isner during the match, which lasted 11 hours and five minutes. Because of its marathon duration, Isner and Mahut had to play the match over the course of three days.

Maria Sharapova: the loudest grunter

Everyone knows that some tennis players make a loud grunt when they smack the ball back at their opponent. But Maria Sharapova of Russia can claim to have the loudest grunt in Wimbledon history, recorded in 2009. The noise reached approximately 105 decibels – about the same level as an accelerating motorcycle.

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Wimbledon in wartime

During the Second World War, a bomb destroyed a huge portion of Wimbledon’s centre court, including 1,200 seats. Luckily, the court was empty at the time. In 1946, the court hosted tennis championships once again, but it wasn’t restored to its former glory until 1949.

Players didn’t always wear shorts

Shorts were not always the recommended gear for tennis. In the 1920s, no-one wore shorts to play tennis. In 1930, Brame Hillyard became the first man to play tennis at Wimbledon wearing shorts – even if this was on the less prestigious court ten. Shorts would not make their appearance on centre court until 1933, when Bunny Austin wore them for his matches.

Tim Henman was disqualified

The first person to be disqualified from the men’s doubles tournament was Tim Henman. In 1995, he hit a ball in a fit of anger, and it struck a ball girl. A rare moment of bad behaviour in his mild-mannered career. Henman apologised profusely, and later gave the girl some flowers. But he was still disqualified along with his partner Jeremy Bates. In the singles, it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that John McEnroe was also disqualified, for three code violations in 1990.

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The French origins of tennis

The word ‘tennis’ may have its origins in French. It is thought that the word derives from the French verb ‘tenez’, meaning ‘take’ or ‘receive’. This is what players serving shouted to warn their opponent that the ball was coming their way.

Watching like a hawk

Wimbledon’s security team has a very special staff member – Rufus the hawk. Not to be confused with the Hawk-Eye computer system, Rufus flies over the courts for one hour at 9am each morning during the championships. This is to ensure that pigeons are scared away from the courts.

The towels are made in India

Despite being a symbol of Britishness, the famous purple and green Wimbledon towels are actually made in India. The towels are made by Welspun and used by the players during their matches, or draped across their chairs.

The youngest winners

In 1996, Swiss player Martina Hingis became the youngest ever winner in Wimbledon history. She won the women’s doubles title, aged 15 years and 282 days old. Before the the end of 1997, she became the top-ranked singles and doubles player in the world. Previously, the youngest player had been Lottie Dod, an English player who was only a week older than Hingis when she won the Ladies’ Singles Championship in 1887. Dod went on to win the title four more times, and still remains the youngest singles champion, as Martina’s record was in the doubles tournament.

The Royal Box protocol

The Royal Box can be found in the centre court, and is where the Queen and other members of the royal family sit to watch Wimbledon tennis matches. Players originally had to curtsy to the Royal Box, even when no royals were present. Since 2003, this rule no longer applies, unless the Queen or the Prince of Wales is in attendance. The 74-seat space is the most exclusive at the All England Club, and celebrities spotted there in recent years have included Bradley Cooper, Anna Wintour, Benedict Cumberbatch and of course Sir Cliff Richard.

The mystery of the pineapple

The men’s singles trophy stands 18-and-a-half inches high and has a diameter of 7-and-a-half inches – and one of its quirky features is the carving of a pineapple on top. No-one really knows what significance the pineapple on the 1887 trophy has, although one theory is that it’s related to the tradition of British navy captains putting a pineapple atop their gateposts on returning home from sea.

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