Wimbledon Centre Court

1991 is the year Agassi made his comeback at Wimbledon after a 3 year boycott, the year another German (Michael Stich) won the Championships, but it’s also the year of the first Middle Sunday in Wimbledon history.
In his book Holding Court, Chris Gorringe then All England Club chief executive tells the story behind the first Middle Sunday, “the best and worst day of his life.”

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Rudyard Kipling‘s words are boldly displayed in the All England Clubhouse, there to inspire players as they wend their way from the dressing rooms down to Centre Court. As I stood staring up at them in 1991, during the wettest Wimbledon in history, they has a striking resonance. The weather conditions had just forced us into scheduling an extra day’s play for the Middle Sunday of The Championships – but right now we had no tickets, no security, no catering, no umpires, no groundstaff, and no precedent to follow. Whether triumph of disaster lay ahead – who knew?

The worst start to The Championships

“It had been an absolutely dreadful start to the tournament. We had no play on the first Monday, and intermittent rain throughout Tuesday. Wednesday was even worse with just 18 matches played, and by the end of Thursday, things were dire. For the players, it was a terrible ordeal. It took Stefan Edberg, the defending champion, 73 hours to finish the first round match:

Thank God it’s over. I haven’t even been able to eat a decent lunch for four days

And he was on of the lucky ones – at least he had made it onto court. We were almost a third of the way through the tournament and yet had completed only 52 out of 240 scheduled matches. It was no surprise then, to find myself, chairman John Curry, Michael Hann, chairman of the order of play sub-committee, referee Alan Mills and Richard Grier, Championships director, gathered together during yet another rain delay, looking at the feasibility of play on Sunday – something that had never been done before.”

On Friday evening the decision was made to play on Middle Sunday for first time in Wimbledon history.

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Wimbledon Trivia

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– Dark green and purple are the traditional Wimbledon colours, but from 2006 the officials, ball boys and girls were outfitted in new navy blue and cream uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren.

– “Middle Sunday” is traditionally a rest day. However, rain has forced play on Middle Sunday three times in Wimbledon history: 1991, 1997 and 2004. Each time, Wimbledon staged a “People’s Sunday”, with unreserved and inexpensive tickets. All about the first Middle Sunday in 1991.

Henman Hill is an area on the grounds of the All England Club officially known as Aorangi Terrace. People without showcourts tickets can watch tennis matches on a giant television screen at the side of number one court. During Tim Henman‘s playing days, the area was the focal point of Henmania, where British tennis fans would fanatically support Henman.

– Last British woman to win Wimbledon is Virginia Wade in 1977. All about Virginia Wade’s triumph.

– Last British man to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936, last runner-up was Bunny Austin in 1938.
A bronze statue of Fred Perry was erected at the All England Club in 1984 to mark the 50th anniversary of his first singles championship.

Fred Perry statue

– During World War II, a bomb ripped through Centre Court and 1200 seats were damaged. Play resumed in 1946 but it wasn’t until 1949 that the area was back into shape.

– The trophies are presented by the President of the All England Club, The Duke of Kent, and by his sister, Princess Alexandra.

– Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament to feature a Royal Box. The first Royal to visit Wimbledon was Crown Princess Stephanie of Austria in 1895. In 1926, Prince Albert, Duke of York (who later became King George VI and father of Queen Elizabeth II) entered the doubles event with his Royal Air Force tennis partner, Wing commander Louis Grieg.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has visited Wimbledon only twice, to see Virginia Wade triumph in 1977, and in 2010. In 2008, after his epic win against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal climbed up to the Royal Box, to greet Crown Prince Felipe and Crown Princess Felizia of Spain.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

– The quotation above the player’s entrance to Centre Court is an extract from the poem if by Rudyard Kipling:

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”

– Wimbledon will host the Olympic tennis events in 2012.