Wimbledon Centre Court roof

If you are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at Wimbledon, Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court is a must-read. Gorringe tells the story of his 26 years journey as All England Club chief executive. The book is full of anecdotes about legendary players (McEnroe, Sampras, Borg to name a few), but also describes in details the structure of the Club, the organization of the Championships, and Wimbledon’s Long Term Plan.
A few pages are of course dedicated to the Centre Court roof, which has been the real star of the 125th Championships so far.

Enjoy of few extracts of Holding Court:

“When we had first laid out the LTP (Long Term Plan) in the 90s, a retractable roof had been possible in as much as the technology was available, but what had not been proved to our satisfaction was that you could have a sliding roof that would work for grass court tennis. We had not seen a roof design that would: retain the grass at a quality that would withstand two weeks of play, and that would not make it sweat and be slippery; that would provide the right ambiance for the spectators; and that would allow grass to grow for the rest of the year.”

Australian Open roof vs Wimbledon roof

“We did not have all the answers, but certain members of the media and our committee wanted it as they had be to the Australian Open and seen the roof in action there.
However, the Australians had a different set of circumstances. When they moved from Kooyong’s private members’ club to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park), in order to finance the set-up, the main centre court had to be a stadium design, not just a tennis arena. They needed the stadium to be used for as many days a year as possible, for concerts or whatever, which meant adding a roof but saying goodbye to grass. Once grass is taken out of the equation, the addition of a roof becomes very much easier.
Theirs is infinitely heavier than ours, is not translucent in any way, and is presumably specially designed in order for it to work well for concerts or musical events: there is no escape of noise or light through their roof. As well as having the roof over the main stadium at Melbourne Park, they have also built an adjacent stadium – again another multi-purpose building with a roof on it.”

Wimbledon Centre Court roof

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I spent a few days in London for a bit of sightseeing and a bit of tennis at Queen’s, and I took the opportunity to visit Wimbledon.
Even though I’m French and discovered tennis through Roland Garros, my favorite tournament has always been (and will always be) Wimbledon. So for me it was a dream come true, I finally get to see this fantastic place. Next goal for me: obtain a ticket for The Championships, perhaps next year?

Some infos about Wimbledon guided tours:

How to book a tour?
Online or by calling +44 (0)20 8946 6131

How much does it cost?
The total cost of £20.00 includes entrance to the Museum and is payable upon arrival.

What does the tour include?
Centre Court, No.1 Court, Henman Hill, The Millennium Building and Press Interview Room
Total time for the tour and museum is usually around two and a half hours, including 90 minutes for the tour and an hour for the Museum.

Is it worth it?
Yes, yes and yes!
The guide was really passionate about the Championships and Wimbledon’s history, told lots of anecdotes and took time to answer all our questions. A must-do for any tennis fan!

The first thing you see when you enter the Stadium is the Fred Perry statue and the Centre Court:

Wimbledon

Wimbledon

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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.

With its Davis Cup team embarassing defeat against Lithuania in March, british tennis has reached a new low.
This loss – which costed captain John Lloyd his job – was Britain’s fifth in a row and they have now to face … Turkey(!) to avoid dropping into the lowest tier of the competition.

This Davis Cup disaster reflects how bad Britain is at tennis:

– Murray’s defeat at this year’s Oz Open final prolonged British Slam drought. Right after his semifinal win against Tsonga, Federer had joked that Britain had been searching for a male Grand Slam champion for about 150,000 years.
In fact it’s “only” 74 years: Fred Perry was the last to win a Slam in 1936 (he won Wimbledon and US Open that year).

Murray is actually the only british player in the top 100 (France and Spain have each 12 players in the top 100). But like Henman and Rusedski, he is not a product of british tennis structure, as he spent many years at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Spain.
Alex Bogdanovic, the second best ranked (number 166 as of June, 10 2010) could be seen as the poster child of british tennis failure: the 26 yr old has received a Wimbledon wild card eight years in a row, losing in the first round everytime.

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