It's really, really old
Tennis (originally called
sphairistikè, although that didn't catch on) was invented around 1876 by the also amazingly named Major Walter Clopton Wingfield. By 1877, it was a popular enough game for the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, based in Wimbledon — an affluent area of southwest London — to hold their first tennis championship, beginning an annual event which has taken place ever since. These days the contest, known simply as Wimbledon, lasts for two weeks every year and kicks off at the end of June.
Mickey Rourke and Carré Otis in Wild Orchid , 1989
And there are prizes to be won
There are 15 competitions every year at Wimbledon — including junior contests, doubles and seniors' games — but the culmination of the two-week-long event are the men's and women's singles, held on the last Saturday and Sunday of the contest (weather permitting — remember, it
is England). When Andy Murray won the men's singles championship last year, he was the first British male to do so since Fred Perry in 1936 (yes, he was a real person! And yes, he was the one who founded the fashion label). Alongside the glory and general adulation, Murray also pocketed over $2 million in prize money.
Marilyn Monroe in front of the Plaza Hotel, New York, 1958
There are some strict rules about fashion
The dress code for players at Wimbledon is pretty strict. It's been "almost entirely white" since 1995, with absolutely no neon or dark colors (bad for tennis pros with an inclination towards cyber goth), although some pastels are allowed (excellent news for the Spring '14 contest). Plus — get this — each player's clothing must be submitted to the Club for approval earlier in the year. Yeesh.
Debbie Harry on stage with Blondie, 1978
The food and drink are kind of a big deal
Eating at Wimbledon is
totally A Thing. In 2013, 28,000 kg of English strawberries were wolfed down with 7,000 liters of cream by the spectators, along with 300,000 cups of tea and coffee and 25,000 bottles of champagne. And 15,000 bananas and 6,000 stone baked pizzas. Basically, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all about the food.
Jane Birkin, arriving at the Artists Union's Gala with Serge Gainsbourg, Paris, 1969
Most people watch it on TV
On the BBC, where it's broadcast internationally to around 378.8 million people across 198 countries, all of whom can watch the action and listen to the grunting of the players.
Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman , 1956
But you might still be able to get a ticket
Although most tickets sell out approximately seven years* before the competition starts, there are ways to hack the system and get into the event. Around 1,000 day tickets are made available every morning, although getting one of these involves an early start (:/). More popular is getting a grounds ticket, which costs less than $20 (!), gives you access to courts 3-19 and means you can chug champagne and strawberries on the prestigious Murray Mount while watching the big screen. #win
*OK maybe not seven years, but there is a ballot. Find out how to get tickets
Jean Shrimpton at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, 1965
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