Wimbledon for Dummies

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Wimbledon for Dummies
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

 

School’s out, summer’s here, and the French Open’s won and done. In the tennis world that could only mean one thing: It’s time for Wimbledon.

 

If you’re wondering what the big deal is or if you know what the big deal is…but not really, this one’s for you. As with the French Open version of this article, you’ll learn some important stuff you need to know and a few silly things you might as well find out along the way. For all this and more organized by the five Ws, read on.  

 

WHAT

 

The oldest and most famous tennis tournament in the world–that’s what. Officially named 'The Championships', Wimbledon is one four huge tennis tournaments known as the Grand Slams. The others are the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open. Many tennis watchers consider Wimbledon the most important of the four, and many tennis players say it’s the one they’d most like to win.

 

More than a dozen events take place, but the most important are the men’s and women’s singles followed by the men’s and women’s doubles and the mixed doubles. The men’s and women’s singles include 128 players each. There are seven rounds—the first, second, third and fourth rounds followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

 

You could say there are two colors that make Wimbledon what it is.

 

The first color is green–for the surface. Wimbledon is the only one of the Grand Slam tournaments still played on grass tennis courts. Tennis on grass courts tends to be fast (it’s definitely faster than on clay courts, which are used for the French Open). Grass courts reward players who hit hard, serve big and volley often.

 

The second color is white—for the clothing. Forget Nike pink, Adidas yellow and Lacoste orange. At Wimbledon players must wear “predominantly white”. This isn’t just suggested—it’s enforced. Anna Kournikova was once asked to change when she was seen practicing in black shorts.

 

WHERE

Wimbledon takes place in—you guessed it—Wimbledon (at The All England Tennis and Croquet Club to be more specific). A suburb of London located less than 10 miles from the city’s center, Wimbledon is quaint, green and best known for this tournament. 

This year there’s major buzz around a certain new feature at the venue—the retractable roof over Centre Court. A roof may not sound sexy, but considering that rain delays have wreaked havoc on the tournament in the recent past, it’s a big deal. It was unveiled to much fanfare last month in a televised event that included exhibition matches played by tennis greats Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and others.

 

So you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to The All England Tennis and Croquet Club for strawberries and cream and a bit of tennis? Then join the club–the one the rest of us are in, that is—and catch the action on TV. In the US there will be a lot of tennis on NBC, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel. For the TV schedule and other information, go here.

 

WHEN

 

The tournament will be held from June 22 through July 5. Like the other Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon lasts two weeks.

 

The first three rounds of the men’s and women’s singles events take place in the first week, and the remaining rounds take place in the second week. The women’s singles final will be on Saturday, July 4, and the men’s final will be on Sunday, July 5 (the last day of the tournament).

 

WHO

 

Once again it’s all about Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters. Where this tournament’s concerned, they’re the fearsome foursome.

 

Last year Federer, currently No. 2, and Nadal, currently No. 1, met in the final and played what some call the best tennis match ever. That’s right…ever. Well-known tennis writer Jon Wertheim wrote a whole book about the match. (It’s named ‘Strokes of Genius’.)

 

Wimbledon was long considered Federer’s turf, so Nadal’s title win last year shook the tennis world. As did Federer’s title win at this year’s French Open, which is considered Nadal’s turf. Will the momentum from Federer’s first French Open propel him to take Wimbledon back? Will the disappointment of Nadal’s first French Open loss motivate him to win Wimbledon again? Enquiring minds want to know, and Wimbledon will tell them.

 

Where Nadal’s concerned perhaps the only question right now is whether he’ll even play. His team has hinted that knee issues may prevent him from defending his title. For Nadal fans and tennis lovers everywhere, Nadal’s absence would be downright tragic. (A healthy sense of perspective has never been their strong suit.)

 

A question mark still hovers over the top of women’s tennis, which has seen five players hold the No. 1 ranking since Justine Henin abruptly retired last year while still No. 1. Some say this shows a lot of depth, while others say it shows a lack of consistency.

 

Many hoped Dinara Safina, the current No. 1, would win the French Open, thus garnering her first Grand Slam title and legitimizing her ranking. It wasn’t to be: Safina blew past her opponents in every round but the final, where she had a meltdown in a loss to an in-form Svetlana Kuznetsova.

 

While it will be interesting to see how those two women fare at Wimbledon, the two everyone’s really watching have the same last name. Despite the number of Russians running rampant in the rankings, that name isn’t Somethingpova. It’s Williams–as in Venus and Serena.

 

More than 15 years after they started playing professionally, they continue to rule at the Grand Slams. And especially at Wimbledon, where a Williams sister has taken the title seven times in the past decade. When the women’s draw comes out this week, the first thing many will check is how early Venus, currently No. 3, and Serena, currently No. 2, could meet.

 

Last year it was in the final, and both made it all the way there to play their seventh Grand Slam final against each other. Venus won the battle, but Serena’s ahead in the Grand Slam war: She has 10 Grand Slam titles, while Venus has seven. Venus has won Wimbledon the last two years though. Can she three-peat?

 

The only woman not named Williams that many give any chance of winning Wimbledon is Maria Sharapova. She’s won it before but currently doesn’t have much match play under her fashionable belt. After getting shoulder surgery last year, she didn’t play a tournament for nearly a year. This will be only her fourth tournament this year. Yet she may have more grit than any woman but Serena, so you can’t count her out.

 

WHY

 

Why? The point of Wimbledon is to watch great tennis and answer some questions along the way. Here are a dozen questions (with a few possible answers thrown in):

 

  •  Can Federer take back the title?
  •  Will Nadal be healthy enough to play? (Hopefully so!)
  • Will players miss being booed by French crowds for no good reason? (Yeah, right.)
  • Will streakers just run naked or insist on stopping to dance (like last year)?
  • Will Venus three-peat?
  • Can Serena stop her?
  • Could the Williams sisters meet before the final? (Hopefully not.)
  • Will commentators talk less and let us actually watch some tennis? (Unlikely.)
  • How many dress code warnings will be doled out?
  • How far can Sharapova get? (Pretty far.)
  • How loud can Sharapova get? (Pretty loud.)
  • Which phrase will journalists use more—"strawberries and cream" or "retractable roof"?
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