The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is home to the longest-running tennis tournament in the world, The Championships, more commonly known as Wimbledon. Since the inaugural competition in 1877, players from all over the world have vied for the prestigious trophy in the gentlemen’s, ladies’ and doubles’ categories. The American contingent has been impressive through the years, with the Williams sisters dominating for more than a decade, Pete Sampras winning a record seven titles, and who can forget that notorious temper tantrum from a young New York upstart called John “You cannot be serious” McEnroe back in 1981?
The courts at London SW19 have seen it all. A wedding proposal, a Brit finally winning the men’s crown after 77 years, torrential rain delays and, of course, plenty of strawberries and cream: 28,000kg of berries and 7,000 litres of cream, to be exact.
Now, for its 130th edition, which runs from Monday June 27 to Sunday July 10, we take a look at the stars on show, where you can go to watch them, and even some Wimbledon facts to impress your friends with. Quiet please…
In his 14-year pro career, Djokovic has won just about everything going on the ATP circuit. The 29-year-old Serbian is the current Wimbledon champion and will no doubt want to add another trophy to his cabinet in 2016. The world No. 1 is a skilled, versatile and resilient player with such a strong mentality that, if he ever does go behind, he’ll invariably battle back to claim victory. Djokovic may be spurred on by the recent, albeit minor injuries to a few big players in the top ten, but he knows he’ll have to use all his famous mental focus to be crowned champion for a fourth time.
Clearly a standout year for Murray, 2013 saw the Scottish player win four singles titles including Wimbledon, the first British male to do so in 77 years. He amassed six titles in 2014 and 2015, with Rome being his only addition to the mantelpiece in 2016. The 29-year-old, who is only a week younger than Djokovic, will be wanting to win his second championship on home soil more than ever, especially if he is to stop the high-flying Serbian sealing a third consecutive title.
The Japanese star arrived on the pro scene in 2008 when he beat then world No. 12 James Blake to take the Delray Beach crown and become the first of his countrymen to claim an ATP title since 1992. In doing so at 18, he also became the youngest man to win a main tour crown since a 16-year-old Lleyton Hewitt won Adelaide. Nishikori is speedy and powerful and will no doubt want to cause an upset this year.
With his style, elegance and precision, Federer is just like a watch from his home country, and the Swiss star is arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen. The 34-year-old has seven Wimbledon titles under his belt (matching that of Pete Sampras) so he knows exactly what it takes to rule on centre court. But after a back strain at Roland Garros last month, this may not be win number eight. We hope we’re proved wrong.
Federer’s Swiss compatriot Wawrinka will be feeling pretty pumped after winning three competitions already this year. Now 31, Wawrinka’s most impressive career moment was defeating Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open, his first Grand Slam. Last year, he added to that slam tally by winning The French Open. Wawrinka is a hard-working player who has a habit of fighting his way to the final rounds of many major tournaments. However, the grass courts of Wimbledon aren’t his favoured surface to play on. In fact, it’s his worst. We think it’s going to take something supremely special for the Swiss man to be in the running for glory this time around.
Spaniard Nadal is the clay court master. But that hasn’t stopped the 29-year-old from winning on the Wimbledon grass twice. He defeated Federer in the 2008 final, considered one of the greatest matches of all time, and in doing so became the first man since Björn Borg in 1980 to win at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year. His explosive left hand and on-court aggression makes Nadal a hot player to handle. Is this his year? Well, with Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles in his locker in 2016, quite possibly. But after picking up a wrist injury at Roland Garros, it may be more of a battle than he’d first expected when he heads to SW19.
Serena Jameka Williams, if you don’t already know her by now, has been a force on court for more than 20 years. As her sister, Venus, slipped down the world rankings (albeit she is still at No. 11) Serena has dominated the game. She has not only claimed six singles and five doubles titles at Wimbledon, but also holds the record for the most aces in the ladies’ draw there. She has had a host of rivalries over the years and her perseverance has always seen her come out on top – she is the world No. 1 after all. Has Williams got the 2016 title in the bag? Not if Agnieszka Radwanska has anything to do with it.
With great height, comes a great serve. Standing 1.83m tall, Muguruza is an imposing figure and as anyone who has ever picked up a racket knows, receiving a fast serve from a steep angle is never much fun. The Venezuelan (who represents Spain) won hearts at the 2015 Wimbledon final during her 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Serena Williams. However, that loss will be little more than a distant memory after she stunned the American in straight sets to take the French Open title at the beginning of the month. And there is no doubt she, along with her throng of fans, will want to reach the final again.
The current world No. 2, Radwanska is a player of finesse and precision, a stark contrast to Serena Williams. She became the first Polish woman to break into the top ten when she did so in 2008 and has seen a steady flow of titles land on her lap – but not the plate of Wimbledon. The 27-year-old is a hard court specialist, so it will be interesting to see how she fares against those more attuned to grass.
Only a few points behind Radwanska in the WTA rankings, Kerber is no doubt brimming with confidence after winning her first Grand Slam, the Australian Open earlier this year. Kerber is a left-handed, baseline player who is ready for a rally with anyone. Equally adept on all surfaces, don’t be surprised if the 28-year-old German reaches the final.
If you’ve ever watched Victoria “Vika” Azarenka, you know she is aggressive and direct in style – and loud to go with it. Her shrieks with every shot mean she gives Maria Sharapova a run for her money in the screaming stakes. She’s had many battles with Serena Williams in semi-finals and finals over the past few years, tasting both victory and defeat a number of times. Her fiery temper is no doubt entertaining for the crowd, but it’s what makes this baseliner from Belarus so hard to predict.
Romanian star Halep has had a mixed bag so far in 2016, suffering injury and poor form before bagging the Mutua Madrid Open. She may only be 1.68m tall, but she packs plenty of punch in her forehand. The world No. 6’s standout year was 2013, when she took home six titles. Halep loves a baseline rally and you can expect plenty of those if she faces either Azarenka or Kerber. But does the 24-year-old have what it takes to go all the way at Wimbledon? We’re not so sure.
Did you know?
When prize money was first handed out in 1968 it totalled Dhs139,000. In 2015, more than Dhs142 million was up for grabs.
Wild cards are players whose world ranking is not high enough to qualify automatically for The Championships, but who are accepted into the main draw at the discretion of the Committee. The only wild card to ever take home the Men’s Singles title was Goran Ivaniševic in 2001. The tournament is still awaiting its first wild card winner in the Ladies’ section.
The present club colours of Wimbledon — dark green and purple — were introduced in 1909 after organisers noted the previous combination of blue, yellow, red and green was almost identical to the colours of the Royal Marines.
54,250 balls are used each tournament.
The tradition of the two singles winners having a dance at the Champions’ Dinner ceased in 1977, but was brought back by Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams in 2015. YouTube it, it’s just hilarious.
2,100kg of bananas were eaten by players during the two-week tournament last year.
The longest match in Wimbledon’s history, and that of the pro tour, saw American John Isner defeat France’s Nicolas Mahut in 2010, after 11 hours and five minutes.
The fastest serve of all time at Wimbledon was 148mph (238km/h), set by Taylor Dent in 2010. Venus Williams set the ladies’ record of 129mph (207km/h) two years earlier.
Don’t miss Where to watch
Reform social & grill
This family-friendly restaurant will be showing the Wimbledon finals while serving up British cream teas and strawberries. If you're not one for tradition, try the Reform burger, pie and chips or barbecue skewers.
July 9 and 10 only. The Lakes, Emirates Living (04 454 2638).
Never one to let a sporting event pass without notice, head to the hugely popular Souk Al Bahar crab shack to catch the action while tucking into buckets of shellfish, baskets of fish tacos and more fishy favourites.
Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 432 2300).
This “neighbourhood eatery” has been busily promoting its Euro 2016 coverage, but will also be serving up on-court action from the UK. Buddy up with the pulled beef brisket bun if you know what's good for you.
Pier 7, Dubai Marina (04 421 5669).
Jumeirah Beach Hotel's smart gastropub will have a screen dedicated to Wimbledon throughout this year's tournament. Try classic British grub from the menu for added authenticity.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Umm Suqeim (04 406 8720).