Tennis’s ultimate Grand Slam kicks off on Monday – who’s your money on?

By Katie Garner

The recent wet and windy weather can only symbolise one thing –the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world is beginning on Monday, with superstars such as Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal leaving the suntan lotion at home to head to unpredictable London, for an intense two weeks of smash happy tennis.

Wimbledon is incredibly alluring for many tennis players, and I feel that this is because of its pure uniqueness, compared to the other four Grand Slam tournaments (the Australian Open, French Open and the US Open).  For starters, it is the only one that is named after an exact location, instead of the home country followed by ‘Open’. Wimbledon is played at the The All England Club, which first hosted the championships in 1877, and was first founded in 1868 – now there’s some history for you.  Wimbledon is also the only major tournament that is still played on classic grass – the others are all played on the hard surface of clay. Clay creates a very different playing experience, with the shots travelling slower, yet bouncing further than on the speedy surface of natural green. Granted, grass is less hardwearing, with the final often played on yellowing and soon to be retired balding grass along the baseline, but one essential skill of a champion is the ability to adapt, therefore the grass courts provide an interesting test for this.

Wimbledon is also the only major to have a strict dress code for the players, insisting that they wear all white. I don’t know why but I often prefer the simple white ensembles to the garish neons that often litter the other Grand Slams. Clear, clean and crisp the all-white dress code has an air of professionalism and respect which is so very typically British. The women’s always provide more of a fashion debate, and I personally always find it fascinating what some women opt to play in. Large hooped earrings? Seriously? Tucking the ball in your knickers? Wouldn’t that get on your nerves?  On the other hand, I do also get outfit envy. I love some of the skirts and dresses that the female players wear, wishing that maybe it wouldn’t look so odd if I turned up in tennis whites for club night! Perhaps one year, I’ll actually get the confidence to buy one, although I may look slightly bizarre pairing it with my fantastically loud purple trainers!

Unfortunately, another thing that makes Wimbledon stand out is the weather, or namely, the lack of decent weather. Being still a predominantly outdoor tournament (despite the retractable roof over centre court), rain only means one thing – delays and lack of play. Very bad luck if you only have tickets for that one day. I fully admire the dedication of those people who refuse to move from their seats for fear of missing a single moment, instead huddling under rain coats and umbrellas in true English solidarity. In most countries in this hemisphere, June and July are apparently summer…

The All England Club won’t be packing away the strawberries straight after the awards ceremony this year, as it is also the venue for the Olympic Games , hosting the tennis. Hopefully this will mean more opportunities to catch the games, whether sitting court side, or watching on the massive screens from Henman Hill or Murray Mount. Let’s be honest, how many other venues have a site dedicated to their players? Shows either our dedication or desperation. You pick!

As with most racket sports, the singles and the doubles provide very different kettles of fish, and although the intense speed and numerous volleys of doubles has been gaining increasing interest, let’s be honest, all the big names will appear in the singles . Djokovic will be defending his title this year, will Nadal and Federer hot on his heels, among other rising players. Petra Kvitova will be battling off the opposition to defend the ladies title. Undoubtedly, British fans will be keeping their fingers crossed for Scottish hopeful Andy Murray, although personally, I can’t quite warm to the bloke. I understand the use of aggression to get you pumped up but sometimes he boarders on rude and I just don’t like it.

My mum is an avid Wimbledon watcher, and likewise, I have spent many a tournament glued to the TV, watching whatever games are on.  Granted, it took me a few years to master the scoring system and understand that deuce was not spelt juice although it sounded very much like it, but I have always enjoyed the sport. I will also confess to secretly wanting to be a ball girl for most of my childhood – I mean, how awesome would that be!

Let me know who your favourite players are, and who you reckon will go all the way! Have any of you ever been to Wimbledon? Share your experiences!