The world’s very first Lawn Tennis Championship was held in July 1877 on the lawns of the All England Club. Now, in the summer of 2011, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club will play host to the Championships for the 125th time in the form of the tournament now widely known as Wimbledon, one of the tennis world’s four annual Gland Slam events.
The tournament’s history is preserved in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, which includes trophies of the past and an unmatched collection of tennis memorabilia that dates back as far as 1555. Here, visitors can see sporting history come alive in photos and captured on film as well as through interactive displays and guided tours of the grounds, which cover over 42 acres.
Then, in late June through early July, the tennis facilities are mobbed with fans of the sport who come to watch tennis at its best for two full weeks. Play takes place on 19 grass courts, including the famed Centre Court and the No.1 Court, and there are 22 additional grass courts in Aorangi Park for practice use before and during the Championships.
Most of the betting and spectator attention is focused on the Gentlemen’s Singles and the Ladies’ Singles, each of which involves a single-elimination format based upon a 128-player seeded draw. Other major knockout events during the fortnight’s tennis action include Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Doubles based on a 64-pair draw and Mixed Doubles with 48 pairs in competition.
Matches in the Gentlemen’s Singles and Doubles competitions are played and decided as best-of-five sets. All other events feature best-of-three sets. Tiebreak games are played whenever the score reaches 6–6 in any set, with the exception of the fifth set in a five-set match or the third in a three-set match, when a two-game margin is required to win.
The majority of the participating players enter in one of two ways: automatically according to their world ranking or by winning in qualifying competitions staged at Roehampton the week before. Since 1975, seeding has been based exclusively on computer rankings. Provisions are also made for Wild Card entries at the discretion of the governing committee, usually offered to reward past performance or increase British interest. Additionally, “lucky losers” may be seeded from the final round of qualifying competitions to fill any vacancies that may occur.
The top trophy here is the “The Cup” awarded to the Gentlemen’s Singles Champion. Created in 1886, it is made of silver gilt, stands 18 inches high, and measures 7½ inches in diameter. Its inscription reads “The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World.” To Wimbledon’s female champion goes a sterling silver salver known as the “Rosewater Dish,” which has been presented to the winner since 1886.
Lists of past winners at Wimbledon read like a Who’s Who of tennis history. Among men, Britain’s William Renshaw and America’s Pete Sampras won The Cup seven times apiece. Sweden’s Björn Borg and Switzerland’s Roger Federer each claimed it five years in row. Among women, America’s Martina Navrátilová received The Dish nine times, including a run of six consecutive wins.
Wagering on Wimbledon begins as much as a year in advance, with ante post markets offered on outright winners for each classification. However, the betting really begins to hot up in earnest as soon as the results of the clay court French Open are known, roughly a month before the first rounds are played here on grass.
Top seeds tend to do well at Wimbledon. Fully eleven out of the most recent 19 winners were ranked No. 1 on the men’s side. Champions defend well here, too. Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated the men’s action since 2003, just as American sisters Venus and Serena Williams have owned the women’s action since 2001, allowing only Russia’s Maria Sharapova and France’s Amélie Mauresmo to outduel them in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The only Wild Card to win a Wimbledon title was the Men’s Singles Champion of 2001, Croatian hero Goran Ivanisevic, and no Wild Card has even won it on the ladies’ side.
Apart from wagering on the outright winner, “match betting” is highly popular—i.e., picking the winner out of two players in a heads-on meeting. Also available is betting on sets, with or without handicaps, as well as final score betting. And for those who enjoy wagering on exotics or novelties, it is even possible to take a stake on how many English strawberries will be consumed during the fortnight—the over/under being around 28,000 kilograms.