Tennis Elbow: Basking in the tradition
July 2, 2012 · Print This Article
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks back at the first week of the 2012 Wimbledon tournament.
There is no tennis today, as I’m writing this on June 1, 2012 because there’s never any tennis played on the middle Sunday of the Wimbledon Championships. Instead, there’s breakfast at Wimbledon–it’s the tradition and, if you are willing to wake up rather early on that Sunday morning, ESPN will treat you to some strawberries and cream.
(I don’t know how that combo tastes in England, but it’s pretty great here in Canada.)
Tennis is rich in tradition, and Wimbledon just might be the crown jewel of the sport. The tournament is played on grass (i.e. tennis’s original surface) at the prestigious All England Lawn Tennis Club and every year, it reminds us of different kinds of tradition.
There’s the tradition that used to be. For example, it seemed like there would always be a few matches interrupted by rain each year. This stopped in 2009 when the Wimbledon brass installed a retractable roof on Centre Court in order to minimize the disruption caused by the rain. The sample might be small, but it’s worked out well in the four years since.
Then, there’s the tradition that was just barely avoided. For a while, it looked like the Nicolas Mahut/John Isner singles matchup was threatening to become “the new thing” as the two players were set to play in the second round this year again, making it three years in a row. Mercifully, the tennis Gods had other plans when Isner was sent packing in the first round against Alejan Falla. (The original was incredible, but the sequel could only disappoint. And it did.)
But there’s also some good tradition. For exhibit a, see the aforementioned strawberries/cream combo. The club has a strict ‘no sponsor’ advertising on the tennis courts too, and I guess that there is some good to that. That might cut into the tournament revenue and profits, but I would bet that Wimbledon isn’t exactly hurting for cash. Rather, we should see things the other way around–if the tournament has such a policy, it’s because it can afford to financially.
Finally, there’s the biggest and most obvious tradition–that of the Wimbledon decorum. England royalty usually attends one match, or more, on Centre Court during the tournament, and players are expected to salute the Queen if she happens to be sitting in the royal box when they take the court.
Above all though is the strict dress code. First, chair umpires and line judges have a uniform that matches the Wimbledon logo. Until 2006, this mostly meant a lot of green and a soft touch of purple. It’s changed since 2006, because the Wimbledon logo has changed. Now, the uniform is a creation of Ralph Lauren–it’s navy blue with cream and light, “washed” blue. It’s still not particularly pretty, but there are worse things.
Look no further than that policy that dictates that players wear white and only white on the Wimbledon grass. It’s a silly rule, but not for the reason that you think of. A white tennis ensemble isn’t exactly memorable or even trompe-l’oeil, but it’s not ugly either–so it’s not because it’s unfashionable to do so.
Instead, this policy shocks because it’s so unexplained and unmotivated. Why must players wear white? And if your answer is “because those are the rules and that’s how it has always been,” then maybe it’s not quite a good enough reason. The dress code policy and, to a lesser extent, a lot of the other Wimbledon traditions scream arrogance–and nobody likes that. If you think you’re better than us, we don’t need you to remind us that you believe you are.
by: Charles Blouin-Gascon