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Green: The sacred tradition of Wimbledon (Feb. 1)

By MARY GREEN | Friday, February 1, 2013


Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a 10-part series discussing the best event in sports. In this installment, Mary Green argues for Wimbledon.

When I applied to this fine university, the admissions essay options included the question, “What is on your bucket list?” Naturally, I had to include some sort of sporting event, but the dilemma remained of which one to choose. Would I pick the Super Bowl and the entertainment circus that surrounds it? Should I stick to my Southern roots and select the Masters or the Kentucky Derby? Growing up a Syracuse fan, going to the Final Four had always been a dream of mine, too.

But which of these did I select? None of the above. Instead, I wrote that I wanted to attend one certain event, “to witness the harmony between time-honored tradition and fierce competition in a setting that has drawn even the Queen of England herself.” In short, I included Wimbledon on my list because it is a tournament unlike any other.

Officially named The Championships, Wimbledon, the tournament started in 1877, making it one of the oldest continuously-running athletic competitions in the world. Each June, hundreds of thousands of spectators, ranging from casual fans to tennis fanatics, descend upon the All England Club for a fortnight to attend arguably the most prestigious of the tennis Grand Slam championships.

In the past few years, fans have witnessed some of the most notable matches in the sport’s history on the grass at Centre Court. Who can forget the 2010 thriller between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, the longest match in tennis history? The final score read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68, with the eye-popping fifth set that spanned three days and won the pair the ESPY for “Best Record-Breaking Performance” two weeks later.

Two years earlier, crowds were treated to what some call the best match in history, the 2008 gentlemen’s singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. This epic showdown pitted the then-No. 1 and No. 2 players against each other for nearly five hours of fast-paced tennis, showcasing the brute strength of Rafa and the polished finesse of Roger. At the end of a match that kept viewers on the edges of their seats for the duration, the outcome signaled a changing of the guard as Nadal claimed his first Wimbledon title and overtook Federer as the world’s No. 1 player.

Though these matches have yielded new legends and tales for the ages, Wimbledon fans don’t just flock to the All England Club for the tennis. They come for everything the tournament embodies: the all-white dress code, strawberries and cream, the Royal Box. Wimbledon’s tradition, both on and off the court, distinguishes it from the three other Grand Slams.

With the international popularity of tennis, the Championships embrace fans from all corners of the globe. No, it is not as popular an international event as the World Cup or the Olympics. However, Wimbledon’s distinction from those two events is that it is true to itself. 

The World Cup and the Olympics try to keep up with the times by building ultra-modern stadiums and promoting themselves using the likes of Shakira and the Spice Girls. Wimbledon does none of that. The tournament keeps tradition alive by honoring the same time-proven practices that have been in place for decades. Instead of opting for an additional day of play that would bring in more revenue, the Club’s officials still insist on taking a day of rest on the middle Sunday of competition. Wimbledon does not try to alter its identity for the sake of progress, and it does not need flashy sideshows to draw in audiences. The Championships are reliable and steadfast, something that will not change any time soon. This unwavering nature in a quickly changing world, in addition to the incredible tennis, makes Wimbledon not only a unique sporting event but also the best sporting event in the world. Like innumerable other fans around the world, I just hope I will be able to walk the grounds of the All England Club and cross Wimbledon off my bucket list sometime soon.


Contact Mary Green at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.