As Wimbledon comes around, some people love the tradition, some people hate it. One Wimbledon tradition is a question - why are the British so bad..?
Hang on, the British bad? What about Andy Murray, you may ask?
Well yes, obviously there's Murray - right at the top table in tennis, Grand Slam winner, and the man that finally laid another age old Wimbledon question to rest, which was when a British man would finally win the singles title again.
That's sort of my point.
Murray did indeed answer that question, but it's the fact that it was a question for *decades* drives home the lack of British players in contention. Take Murray away, and the next British male is ranked down at 75th, Aljaz Bedene, who has previously played for Slovenia and only became a British citizen in March 2015.
On the women's side, the top British player is Heather Watson ranked 59th, with the next Johann Konta at 126th.
Pretty woeful stats for the country that hosts Wimbledon, don't you think? So, what's the reason?
Systems and attitude, that's what I would say. Systems and attitude.
You can see countries that have many players in the top rankings for both sexes, and it's *always* felt that any Brit that reaches the dizzy heights is the exception, and gets there despite the systems and attitude, rather than because of them.
If you look the two richest women in all of sports, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, neither of them came from privileged backgrounds, and both of them worked hard from an early age, with the total lifestyle commitment from their families.
When you see the rise of the Eastern Europeans, it's put down to, yep, simple hard work. It's seen as a way out of the less affluent situations in some of those countries, a path to riches if the work is put in. So, the work is put in, and the success and riches follow.
That would suggest it's a model that could be applied in *any* country. Let's face it, commitment and hard work is a bedrock to most success isn't it?
Well yes it is, and this is where the systems and attitude in Britain become a problem when it comes to tennis.
The sports that draw in the masses in Britain are football, rugby, cricket. If you move outside those sports, particularly in schools, the resources and ambition just isn't there.
If the school buses, and coaches, are set up for the big team games, a smaller niche sport will always get pushed to back of the resources queue. Always.
Tennis is an individual sport, and in Britain it's seen as somewhere between upper middle class, and downright posh. The club structure is stifling, with rules and regulations that are designed for conformity, not for individuality. If you want to get to the top of tennis, you need a competitive spirit as fierce as any in sport, and individuality must be encouraged.
Let's look at Murray again. His coach mother took him to Spain to develop his career, when they felt they had no other option under the British system. Murray has not always been popular in the press, because after the ever-so-nice Tim Henman, who got settled in the top 5 rankings, but never won Wimbledon, Murray has a dour demeanour, and has always said he doesn't care because his focus is on his game.
Attitudes towards him have softened as he got closer to the win, and then he won Gold at the London 2012 Olympics and finally the Wimbledon title, making most grudges against him fade away. That fierce competitive nature of his is now viewed with warmth.
Did Henman's success paper over the cracks? Yes.
Does Murray's success paper over the cracks? Oh yes.
When it comes to the answer, I'm not sure there *is* an easy answer. Tennis is a niche sport in Britain. It only really grabs the national attention for one fortnight every year, and until the attitudes in schools and the attitude in the clubs and governing body change, I imagine it'll be much of the same for many years to come.
Anyone for tennis?
The 2015 Wimbledon Championships are now upon us, with Andy Murray hoping to win the tournament after a great start to the year, the Scot is seeded third behind Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The defending champion from Serbia will take to the grass, but it will be no walk in the park against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany as Serena Williams will continue her bid for a true Grand Slam by taking on Margarita Gasparyan of Russia.
Spectators queued overnight in tents to secure their tickets for the first day of play and with temperatures expected to reach 32°C in Greater London, tennis fans and players alike will need to be prepared for the scorching weather.
Roger Federer moaning? Surely not, and moaning about Wimbledon? Surely some mistake!
Well, yes, he did indeed have a good old moan, but I think he may be wrong...
Ah, Wimbledon - the gentle thwack of the balls as a backdrop to strawberries and cream, with Roger Federer strutting his chiselled jaw for us all to swoon at - it's an image that screams 'SUMMER.'
Ok, the thwack is swamped by the grunting of the players, the strawberries cost a tenner, and it's probably pouring with rain. Add in the fact that Roger Federer is moaning, and welcome to 2015!
Roger has been moaning about Wimbledon's famous rule that the players have to wear 'attire that is almost entirely white.'
At the French Open he wore a purple top and bright orange shorts, but said that wouldn't be happening at Wimbledon where the rules had got 'ridiculously strict.'
Well, excuse us!
Excuse any concept of tradition, why don't you!
It didn't seem to bother old Roger, when Wimbledon relentlessly lifted him to the top of the tennis tree, and then to the top of the tree of *sport*, making him one of the most famous, and one of the richest sportsmen ever.
It didn't seem bother him when Bjorn Borg sat in the stand to see him get his record.
Nor did it bother him when he turned up that year in trousers coupled with cardigan and jacket for his warm up, as all the interviewers told him it 'looked classy' through stifled giggles.
No, as the love affair grew between Roger and Wimbledon, he never had a problem with the all white rule.
He shouldn't have a problem with it now either!
Unless his sponsors Nike have suddenly stopped doing white tennis clothes for him to whack his 'RF' logo on to, I can't see what the problem is- in fact, I'd go further and say I like the all white rule. In fact I *love* it!
It's one of the things that makes Wimbledon what it is. If you ask any tennis player which tournament they'd like to win, it would be Wimbledon. It's set apart from the others.
Roger has said this many times himself over the years.
There are a few things that set it apart, the grass surface for one, but it's really the traditions of it that make it stand out, and a huge part of that tradition is the white clothes rule. Get rid of that rule, and Wimbledon becomes just another major to add to the list.
The fact that Wimbledon held fast with this rule throughout the years, despite numerous attempts by players to test the limits of it, makes all the more reason to keep it now.
I've noticed over the last few years that the players stopped trying to push the limits, instead they embraced it, enjoying the special feeling of wearing white only as part of what makes Wimbledon unique. Although it must be said, some of the ladies are pushing their luck on the, er, undergarment front...
So no, I'm not having it Roger, I'm really not!
If you don't like the all white rule after all these years, if your need to wear purple and orange is so great, you could always just not play. I suspect that won't be what happens though.
If I'm honest, I was surprised to hear that he'd said it in the first place, and even though I'm sure the TV interviewers will bring it up, I'm rather hoping he doesn't say it again. He's trodden the line so well both on and off court for so many years, but I think this time Roger got it wrong.
Here's a question. You're going to an interview, or perhaps having to address some very important people with your ideas and views; what colour do you wear? What colour of clothing will subconsciously command more respect for you? Well, it's probably going to be blue. A darkish blue conveys authority, in no uncertain terms, and it's no accident that many police forces use it for their uniforms. Similarly, if you want to appear creative or confident, pink is your colour (think how many architects have a dash of pink, or a pink bow tie, in their wardrobes - and, conversely, why police forces don't use it for their uniforms). The psychology of colours is a big subject - red, yellow, purple et al, all say something to the outside world. Oh, and you're less likely to be mugged wearing orange, apparently. All of which takes us to Wimbledon.
Since the Championships began back in 1877, Wimbledon has risen, in a very British way, not simply to become a famous tennis tournament, but probably the most famous of the four Grand Slams. It's certainly the most instantly recognised worldwide of the four. Of course there are plenty of reasons for this success. The promotion of tennis and Wimbledon throughout the Commonwealth before the advent of a global media must be a strong contender, but could the colour green be one of the strongest?
Wimbledon's heritage and traditions - the way it goes about things and what it means to people - are what leading brands are made of. Brands are very powerful things, and, once established, they tend to stay in the mind. Which means that when too many changes take place the brand loses its power.
Of course, just 'staying the same' isn't enough and being progressive and moving with the times are things which Wimbledon does very well indeed: a venerable grass centre court with a state of the art retractable roof...tradition with modernity. Walking through the myriad displays of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum you realise that the intuitively clever thing about Wimbledon is that however much it changes, it still looks, essentially, the same. Or, to put it more cryptically, the more it changes, the more it doesn't.
Wimbledon does things 'differently' by sticking to its guns: the adherence to grass, predominantly white kit and long lasting associations with official suppliers. The discreet Rolex logo is synonymous with reliability and longevity - not surprisingly, two of Wimbledon's own qualities. Likewise, Robinsons Barley Water and the BBC are not only the quintessence of Wimbledon, but appear to a worldwide audience as the quintessence of tennis itself.
Perhaps it's the grass that makes the difference? The Australian Open originally took place on grass but now takes place on vulcanised concrete. Roland Garros has always had its 'clay' (actually white limestone surfaced with a few millimetres of powdered red brick dust). The US Open has gone from grass to clay and now, DecoTurf, a fast hard-court of acrylic over an asphalt or concrete base. All perfectly fine and that leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam played on the game's original surface Indeed, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum Tour takes great pride in beguiling visitors who take its award-winning tour with what it describes as 'tennis in an English garden'.
Yet, the reason that Wimbledon has reached its pre-eminence might not be because of its grass per se but its colour, green. Green is a powerfully compelling and subtle colour. Green contains equal amounts of Yellow and Blue, a mix of warm and cool, which are very calming and pleasing to the senses. There is strong practical evidence that it helps the healing process in patients. This is not to suggest Wimbledon is healing you as you watch, but it certainly has a reassuring effect. Of course, plenty of other games are played on grass; football and cricket, for example. But at Wimbledon the green effect goes much further with its enclosures, hoardings, roofs, stands and court backdrops. These, together with the long standing vine covered front entrance and the leafy suburban setting, all combine to give the impression, subconsciously, that one is in a 'non-threatening environment'. More than this, by visiting Wimbledon, or even just watching it on television, your subconscious is responding to what medical practitioners call a 'restorative environment'.
Add a touch of white, a colour renowned for purity, to provide a crisp contrast to that seductive green and you have a tennis tournament that is providing a very compulsive attraction for the senses. No garish clashes of colour to jar and confuse on a subconscious level. Thus, as well as the good work in running the tournament it could well be that Wimbledon has instinctively hit upon the 'ideal' colour for attracting viewers purely by sticking to its historical preference for grass. It might be the biggest reason why, amongst all Grand Slams, Wimbledon, is just a shade more famous than all the rest.
Stepping through the gates of Wimbledon this summer will be hundreds of thousands of people whose only common interest is, unsurprisingly, watching the tennis. Most won't really need to know that during their visit over 150,000 glasses of Pimm's will be downed or that 28,000 kilos of strawberries will be devoured - that's nearly three million of the little blighters in two weeks. Factor in the pizzas and pies, sandwiches and snacks and you have, almost unbelievably, the largest catering operation for any sporting event anywhere in Europe; bigger than motor racing, golf, football or cricket.
Wimbledon's loaded with facts, figures, snippets and secrets that accumulate, often with so little fanfare, that they tend to go unnoticed. Talking of food, it wasn't always so abundant. Between 1939 and the end of the Second World War, The Championships ceased and these manicured lawns - or at least the grounds - were given over to livestock. Poultry, pigs and sheep, were reared inside the grounds to feed the war effort and keep Britain 'in the game' against Hitler.
It was no secret a few years back that Wimbledon needed to expand its capacity. But the world was somewhat puzzled (aghast would be a better word) to learn that Wimbledon was going to be transposed to, wait for it, Basingstoke. Now, Basingstoke has its merits, but an affinity for tennis wasn't perhaps one of them. The fact is that moving to Basingstoke was never a realistic possibility and this 'open secret' was more to do with over-zealous reporting than anything else.
Wimbledon abounds with precious gems tucked away inside the books, ledgers, files, objects and minds of its members. And, like all precious gems, you have to do a little digging. Dig into the records and you'll find it's easily the world's largest annual broadcast event, getting an estimated 1.2billion viewers across 200 broadcast territories - and remember, this is a two week event - not a one-off cup final. It was also Wimbledon that set the world on the path to mass-market sports broadcasting way back in 1927 when The Championships was first aired on BBC radio. Of course, being Wimbledon, it insisted that commentators, watching from courtside, should only whisper into their microphones - not because they were disclosing secrets, but because nothing should be allowed to disturb the players' concentration.
Perhaps the biggest 'secret' sits unassumingly below ground level tucked away behind the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum with nothing more than a discreet sign engraved upon its glass doors. This is the Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library, a long standing reference facility that houses the largest collection of tennis related books, magazines, texts, guides, programmes and clippings in the world - bar none! Started by Honorary Librarian Alan Little in the 1970s, the Library's mandate is simple, to collect anything and everything ever written about tennis: fact or fiction. This includes some genuinely eclectic subjects, from tennis murder mysteries to mental self-help guides. Quaint old novels in musty hardback and glossy 70s paperbacks sit side by side on the rows of shelves, but don't search 'by author'. Intriguingly, Wimbledon classifies its collection first by country, starting with Argentina and ending with Zimbabwe, and then by date.
Assistant Librarian, Audrey Snell, can heave off of the Library's creaking shelves whole reams of date-ordered 'periodicals' (magazines to you and me) from around the world. There are huge bound volumes of World Tennis from the USA alongside Tennis Revue from the Netherlands, and plenty more besides, each revealing the fascinating trends and fashions, entertaining adverts and editorial pieces of world tennis.
Wimbledon's own press clippings are kept in yearly scrapbooks, standing on their shelves, erect and fully upright, dating back to 1927. In these epic tomes, evocative newspaper articles and photos in black and white have been assiduously clipped, snipped, glued and labelled just as you might expect from a keen hobbyist, instead of the world's largest tennis tournament. Open them up and a forgotten past of elegant players and grammatically perfect newspaper text transports you back in time. Indeed, the clippings hold such a mine of information that former players and visitors alike continually visit the library to check on some aspect of their past association with Wimbledon.
And then there are the books - little social time capsules of fact and fiction such as Death Serves An Ace by Helen Wills from 1939, or The Tennis Terror by Harold Sherman, 1932,
"A novel that captures the dashing spirit of the game".In fact, everywhere you look you'll find surprising diversity, from Acing Depression by Cliff Richey to William Tilden's The Common Sense of Lawn Tennis written in 1924 - not to mention plenty of good old fashioned text books on, dare we say it, the secrets of playing better tennis.
With Wimbledon coming up, the strawberries being picked and the grass being trimmed, the question remains... why Love? Why not 'Nought' or 'Zero' or good old fashioned 'Nil'? There are a lot of theories about what Love means, ranging from French eggs (don't ask...) to an old English expression which is 'to play for love', meaning to play for nothing or to play without betting any money on the game. We could go on, but when it comes to Wimbledon - the suburban superstar of world tennis - real love also holds court.
For some reason, Wimbledon seems to have served up some of the world's highest profile sporting relationships in a way that simply doesn't occur in other world sports. Stepping back in time to the wooden rackets and furry headbands of the 1970s, who can forget the Swedish heartthrob Bjorn Borg being chased around SW19 by hordes of teens before getting hitched to Romanian tennis star Mariana Simionescu? At about the same time, Jimmy Connors, the original double-handed scrapper fell head over heels with 70s sweetheart Chris Evert. And what about one of the biggest romances of them all; Andre Agassi, champ in 1992, and Steffi Graff, seven times Wimbledon Singles Champion?
Wimbledon's tradition of having the Gentlemen's singles winner dance with the Ladies' singles winner at the end of tournament Ball ensured a certain amount of romance was always likely to be on the cards. Of course, since 1976 the winners' dance has been dropped in favour of a dinner, but it was nice while it lasted. And yet, still the love game goes on. The great Roger Federer, owner of the most Grand Slam titles, met his wife, Mirka, when the pair represented Switzerland at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. World number one tennis players such as Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters were romantically attached, as were Martina Hingis and Radek Štěpánek. And let's not forget that humdinger of a romance at Wimbledon in 2004 between the lovable Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. Yes it was a film, but, amazingly, it was one of the only times in Wimbledon's history that filming took place during The Championships.
Is it Wimbledon's traditional adherence to crisp, white tennis kit, begun way back in 1880s that sets pulses racing? Whites were originally deemed most appropriate to disguise any unladylike signs of perspiration - and remember, back then a Victorian Lady's tennis outfit consisted of an undergarment, a corset, a petticoat to go over the undergarment, a second petticoat to go over the first petticoat, a dress made of wool and finally an apron. Phew!
Playing tennis, at least to the British, was always a social as well as sporting event, and the Victorians absolutely fell in love with the game. The beauty and variety of the Victorian tennis artefacts and memorabilia displayed in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum tells us that underneath all those top hats, stiff collars and whalebone corsets, lawn tennis set Victorian hearts beating like nothing else. Meeting members of the opposite sex and socialising - not to mention being able to play games together in the open air, was quite the thing - and probably a lot more racy than Croquet.
Of course, the main reason why love is always in the air at Wimbledon, and throughout the world of tennis generally, is because tennis is one of the rare pastimes when men and women actually get the chance to compete against one another on equal terms. Mixed doubles is a full-on competition where male and female players compete under the same rules and using the same court and balls. That's pretty unique in any sport. For example it's rare for men and women's rugby teams to compete, or men and women to box against each other - it's hard to see romance blossoming under those conditions. Wimbledon opened the courts to female tennis players way back in 1884 when the Ladies' Singles Championships begun. Yet with no prize money until 1968, all the players, both men and women, really were 'playing for love'.
The moment a large metal panel collapsed and struck spectators at one of the world's most fiercely contested tennis championships has been captured on video.
Crowds watching the highly anticipated Men's Quarter Final match between Japan's Kei Nishikori and France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were hit by the object, which had become dislodged from a giant screen overlooking the clay court.
More than 200 spectators were quickly evacuated and their seats cordoned off by security guards, as organisers conducted a thorough recce of the area.
Officials confirmed that three people had been injured and first aid had been administered.
Tsonga and Nishikori were finally able to resume their centre court match 40 minutes after the original incident.
World number one Novak Djokovic, Brit Andy Murray and Russia's Maria Sharapova were among the tennis stars to be amazed by the tricks and skills of Stefan Bojic when he stopped by to exhibit his concentration and control.
Andy Murray has won his first clay-court title beating German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Munich Open.
The Scot triumphed 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 7-6 (7-4) in just over three hours.
It's Murray's 32nd title of his career.
The match had started on Sunday but was stopped because of rain with Kohlschreiber leading 3-2 in the first set.
Murray was cheered on by new coach Jonas Bjorkman and took the first set in a tie break.
Murray is preparing for the French Open at the end of the month and will be playing in the Madrid Masters this week where he could meet Kohlschreiber again.
Hurrah for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which said on Sunday the accursed 'selfie stick' would be banned from entering this year’s Wimbledon tournament. The cumbersome devices, which are deployed by social media users to give the false impression their lives are an endless parade of stunning backdrops, will be prohibited, the AELTC confirmed.
A ticketholders' guide for this year's tournament says: "In common with many other major sports and entertainment events and cultural attractions, The Championships will not allow 'selfie sticks' into the grounds." A spokesman for the AELTC told the Sunday Times that the move was brought in partly because of the "nuisance value" but "primarily so it doesn't interfere with spectators' enjoyment".
The sticks have met increasing resistance in recent months, most notably being banned from the National Gallery. The venue in Trafalgar Square, central London, placed the devices in the same category as tripods, which are already prohibited, and the move prompted other cultural venues to consider following suit. Tottenham Hotspur banned them from White Hart Lane after a complaint from a fan, while they have also been barred at a number of galleries and museums in the US and France.
Andy Murray has wed his long-term girlfriend Kim Sears in the tennis star's home town.
The couple, both 27, said their vows in front of family and friends during a ceremony at Dunblane Cathedral led by the Rev Colin Renwick.
On a day of showers and hailstones, the rain held off as the couple exited the 300-seat cathedral to cheers from the large crowd gathered outside.
The British tennis number one sported a blue and green kilt for the occasion while Sears wore an embroidered white gown with three-quarter-length sleeves and a long veil.
Among the guests were Murray's brother Jamie, parents Judy and William, grandparents Shirley and Roy Erskine and former British tennis number one Tim Henman and his wife Lucy.
The ceremony will be followed by a reception at Cromlix House, Murray's luxury hotel near Dunblane.
Guests lined the path from the cathedral doors and bells rang as the couple left the church and were showered with confetti.
The bride was accompanied by four bridesmaids in long pink gowns.
The couple left the wedding venue for the reception at Cromlix in a grey car decked with ribbons and were cheered by crowds lining the streets.
It has been described as "Scotland's royal wedding", with hundreds turning out for the event.
Earlier Murray tweeted a preview of the day in emojis which included pictures of a church, a ring, a kiss, cake and drinks as well as hearts, a face throwing a kiss and several Zzzz icons for sleep.
🌞☔😂👔💅💇😂👰😂🚗💒💃👫🙏💍💏👏📝🎹📷🎥🚗🍷🍴🎂🎊🎉👯🎶🎤🍹🍻🍷🍺🍩🍦🍷🍹🍸🍺🌙❤💕😘💤💤💤💤💤💤💤— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) April 11, 2015
Commenting on the changeable weather his mother Judy tweeted:
Hailstones. Marvellous.— judy murray (@judmoo) April 11, 2015
And then, a few hours later:
Snowing. #whitewedding.— judy murray (@judmoo) April 11, 2015
Murray told BBC Sport last month: ''I am actually not nervous about getting married because we've been together like nine-and-a-half years and we've lived together for six or seven years as well.
''So, I don't think a whole lot's going to change. I kind of feel like we have been married already in terms of the way we spend our lives together and live together.
''I think I will be more nervous about starting a family because that would be more life-changing, in a good way.''
Simply wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, the boy was able to keep up with the world number two before lobbing the ball out of Federer's reach and just within bounds.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came for the small child during an exhibition match between the Swiss player and Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov at Madison Square Garden.