- James Chin
Wimbledon: 150 years and counting
Updated: Nov 27, 2018
The Championships, Wimbledon, reaches an historic milestone in 2018.
The Championships, Wimbledon, which starts 2nd July to 15th July is reaching a historic milestone this year. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) is celebrating its 150th Anniversary of its founding back in 1868. Marking this occasion, the AELTC has launched a new digital strategy campaign called #TakeOnHistory, a well-produced animated 1-minute trailer, showing the evolution of Wimbledon from its beginnings in 1877 up to the present day. Watch it on YouTube or on Wimbledon’s website to catch a slice of tennis history in under 60 seconds! The campaign aims to expand its fanbase around the world as well as illustrate Wimbledon’s brand essence of “In Pursuit of Greatness”.
With IBM as its technology partner, Wimbledon is constantly looking for new ways to enrich its ticket holders and millions of fans worldwide with cutting-edge technology. Wimbledon uses IBM Watson, a supercomputer that combines Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytical software, to produce real-time match reports and analytics which fans can consume on their mobile devices and desktops. There is even a voice-activated Watson-powered digital assistant called “Fred” (after Fred Perry, the British tennis legend) that helps fans navigate their way around the grounds at Wimbledon. New and interesting content is also created and disseminated regularly through social media channels (especially on Instagram) to engage their fanbase throughout the year, not just during the tournament. Wimbledon is certainly finding exciting ways of integrating technology with tradition at the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
In addition to embracing technology, Wimbledon is also doing its part to protect our environment. This year, Wimbledon has banned the use of all plastic straws on its grounds. Jaguar, the official car of The Championships, will introduce 10 electric vehicles into the courtesy car fleet for the first time. A paper bag option at The Wimbledon Shops will also be provided to complement the existing multi-use, oxo-biodegradable plastic bags as they are phased out. Wimbledon is setting a fine example for all sporting venues in the world to take note in reducing plastic-waste and taking action in environmental initiatives.
Total prizemoney this year has increased to £34m, a 7.6% increase on £31.6m from last year. The singles champions will each receive a tidy sum of £2.25m, a rise from £2.2m in 2017. Over the last 10 years, the AELTC has nearly trebled the total prize money on offer at The Championships, rising from £11.8m in 2008 to £34m in 2018.
Current world No.2 Roger Federer, last year’s winner of the Gentleman’s singles title, and the first man to win Wimbledon 8 times, will be gunning for a record 9th Wimbledon’s singles crown (and 21st Grand Slam title) in his illustrious tennis career. Earlier this year, the swiss maestro became (at 36 years old) the oldest player ever to hold the No.1 ranking in the history of the sport. Garbine Muguruza (world no. 3), won the ladies’ singles title last year beating Venus Williams in straight sets. She became the second Spanish woman to win Wimbledon and interestingly, she is also the first player to beat both Williams sisters in Grand Slam singles finals (Muguruza beat Serena Williams in the 2016 French Open final). Repeating as champions will not be easy, as the level of professional tennis displayed so far this year (on both men’s and ladies’ sides) is extremely high, with players showing skills that on their day, could beat almost anyone. Here’s my take on the players to watch out for at Wimbledon this year:
Rafael Nadal (32 years old and world no. 1) and Federer appear to be drinking from the same fountain of youth. Between them, they are the winners of the last 6 Grand Slam titles, splitting the titles right down the middle at 3 apiece. Winning the Australian Open in 2017 after a 6-month break due to a knee injury, Federer went on to win Wimbledon and defended his Australian crown this year. Nadal, also back from a break due to injury, won the French Open and U.S. Open last year. That was his 10th French Open title, and he also defended his French crown this year, reaching a tally of 17 Grand Slam titles (currently 2nd on the all-time list behind Federer who has 20). The pair continue to astound the tennis world as well as their opponents with their wins, durability, movement and prowess on the court. Federer did not drop a set on his winning run to the Wimbledon crown last year. Nadal dropped only 1 set on his way to the French Open title this year. To win in such a dominating manner among today’s strong field of players is almost unheard of. Nadal and Federer really are extremely gifted and special players and it truly is a privilege for tennis fans to watch them still play at such a high-level after all these years.
2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic (world no. 5) and last year’s runner-up at Wimbledon will surely be motivated to go one better this year. In last year’s final, he struggled with blisters on his foot. Emotions got the better of him and with the world watching, he famously broke down in tears as he sought some medical attention during a break. The Croatian later revealed that he was very emotional and sad that he couldn’t play his best after all the sacrifices he made to reach his 1st Wimbledon final. Fast forward a year later and he has been showing impressive form on grass, winning the finals at the Queen’s Club for the 2nd time. He had beaten Nick Kyrgios (world no. 19) in the semi-finals and 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic in the final in 3 tight sets.
Djokovic, a 3-time Wimbledon champion, took time off mid 2017 due to an elbow injury and only got back to competitive tennis this year at the Australian Open. So far, the Serbian’s performance has been patchy, losing in the earlier rounds at several tournaments he played in. However, his level of play seems be improving at the right time on grass, beating several quality players but losing in a close final to Cilic at the Queen’s Club. This should give the Serbian some badly needed momentum heading into Wimbledon.
2-time Wimbledon winner Andy Murray was sidelined with a hip injury for almost 12 months since mid last year. He made his return to competitive tennis at the Queen’s Club, losing to Nick Kyrgios in the first round of a closely contested match. On the positive side, he followed that up with his first win in over a year, beating fellow 3-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka in the first round at the Eastbourne tournament. Wawrinka himself is on a road to recovery from a knee surgery. Murray showed some impressive form in his win however he has not confirmed if he will be playing at this year’s Wimbledon as yet, preferring to see how his body holds up in competiton.
2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who after 3 wrist surgeries once felt he may never return to playing top-level tennis, has been enjoying a good first half of 2018. He beat Federer in the finals at Indian Wells in March for his 1st Masters title and reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros this year, losing to eventual winner Nadal. However, the Argentinian’s appearance at Wimbledon is in doubt as he skipped this year’s Queen’s Club tournament due to a groin injury sustained at the French Open.
Young guns 21 year-old Alexander Zverev (world no.3) and 24 year-old Dominic Thiem (world no. 7), have firmly established themselves in the past year as bona fide contenders at Grand Slam events. At Roland Garros this year, 6ft 6in Zverev reached his first quarter-finals at a Grand Slam event while Thiem, who earlier this year beat Nadal on clay at the Madrid Open, reached his first Grand Slam final appearance in Paris, losing to King of Clay Nadal in straight sets.
My pick of other exciting players to look out for are: Aussie Nick Kyrgios, although controversial at times, is always entertaining to watch. Look out for his explosive serve and forehand, along with the occasional “tweener” shots he likes to make (hitting the ball between his legs with his racquet). Croatia’s Borna Coric (world no. 21), who impressively beat Federer at Halle recently has been steadily improving his game of late. At only 21 years old, watch out for his powerful serve, speed and shot-making abilities, particularly on his backhand side. Other big servers like Kevin Anderson (RSA), John Iser (USA), Milos Raonic (CAN) and the young Russian Karen Khachanov are expected to do well on the fast grass courts. Powerful all-round hitters like Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), David Goffin (BEL), Sam Querrey (USA), Kyle Edmund (GBR) and rising star Denis Shapovalov from Canada might also spring some surprises this year.
Over on the ladies side, the field is again very deep this year with many talented players inside the top 50. World No.1 Simona Halep won her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, after being 0-3 in Grand Slam finals. This time, the Romanian stayed mentally focused and kept hitting solid consistent groundstrokes with a never-say-die attitude. Her approach worked and hopefully she can extend her form from her favoured clay surface to the fast grass courts at Wimbledon.
Danish Caroline Wozniacki (world no. 2), who beat Halep earlier this year at the Australian Open for her maiden Grand Slam title, has never gone past the 4th round at Wimbledon. Known for her defensive and counter-punching style of play, Wozniacki will still be a threat on grass, hopefully passing her 4th round hoodoo this year. American Sloane Stephens (world no. 4) has had an incredible year so far after previously taking a year off to recover from foot surgery. Entering the 2017 U.S. Open ranked no.83, she beat her good friend and fellow American Madison Keys in the final to claim her maiden Grand Slam title and become the lowest ranked woman to ever win the U.S. Open. With her easy but powerful style of play, Stephens reached the final of Roland Garros this year, losing to Halep in 3 sets.
World no. 5 Elina Svitolina has beaten several top 10 players in her career so far but surprisingly has not gone past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam event. The Ukrainian, a strong baseliner with solid groundstrokes, reached the 4th round at Wimbledon last year and should fare better at this year’s Championships. Czech Petra Kvitova, a 2-time Wimbledon champion, showed some fine form when she recently won a grass-court tournament in Birmingham. On her day, she can play some dazzling tennis with her powerful lefty serve and groundstrokes and beat whoever is standing in front of her. Big serving Karolina Pliskova (world no.7), always poses a threat with her aggressive brand of tennis. At 6ft 1in, she is currently second on WTA’s list for most aces this year (218 aces). A finalist at the 2016 U.S. Open, she surprisingly has not progressed past the 2nd round at Wimbledon. Hopefully she can turn her fortunes around this year.
38 year-old Venus Williams, 5-time Wimbledon Champion and last year’s runner-up, is still going on strong. Last year was a good year for her, reaching 2 Grand Slam finals and a semi-final of a third. This year, unfortunately, she lost in the first round at the Australian and French Opens. However, grass suits her style of power tennis. She is very comfortable on the surface and should progress well at Wimbledon. Her fellow Americans Madison Keys (world no. 10) and CoCo Vandeweghe (world no. 16) are also ones to keep an eye on. Keys, known for her powerful forehand and serve, reached the finals of last year’s U.S. Open. CoCo reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon twice. Currently coached by Aussie tennis great Pat Cash (who won the Wimbledon title in 1987, beating another tennis legend Ivan Lendl), perhaps he could impart CoCo with some valuable grass-court tips.
My pick of other players who could do well: French No. 1 Caroline Garcia, former no.1 and 2-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber (GER), 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko (LAT), and big-serving Julia Goerges who this year leads the WTA with 248 aces. Maria Sharapova, winner of 5 Grand Slam titles, has been back on tour now for a little more than a year after serving a 15-month suspension for failing a drug test. She has recorded some good wins and have worked her way back to a world ranking of 24. Her fierce competitive spirit is one of her strongest traits and no doubt she will do her best to get her hands on a second Wimbledon trophy.
Last but certainly not least, the great Serena Williams, holder of 23 Grand Slam titles is back on tour after giving birth to her cute baby girl Alexis in September last year. Because of her time off from the tour, she is currently ranked world no. 183! This has caused some controversy and tennis legend John McEnroe (among others) has called for Serena to have a privileged draw position for Wimbledon, somewhere among the top 32 entrants. However, this matter is up to the Wimbledon Committee to decide and one hopes it goes positively for Serena.
At 150 years and counting, Wimbledon is doing an excellent job of using state-of-the-art technology and social media to engage and delight today’s audiences while at the same time staying true to its valued history and traditions (its still all-white attire for players). With the high-level form of the players of today, it promises to be yet another scintillating display of tennis for the 2 weeks at Wimbledon!