A recent informal poll asked several top-ranked tennis professionals, both men and women: "what's the best tennis tournament in the world?" The answer was nearly unanimous: Wimbledon.
What is it about the Wimbledon tennis championships that make it, arguably, the most prestigious event in the sport of tennis?
Known formally as "The Championships, Wimbledon" and referred to simply as "Wimbledon," this tournament is the oldest event in the history of the sport, an annual sporting extravaganza that draws the very best professionals to London, England for two weeks every June and July.
Wimbledon is the third of four Grand Slam events that are played each year on the professional tennis tour. It is preceded by the Australian Open and the French Open, and followed by the U.S. Open. It is the only Grand Slam event played on grass.
Under the watchful eyes of the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the first Wimbledon tennis championships were held in 1877 and featured a gentleman's singles event. The ladies' singles and gentleman's doubles were added in 1884. For decades, Wimbledon was a showcase of the world's best amateur players until 1968 when the advent of the open era in tennis paved the way for the participation of the world's top professionals.
One unique feature of Wimbledon is that all 19 courts used in the tournament are composed purely of rye grass, which gives the tennis balls a different speed and lower bounce that favors serve and volley players such as Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras, all of whom are former Wimbledon champions. Sampras, a superb serve and volley master holds the record for most Wimbledon championships ever with seven. The one exception is Bjorn Borg, a known baseline specialist, who won Wimbledon five straight years from 1976 to 1980. Among the women, Martina Navratilova, another serve-and-volleyer, has won Wimbledon a record nine times.
One other thing that makes Wimbledon unique is the presence of England's royalty. It was a previous tradition at Wimbledon for players to bow or curtsy before the Royal family (seated at the Royal Box) upon entering or leaving the center court, but this practice was halted in 2003.