Whether you love Tennis or are a total tyro, you’ve probably heard of Wimbledon. This annual tournament is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the sport. That’s because it showcases the top athletes in Tennis, along with the up-and-comers, and is steeped in deep history.
“Wimbledon is such a special tournament because of the tradition and prestige,” Martin Blackman, General Manager of Player Development for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), tells SELF. “The energy there is amazing.”
The 2018 Wimbledon Competition begins on Monday, July 2, 2018 in London, and wraps on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Here’s what you need to know about this big-time British event, including how the tournament works, which Americans to watch for this year, and how and where you can tune in.
Wimbledon is one of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the most elite competitions in the sport where the best-of-the-best from the around the world go racket-to-racket.
Wimbledon is held every summer at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England. Per the official Wimbledon website, it began in 1877 (!) and is the oldest Grand Slam tournament—and the oldest tennis tournament in the world, period. With this serious history come serious traditions. For example, players must still abide by the OG dress code, which requires them to wear all white—from their sweatbands to their shirts, skirts, sneakers, and yes, even their underwear.
The other Grand Slam tournaments are the Australian Open (held every January), the French Open (also known as the Roland Garros; it just wrapped on June 10), and the U.S. Open (scheduled for August 27 to September 9, 2018).
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament played on grass, which alters the difficulty of the game and thus, the players’ strategies.
All matches of this British tournament are still played on the sport’s original surface: grass, which caters to a certain type of player, a spokesperson for the USTA tells SELF. (To be clear, USTA is the governing body that runs the U.S. Open, not Wimbledon.)
Traditionally, people who have especially powerful serves and shots will do better at Wimbledon, as grass is the quickest surface, meaning balls will skid off a grass court more rapidly than off other surfaces, like the red clay courts at the French Open or the hard courts at the Australian and U.S. Opens. The slick, grassy surface means there’s less time for the opponent to react, say, to a powerful serve, and is why games on grass are typically faster than games played on other surfaces, the USTA explains. Red clay, on the other hand, slows down the balls more, so more strategic plays versus powerful serves are needed to win a match on clay.
That said, the top contenders in the sport typically are those who excel on any type of surface, the spokesperson says.
The British tournament features more than a dozen different categories of competition.
While the men’s and women’s singles competitions are the most publicised events at Wimbledon, there are many other competitions, too. There are also the mens’ and women’s doubles as well as mixed doubles (teams made up of one man and one woman). That’s in addition to wheelchair singles and doubles for both men and women, plus singles and doubles for both boys and girls (also known as the Juniors competition).
The competitor field at Wimbledon is big. There are 128 singles in the men’s and women’s competitions, 64 teams in the men’s and women’s doubles competitions, and 48 teams in the mixed doubles competition, plus many others in the additional events. Players and teams advance or are eliminated in a bracket-style competition. Think March Madness on a larger scale.
The final competition of the women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, girls’ singles, women’s wheelchair singles, and men’s wheelchair doubles, will be on Saturday, July 14. The final competition of the men’s singles, mixed doubles, men’s wheelchair singles, women’s wheelchair doubles, boys’ singles, boys’ doubles and girls’ doubles will be on Sunday, July 15.
There are several ways players can qualify for Wimbledon.
Qualification for Wimbledon is the same as the other Grand Slam tournaments. There are three ways a player can snag a spot in the bracket, according to the USTA. The first: Rank among the top 100 to top 105 players in the world, based on a nuanced computation of past performances in other big-name tennis events, including the other Grand Slams. These top players all gain automatic entry to Wimbledon, and their performances at Wimbledon affect their global rankings, and thus their abilities to play in future tournaments. If a player wins Wimbledon, for example, they’ll get 2,000 points added to their global ranking.
The second way: Receive one of several “wild card” entries, which are given out at the tournament’s discretion to up-and-coming players who do not yet rank within the global top 100 but show promise and talent.
Lastly, players can gain entry through winning performances in a qualifying tournament, which is held right directly before Wimbledon. The 2018 qualifying tournament will be from Monday, June 25, through Thursday, June 28. Players invited to this tournament typically fall just outside of the top 100 global ranking, the USTA says.
There are several American players to watch this year across multiple Wimbledon events, including well-known veterans and young up-and-comers.
On the women’s side, legends Venus and Serena Williams are expected to make some noise, says Blackman. At the French Open, Serena demonstrated impressive prowess for the first three rounds, before pulling out before the fourth round against Maria Sharapova due to a shoulder injury. “We hope to see her back at 100 percent at Wimbledon, and if she is at 100 percent, she is always the favorite.”
Venus, he adds, “is having a great second half of her career. She is still a threat to win majors, and the grass is her best surface, so we should see a great run from Venus as well.”
There’s also 25-year-old Sloane Stephens, the unexpected women’s singles winner of the 2017 U.S. Open and runner-up at the 2018 French Open, who Blackman says is “a threat to do well at all four slams,” along with 23-year-old Madison Keys, a finalist at the 2017 U.S. Open who is “in good form” and “dangerous on the grass,” and 26-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe, who Blackman says also excels on the grass.
For the men, John Isner (currently ranked tenth in the world in men’s singles), Sam Querrey (currently fourteenth) and Jack Sock (currently sixteenth) are all veteran players to watch, and 21-year-old Jared Donaldson, 20-year-old Francis Tiafoe, and 20-year-old Taylor Fritz are newbies with strong potential, says Blackman.
When it comes to doubles, Venus and Serena may team up. “We probably won’t know until the last week before the tournament,” says Blackman.
And lastly, American Juniors to watch include Caty McNally, Cori Gauff, Sebastian Korda, and Tristan Boyer.