7 Facts About the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament

Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

The Championships, Wimbledon is in full swing at London's All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. As Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber defend their singles titles in 2019 at the only grass court Grand Slam tennis tournament, let's answer some questions about the world's oldest tennis championship.

1. When the Wimbledon tennis tournament was established, Victoria was Queen.

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club hosted the first tournament in 1877, during the reign of Queen Victoria. There was only a men's draw that year, and Spencer Gore bested a field of 22 players to win the first title. Two hundred spectators shelled out a shilling apiece to watch Gore triumph in the finals. In 1884 the tournament expanded to include men's doubles and ladies' singles. Maud Watson beat out 12 other women to claim the inaugural ladies' championship.

British players dominated Wimbledon back in the day; the first foreign champion didn't come along until American May Sutton won the ladies' championship in 1905. But in the open era beginning in 1968 (when pros were allowed to compete with amateurs), it wasn't until 1977 that Virginia Wade won the ladies' draw, and she was the last British champ until Andy Murray won the men's tournament in 2013.

2. Wimbledon players are required to wear white.

The All England Club's dress code dictates that players have to wear predominantly white clothing throughout the tournament, a rule unique to the Wimbledon among its Grand Slam brethren. The rule has predictably been the cause for some consternation among players, notably a young Andre Agassi, who didn't like the suppression of his inimitable bright-colors-and-flowing-mullet style. Agassi went so far as to completely skip the tournament from 1988 to 1990, citing the dress code as part of his reason for staying away, although pundits speculated his real hesitance had more to do with his game being ill-suited for grass courts.

Another dress code controversy sprung up in 2007 when Tatiana Golovin took the court. Although her outfit was the prescribed white, she had on bright red underwear that showed on many shots. After a delay, the knickers were deemed short enough to be considered underwear and not part of her actual ensemble. American Anne White, on the other hand, didn't get so lucky at the 1985 championships. She started a match in a stunning all-white Lycra body suit. When the match was later stopped due to darkness, she was told to wear more appropriate threads for the next day; she lost the third set in her more traditional duds.

3. Roger Federer and Martina Navratilova Hold Wimbledon Singles Records.

Without a doubt, Swiss star Roger Federer has ruled the grass court in the open era. He holds a record eight men's titles (2003-2007, 2009, 2012, and 2017) and is tied with Sweden's Bjorn Borg for the most consecutive titles in the open era at five. American Pete Sampras is just behind Federer with seven Wimbledon titles (1993-1995 and 1997-2000). In the pre-open era, British tennis player William Renshaw crushed it with seven titles (1881-1886 and 1889)—and some of his victories were against his own twin brother Ernest.

On the ladies' side, American Martina Navaratilova owned Wimbledon. Her nine singles titles are the record, as is her run of six straight between 1982 and 1987. In the open era, German star Steffi Graf and American treasure Serena Williams are not far behind with seven titles apiece (Graf in 1988, 1989, 1991-1993, 1995 and 1996 and Williams in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016).

Even more impressively, Navratilova added another seven ladies' doubles titles and four mixed doubles titles. Her final mixed doubles title came in 2003, when she was 46 years old. Only American icon Billie Jean King, who had six singles titles, 10 doubles titles, and four mixed wins can match Navratilova's 20 combined Wimbledon championships. 

4. Strawberries and cream is the traditional snack.

In the tournament's early days, strawberries were a very limited seasonal item with availability that happened to coincide with annual tennis event. As the years passed, strawberries and cream became a treasured part of the fan experience. According to one estimate, each year tournament spectators chomp through almost 60,000 pounds of strawberries and 1800 gallons of cream. Like everything else at Wimbledon, the snack is steeped in tradition: according to The New York Times, the berries are of the Elsanta variety and are picked the day before they're served, and the accompanying cream must contain at least 48 percent butterfat.

5. Winners don't actually take home the Wimbledon trophies.

Continuing with the fruit theme, the men's trophy is a silver gilt cup with pineapple on top, dating from 1887. Its inscription isn't going to win any points for humility: "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Champion of the World." Each gentlemen's champion gets a 8-inch replica of the 18-inch trophy as a memento of his win.

The winner of the ladies' singles draw gets a sterling silver salver, or flat tray, that's known as the Venus Rosewater Dish. This trophy, which has been awarded since 1886, depicts various scenes from mythology, including a large central figure of Temperance and an outer ring of Minerva overlooking the seven Liberal Arts. Ladies' champions receive a take-home replica of the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Of course, the champions don't just win this hardware; they also get cash. In 2019, both the singles champions will pick up 2.4 million pounds (about $3 million) for their efforts.

6. Players pass an inscription by Rudyard Kipling on their way to the court. 

Players take the most famous court, Centre Court, at the All England Club beneath an excerpt from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—" that reads:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

7. Players no longer need to curtsy toward the royal box.

Until 2003, a rule required players to bow or curtsy to the royal family's box upon entering or leaving Centre Court. In 2003 the rule was modified so that players only had to bow or curtsy if Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles happened to be making an appearance in the box that day. That ruling effectively meant no bowing or curtsying, since the queen has attended the tournament only four times (in 1957, 1962, 1977, and 2010), and in 2012 the prince went to Wimbledon for the first time in 42 years. The rule was the brainchild of the president of the All England Club, who just happens to be the queen's first cousin—Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent.

This article was originally published in 2008 and has been updated.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

8 Surprising Facts About Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.
Chuck Norris.
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

For decades, martial artist and actor Carlos Ray Norris Jr. has been kicking his way into the hearts of action film fans. In addition to his competitive karate career, Norris has starred in a string of successful movies as well as the long-running CBS drama Walker, Texas Ranger. With Norris having reached the milestone age of 80 years old back in March 2020, we’re taking a look at some of the more interesting facts about his life and career.

1. Chuck Norris is a military veteran.

Chuck Norris in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
Chuck Norris stars in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983).
MGM Home Entertainment

Born on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma, Norris was the oldest of three boys and a self-described “shy” child. After a move to California, Norris attended North Torrance High School. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a member of the military police in the hopes of pursuing a career in law enforcement. It was in the service, while being stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, that Norris first discovered the martial arts. When he once found himself unable to control a rowdy drunk in a bar while on patrol duty, Norris realized he needed combat skills. He studied Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do before returning to California. When he was discharged from the Air Force in 1962, Norris began teaching the skills he had acquired to students.

2. Steve McQueen got Chuck Norris into acting.

Norris became a world champion in karate contests, which lent credence to his abilities as a martial arts instructor. He taught several celebrities the finer points of self-defense, including the Osmonds, Priscilla Presley, and Steve McQueen. Norris even trained Price Is Right host Bob Barker. But not all his schools were doing well, and after retiring from competition in 1974, Norris was looking for other opportunities. McQueen suggested that Norris try his hand at acting. McQueen was right—eventually. It took several years and nine films, but Norris had a breakthrough with 1982’s Lone Wolf McQuade.

3. Chuck Norris needed to obey a producer’s request in order to face off against Bruce Lee.

While Norris didn’t become a household name until the 1980s, his turn as a villain in 1972’s Return of the Dragon (also known as Way of the Dragon) opposite Bruce Lee wound up being a seminal meeting of two onscreen martial arts legends. When Lee was looking for an adversary for the climactic fight, he called Norris, whom he knew and was friends with. But the film’s producer insisted that Norris gain 20 pounds so that he would appear to be much larger than Lee on camera. “That’s why I don’t do jump kicks [in the movie],” Norris told Empire in 2007. “I couldn’t get off the ground!”

4. Chuck Norris founded his own martial arts system.

Taking the knowledge he had acquired over many years of training in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do, Norris developed his own unique martial arts system and philosophy that he eventually dubbed Chun Kuk Do. In addition to combat techniques, the system encourages students to develop themselves to their maximum potential and look for the good in other people. It was renamed the Chuck Norris System in 2015.

5. Chuck Norris once marketed Chuck Norris Action Jeans.

Thanks to his fame in the martial arts world, Norris was sought after to endorse athletic products. In 1982, martial arts equipment company Century recruited Norris to be a spokesperson for their Karate Jeans, which featured flexible fabric sewn into the crotch that would presumably allow the wearer to deliver a bone-crunching kick while looking fashionable. Eventually renamed Action Jeans, Norris promoted them for years.

6. Chuck Norris had his own cartoon series.

At the height of his popularity in the 1980s, Norris teamed with animation company Ruby-Spears for an animated series, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. The show featured Norris and a team of martial artists fighting villains like Superninja and The Claw. Although 65 shows were planned, just a few aired. “We only did six of them, and then a woman at CBS said, ‘Those are too violent,’” Norris told MTV News in 2009.

7. Chuck Norris is a real Texas Ranger.

For eight seasons, Norris pummeled bad guys as the star of the 1990s CBS television series Walker, Texas Ranger, which became the first primetime show shot on location in Texas at Norris’s insistence. In 2010, Norris was named an honorary member of the Texas Rangers by state governor Rick Perry in acknowledgment of Norris’s work in raising awareness for the elite unit and for his work helping underprivileged youths via martial arts programs. Norris’s brother, Aaron Norris, who was an executive producer on the show, also received the designation.

8. Chuck Norris’s role in Dodgeball was a surprise to Chuck Norris.

Norris is generally good-humored about his persona and is often willing to poke fun at himself. But when he was asked to do a cameo in the 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he passed because he didn’t feel like driving three hours to the movie’s set in Long Beach, California. When star Ben Stiller called to ask personally, Norris agreed, but didn’t read the script. He simply shot his scene where he offers a thumbs-up to the dodgeball competitors.

When Norris saw the movie in theaters, he was surprised at the context. “But in the end, when Ben’s a big fatty and watching TV, the last line of the whole movie is, ‘F***in’ Chuck Norris!,'” Norris told Empire in 2007. “My mouth fell open to here… I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’ That was a shock, Ben didn’t tell me about that!”