It’s the Little Things That Make Wimbledon Great

Community Spirit

SG Buckley

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Photo by SG Buckley

I walk out my front door and run into my friend Tina. She’s rushing off for the first day of a new job: Wimbledon Driver. Like other people I know, Tina will be carting around the world’s greatest tennis players for the tournament, which starts on July 3.

Locals are always involved in this Grand Slam event. Kids sell lemonade; shops and restaurants decorate windows (see photo above); people in our nameless neighbourhood — so close to the club it should be called Wimbledon Gardens — rent parking spots. Lots of people put up players in their homes.

Our friends, the Hamiltons, let their house to Rafael Nadal in 2010, the year he won his second single’s title. The family took off to Spain where, surrounded by other British tourists, they cheered on Nadal even against UK hero Andy Murray. Nadal was their house guest after all.

Other neighbours have hosted Novak Djokovic, Martina Navratilova, Daniil Medvedev, Conchita Martinez (the year she won) and many others. For more than twenty years, a friend has rented her place to Chris Evert and family. She says her kids have known Chris Evert’s kids since they were little.

All of this gives one of the four Grand Slam tournaments a distinctly small-town feel.

But perhaps not everyone sees a “small” Wimbledon as a good thing. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, wants to be bigger. After buying more land, the AELTC requested planning permission to build dozens of courts and an 8,000-seat showcourt. They say it’s necessary to compete with other Grand Slams like the US Open and the Australian Open.

Critics call the expansion plans “ludicrously large”. They prefer that the peaceful sweep of trees and greenery — designed by 18th century landscape architect Capability Brown — be left alone.

With this controversy in mind, it’s worth remembering that what makes Wimbledon special isn’t its size. It’s the little things that make the tournament great.

It’s the guy who sells old-fashioned straw hats on Wimbledon Park Road, the strawberries and cream served at the tournament, and the way people dress up like they’re going to Ascot. It’s the baskets of purple…

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SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.