The Long Road to Wimbledon

Attaining the status as a professional tennis player is only achieved by an elite few and only the top 200 players are able to make a living from the sport. In the world there are currently 1,106 pro players ranked on the WTA tour and 1,814 pro tennis players ranked on the ATP tour. The WTA tour is the Women’s Tennis Association and the ATP tour is the Association of Tennis Professionals which is the men’s tennis governing body. Through playing tournaments, players can accrue points to advance their ranking. One tournament in particular is considered one of the most prestigious.

What is Wimbledon?

Players come from around the world, dressed in their all white tennis outfits to play on grass surfaced tennis courts. Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and was founded in 1877. The tournament is one of the four Grand Slams with the other ones being the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open. Wimbledon is held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, England and takes place over two weeks in late June to early July. The tradition of the players wearing all white for the tournament started in the 19th century and continues today.

Wimbledon is built on traditions that continue to persist today, distinguishing the tournament from other Grand Slams and adding to its’ prestige.  The grass courts are just one of the important aspects of the tournament. Grass courts are difficult and expensive to maintain which is why all of the other Grand Slams have switch to different surfaces such as hard court or clay. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam to maintain the grass tradition. Wimbledon also has the strictest dress code, requiring all-white tennis attire with exception of colored trim that is no wider than 10mm. As viewers sit around to watch the tournament, strawberries and cream are being passed around. Strawberries and cream have become a typical food for fans during the tournament. Each year, about 28,000 kg of strawberries and 7,000 liters of cream are consumed by fans.

Another important aspect of Wimbledon is the Royalty that watches the tournament. The British Royal Family watches the tournament each year with the Queen sponsoring the All England Club. Every year, the Duke and Duchess of Kent present the winners of Wimbledon with the trophy. All of the traditions contribute to the prestige of Wimbledon. It is no surprise why the tournament is admired by so many. It is a tough tournament to qualify for but an honor to have the chance to play in.

Photo by Andy Findlay. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The tournament starts with the men and women’s singles draws each having 128 players and the men and women’s doubles draws each having 64 players.

How does the point system work?

Wimbledon used to have no restrictions on who could play in the tournament but that changed in 1919 due to the large amount of participants. Restrictions were set in place to limit the number of participants and to only allow the more experienced players to participate. Players were required to submit their entry into the tournament at least 6 weeks before it started. Wimbledon’s Committee of Management accepts applicants based on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. The Committee of Management includes 12 AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club) members and 7 nominees from the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association). The rankings by ATP and WTA are based on the total points accrued by the players in tournaments. The points are kept for 52 weeks and are then dropped. The points gained from tournaments vary based on the type of tournament being played.

  • Grand Slams are worth the most points with the winner of singles gaining 2,000 points, the runner up with 1,200 points, the semifinalist with 720 points, all the way down to the first round loser with 10 points.
  • The next tournaments with the most points are ATP/WTA tournaments where players can earn between 250 to 1,000 points.
  • Challenger tournament winners win 80-125 points.
  • Finally, Future tournaments are tournaments that allow unranked players to enter so they can gain points. The winners accrue 18-35 points.

 The official rankings started in 1973. The 2019 ATP ranking has Nadal at 1 with 9,585 points and the number 20 player, Grigor Dimitrov, with 1,747 points. Points vary greatly even between the top 20 players.

Besides points, how does one qualify for Wimbledon?

The men and women singles draws each have 128 players and the men and women’s doubles draws each have 64 players. The top players are not necessarily guaranteed automatic entry. In addition to having a large number of points, players can also qualify for Wimbledon through wild cards and the qualifying tournament. The qualifying tournament is for lower ranked players. These rounds are held at Roehampton a week before the main tournament. Three rounds are played and the players who win all three rounds advance to the main draw. There are 16 spots in men’s singles, 12 spots in women’s singles and four spots in both men and women’s doubles. However, in doubles only one round is played in the qualifying tournament. There have been three qualifiers that have made it to the semifinals in Wimbledon.

Wild cards are given to players who may not have enough points but have performed well in past tournaments or might “boost British interest” in the tournament. Wild cards are decided on by the Wimbledon’s Committee of Management.

One wild card in particular shocked the crowd, being the lowest ranked player (No. 125) to win Wimbledon. Goran Ivanisevic is still the only wild card to win a Grand Slam singles title. The battle for the Wimbledon men’s singles championship in 2001 was a long match, lasting more than three hours. In past years, Ivanisevic finished runner up three times in 1992, 1994 and 1998 but finally had his chance to win it all in 2001.

Nick Kyrgios is another wild card who stunned viewers by beating second seed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round in 2014. He eventually lost to Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals but his rankings drastically increased from advancing that far in the tournament.

The only wild card men’s doubles champions are Frederik Nelson and Jonathan Marray, men who were not originally supposed to play together. The win made Marray “the first British men’s doubles champion at Wimbledon since 1936.”

Next time you are watching Wimbledon and the person loses in the quarterfinals of a long hard fought match, remember it was a long road to that place in the tournament. Wimbledon is a tough tournament to qualify for and it is an honor to have the opportunity to play in a tournament that is filled with tradition and history.

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