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Michael Taylor 9th Dec 2008 - 15:57

Strawberries and cream, rain, Henman Hill...it's all at Wimbledon

Every Summer the world's greatest tennis players descend on the London Borough of Merton for the most prestigious event of the year, Wimbledon.

The two-week tournament is rife with personality and sentiment as past glories are kept alive through the quirks and routines that have become synonymous with the sole grass court major in tennis.

Whether it is the umpire's call of 'rain stops play', the BBC repeats of past epics from the inimitable Centre Court, or another year of spectacular British failure, it is quintessentially British and part of the national fabric.

Perhaps the defining feature of Wimbledon, and the reason it is still revered, is how the developments within tennis and to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club have never become more important than the event itself.

When it all began in 1877, Spencer Gore managed to fight his way through a 22 man field to lift the trophy in front of just 200 spectators on Centre Court.

By 2008 things had changed, with Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams both claiming £750,000 in prize money in front of 13,810 spectators, however the real glory still came from standing victorious in front of the Royal Box holding the age-old trophy aloft.

All England Traditions

In a time of mass globalisation Wimbledon is remarkably and refreshingly ignorant to making wholesale changes instead preferring to retain a good portion of the traditions that have evolved since its beginnings.

Competitors may hail from all corners of the earth but everything else, from the well-drilled and well-dressed ball boys and girls to the cream and green ensemble all officials are made to wear, can be dated back to its Victorian roots.

Another key to the on-going success has been the evolution of the spectators role. The tongue-in-cheek renaming of Aorangi Terrace to Henman Hill in support of 'Tiger' Tim Henman symbolises the British trait of supporting the hard-working underdog as he constantly battles the odds.

Also, the fickle nature of the fan caused by years of frustration can be seen as the memory of Henman hastily erodes and the new pretender Andy Murray appears, causing Henman Hill to once again change persona to Murray Mound.

Wimbledon in the 21st Century

With over 125 years of thrilling action it may seem short-sighted to believe that 2008 saw the greatest Wimbledon Men's Singles final ever, but few can give evidence of witnessing anything quite as special.

The five-set match between defending champ Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafael Nadal was nothing short of spectacular as the rain interrupted, seven hour contest finally ended in near darkness, with a new champion crowned.

Nadal, a clay court specialist, admitted that winning Wimbledon was the higlight of any player's career, while most fans agreed that watching Nadal beat Federer was as close to perfect as a tennis match could be.

While Federer has been dominant in the men's half of the tournament, in the women's half, the Williams sisters have completely revolutionised the standard and power that is now required.

Venus and Serena are so different from anything Wimbledon had ever seen before, mixing intimidating power and pace that most women are simply unable to cope with.

Past winners

Year Men's winner Men's runner-up
Ladies' winner Ladies' runner-up
2008 Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer
Venus Williams
Serena Williams
2007 Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal
Venus Williams
Marion Bartoli
2006 Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal
Amelie Mauresmo
Justine Henin
2005 Roger Federer
Andy Roddick
Venus Williams
Lindsay Davenport
2004 Roger Federer
Andy Roddick
Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams
2003 Roger Federer
Mark Philippoussis
Serena Williams
Venus Williams
2002 Lleyton Hewitt
David Nalbandian
Serena Williams
Venus Williams
2001 Goran Ivanisevic
Patrick Rafter
Venus Williams
Justine Henin
2000 Pete Sampras
Patrick Rafter
Venus Williams
Lindsay Davenport
1999 Pete Sampras
Andre Agassi
Lindsay Davenport
Steffi Graf
1998 Pete Sampras Goran Ivanisevic
Jana Novotna
Nathalie Tauziat
1997 Pete Sampras
Cedric Pioline
Martina Hingis
Jana Novotna

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