WIMBLEDON UPON US AGAIN

Wow, doesn’t the year go quickly. Wimbledon is now upon us again

Around this time of the year popularity in tennis increases in Britain about ten-fold before it falls in to obscurity again in three weeks time until next year’s Championships. For years the country ground together all its emotional resources to back golden boy Tim Henman before shedding a tear or two at another close call in the semis.

Henman Hill (or Rusedski Ridge to some) has now become Murray Mound and last year in particular it was a similar story. I guess the patriots in this country just want a Brit to do well.

Of course the media will do their best. They will build him up to make him sound like he is the Fed Express itself and if (when) he tastes defeat he will be destroyed by those same pen-pushers. There will be accusations about his private life, he didn’t try hard enough, and he’s just another British failure. Nobody is more scathing of British sports stars than the British press.

This year we have some great stories before we even enter the courtside action. Federer has lost his No. 1 ranking to Rafa Nadal and will want that back. He will also, I’m sure, have one eye on a possible ten titles before he retires or at least surpassing Pete Sampras’ dominating seven.

We also have a few welcome returns too. Richard Gasquet is set to compete and try to get his career moving in the right direction again following the doping scandal and his recent play suggests he is ready to do so. Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis will compete in the legends doubles tournament too this year. It will be Hingis’ first appearance at SW19 since her own cocaine scandal a few years back.

With the Australian and French Opens throwing us a few surprises this year here’s hoping Wimby can continue the trend and give us something special. Sam Querrey to win his first Grand Slam?

As a build-up to the greatest grass tournament of them all, we have compiled a list of great Wimby facts you may or may not already know. Enjoy:

* The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was founded in 1868.

* In 1875 it began hosting lawn tennis, a game recently developed by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.

* In 1877 a men’s singles Championship was held which culminated in Spencer Gore winning a final watched by over 200 spectators paying one shilling each for the pleasure.

* 1884 saw the women’s singles incorporated with Maud Watson victorious.

* From 1897 the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie; began a ten-year dominance of the grass courts which helped reignite a waning public interest in tennis.

* In 1905, May Sutton of the USA became the first foreign player to win at Wimbledon in the ladies singles.

* The current site opened for business in 1922 after the Championships outgrew its former Worple Road base. King George V opened the festivities and the new home saw the abolition of the Challenge Round in favour of the holder participating in the whole tournament.

* Every year during the 1920s the French produced at least one singles champion.

* 1934-37 was a Golden Era for the Brits at Wimbledon as 11 titles were captured. This included three consecutive singles titles for Fred Perry, two for Dorothy Round and three successful Davis Cup defenses on Centre Court.

* During the Second World War, the facility was used for a host of activities including a variety of civil defense and military functions, Home Guard and a decontamination unit. A small farmyard including pigs and chickens was stationed on-site and in 1940, Centre Court was bombed with a loss of 1,200 seats.

* From 1956 to 1970 Wimbledon became a home away from home for Australian players as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe dominated the Championships.

* 1973 was the famous ‘Boycott Year’ as 81 members of the Association of Tennis Professionals refused to play after the suspension of Nikki Pilic by the Yugoslavian Lawn Tennis Association. Despite this, attendances still topped 300,000 as Jan Kodes won the men’s singles title.

* The tournament celebrated its centenary in 1977.

* Following recent work on Centre Court it can now hold 15,000 fans and has a retractable roof to counter the often-long rain delays.

* The USA are the most successful country at Wimbledon. They have won 33 of the 123 men’s singles championships and 53 of the 116 women’s championships.

* Pete Sampras and W.C. Renshaw are tied with the most Championships wins with seven each. Martina Navratilova leads the ladies’ field with nine.

* Laurie Doherty is the most successful overall male competitor at Wimbledon with five singles titles and eight doubles between 1897 and 1906. Martina Navratilova is tied on 20 (nine singles, seven doubles, four mixed 1976-2003) with Billie Jean King (six singles, 10 doubles, four mixed 1961-1979).

* Boris Becker became the youngest men’s champion in 1985 at 17 years, 227 days old. Miss C. Dod has been the youngest female champion since 1887 when she won just 15 years, 285 days old.

* In 1990, Jennifer Capriati became the youngest ever competitor at Wimbledon at the tender age of 14 years, 90 days old.

* The record daily attendance was achieved on the Wednesday of week one at the 2002 Championships when 42,457 attended the All England Club.

* The total prize money handed out this year will be £13,725,000, a 9.4% increase on 2009.

*The two singles champions will receive a cool £1,000,000 each, a 17.6% increase on 2009. This compares to £2000 being given to the male champion at the beginning of the Open Era in 1968 and £750 handed to the women’s champion.