The grand cathedrals of tennis and golf: Wimbledon and The Masters
Each site is revered by tennis players and golfers
When Masters champion Sergio Garcia sat in the Royal Box at Wimbledon last week, he showed up in his green jacket from Augusta National. Seemed fitting.
The tennis and golf tournaments seem to be each other’s counterparts in many ways, starting with the reverence in which they’re held and the steps the private clubs that run them take to cultivate the events’ images. There’s a reason kids grow up pretending they’re serving for the match on Centre Court at the All England Club, or attempting a putt on the 18th green at Augusta National.
“This tournament has a special place in players’ careers. In this sport, there’s so much weight behind it and significance about it. The aura of Wimbledon has probably always been the strongest of any tournament,” three-time champion Novak Djokovic said. “I’m sure that most of the players on the tour, if not all, feel that.”
Sam Querrey certainly does. The 29-year-old Californian, who will play Marin Cilic of Croatia in the men’s semi-finals on Friday, made a point of noting that he was thrilled to have the best Grand Slam performance of his career at Wimbledon.
There’s no other place he’d rather have that sort of success.
“In my opinion, it’s the best tournament. It’s like the Masters for golf. Everything about it is unique and fun. The grounds are immaculate. It feels like a ‘bucket list’ thing, not only to players but to fans, more so than the other three Slams,” Querrey said. “It’s had that aura around it for a long time. Hopefully that will continue on.”
So what is it about Wimbledon that earned that status?
“I can’t name one thing. It’s just nicer. Attention to detail in the locker rooms, in the food area, the practice courts,” Querrey said. “Everything is just perfect, in a way.”
As Francesca Schiavone, an Italian who won the 2010 French Open and says her appreciation for Wimbledon has grown in recent years, put it: “Who wouldn’t want to play at this tournament?”
Part of the appeal of Wimbledon, a tournament now known simply as The Championships, it first was contested in 1877, when Spencer Gore beat William Marshall 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 for the title and the Masters, which “only” dates to 1934, is a sense of stepping back in time.
The All England Club is the only major tennis tournament that still uses grass courts, which in itself is anachronistic: That once was also the surface for the US Open and Australian Open, but decades ago. It’s the only one with rules mandating all-white attire for players. The only one with no play planned for the fortnight’s middle Sunday (last year was only the fourth time in the tournament’s lengthy history that rain in Week 1 necessitated scheduling matches on that day). The only one without advertising signs at the courts.
Instead, the tournament has 13 official “partners,” as they’re called. “They’re very much partners, not sponsors,” said Mick Desmond, the All England Club’s commercial director. They are made a part of the event’s fabric more naturally. The bottled water players drink, for example. Or a particular alcoholic beverage similar to a wine cooler that’s sold to spectators.
“We’re not going to change our strategy on that. Wimbledon wouldn’t be Wimbledon,” Desmond said. “The fans here and the fans around the world know who our partners are. You don’t have to knock somebody on the head and put banners in their face every 5 seconds. It’s not in our DNA.”
There’s a similar philosophy at Augusta National, and the two clubs trade notes on best practises.
“We share the same kind of view, that we are big annual tournaments that are hosted in the same venue each year and have clarity in terms of what our brand is. And I respect what they do, too,” Desmond said. “I think it’s probably the reasons we are the premium brands in both our sports.”
At the Masters, there is no running on the golf course. No cell phones are allowed on property during the tournament’s four rounds. Caddies are required to wear white coveralls with a green number on the front that corresponds with when their player checked in; the defending champion’s caddie always wears “1.” There are only 4 minutes of TV commercials per hour.
Each event also is proud of its idiosyncrasies. Wimbledon has its strawberries and cream, and the “pop” of Champagne corks in the stands. The Masters has its Pimiento cheese and egg salad sandwiches.
And yet, for all that remains the same around the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (its full, formal name), Wimbledon does manage to move along with the times in some respects.
There is now a video replay challenge system on the principal courts, for example.
Centre Court, first opened in 1922, had a retractable roof added in 2009. No 1 Court is due to have its own roof in 2019.
“A lot of changes. I’m happy they invested a lot. I think there’s more to come,” seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer said. “I think it’s going to be really interesting, the next 20 years, what they’re going to be doing.”