Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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Wimbledon Village Stables are anticipating a men’s final between the No.2 and the No.4 seeds.
According to a scoreboard they have styled next to the entrance of their quaint stable yards tucked behind the Dog & Fox pub off the High Street, Novak Trot-ovic will lead Rafael Neigh-dal by two sets to one. Tantalisingly, they leave the score at 2-0, 40-0 in the fourth set…
Like many local businesses, the Village Stables have gone to tremendous efforts to embrace the spirit of The Championships. The entrance is adorned with the bust of a black horse, tennis racket in mouth and a string of balls slung low around the neck like a martingale harness. Their ponies trot out the “we-are-a-tennis-loving-community” line even as they are hacking across Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park: each horse has a tennis ball stencilled with a mix of yellow/green spray paint on their hind quarters.
You think the players at a Grand Slam are competitive? Meet the businesses of Wimbledon Village. Each year they keenly rise to the challenge of conjuring the best-dressed tennis-themed window for a top prize of two Centre Court tickets. The rules for entry are simple, explains Kimberley Salmassian of WV Events, the founder and organiser of the Tennis Windows Event. “The windows must have a tennis theme – the purple and green colours, strawberries and cream, the all-white clothing, et cetera. They are provided with rackets from Babolat and balls from Slazenger, though it’s not compulsory to use them. The windows must be ready two weeks before the tennis starts, and photographs must be posted on Facebook a full week ahead of first Monday.”
There are 63 competitors in the field for 2017. Their windows will be judged by a panel of 10 assessors on the strength of their tennis concept, the creativity of its execution and on how the play on the tennis theme reflects each shop or restaurant’s speciality. Wandering around the village, it is fun to clock how cleverly each independent business has made their tennis slogan applicable to their individual business. For jeweller Michael Platt, it is Gem, Set and Match. Space.NK, the luxury beauty retailer, invites passers-by to “Up Your Defence Game with our edit of top-performing SPFs”. Farrow & Ball, famous for their “neutral families” of paint colour, showcase their fashionable grey palette with a fanned arrangement of wooden framed rackets in (not quite 50) shades of grey shown in contrast with a Wimbledon purple. The Ivy Cafe has added an abundance of flowers studded with golden rackets to climb up and around its entranceway.
We’ve got the World Cup of tennis here every single year, and it’s fun to embrace it
There are some inspired interpretations. The Wimbledon Village Osteopath has styled its anatomical skeleton model as if in a full horizontal dive, racket in hand, Wimbledon cap on skull, with the trajectory of the ball depicted with nine balls hung on strings to create an arc. Restaurants such as the Fire Stables and Brew use a net to separate their indoor/outdoor eating areas – the latter rather sweetly using a topped tennis ball as a container for each table’s floral decoration.
“Several of the entrants work on their concept all year,” says Kimberley. Indeed, the Wimbledon Librarian Robert McNicol reports that the owner of Pet Pavilion – the pet shop that won the Tennis Windows Event title in 2015 - made an appointment last year to come and study amusing cartoons from the archive to inspire their window design. This year their window has been transformed into a Hall of Fame with portraits of players styled as dogs or cats – Pet Sampras, Steffi Grrrrf, Bjorn Bark, Novak Dogovic and so on – hung in front of an astro-turf backdrop amid giant rackets and large balls adorned with dog and cat faces.
Thai Tho are the reigning champions, and already planning for 2018. The restaurant favoured by Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Dustin Brown, Chris Evert and Andre Agassi among others has a stunning Thai jungle meets tennis theme, inspired by the “Tie Break” slogan (geddit?) on this year’s Slazenger ball. The yellow blossoms in the window came from co-owner Nicky Mills’s home town in southern Thailand and were transported back in April in a large suitcase in readiness for championship glory. Fake grass covers the panels, window frames and pavement street frontage. Two traditional elephants and a monkey are clad in grass. As you’d expect of a purveyor of the cuisine that serves sculpted carrot garnishes, the detail is exemplary.
“It’s gone down well. If I had a pound for the number of children who’ve been plonked on the elephant for a photo!” says Adrian Mills, chairman of the Wimbledon Village Business Association, admitting the ball wedged under the trunk of the elephant outside the front door has had to be replaced several times thanks to souvenir-hunters. “We’ve got the World Cup of tennis here every single year, and it’s fun to embrace it.”