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Love all: A beginner's guide to Wimbledon

Don't know your ace from your tennis elbow? Don't worry. Tanya Sweeney has the essential cheat sheet for Wimbledon 2019

Big upset: teenager Cori Gauff after she defeated Venus Williams at Wimbledon this year
Big upset: teenager Cori Gauff after she defeated Venus Williams at Wimbledon this year
Former NI tennis star Claire Curran

By Tanya Sweeney

In a summer already jammed with great sporting moments, Wimbledon remains the quintessential summer sporting jamboree.

For two weeks of the year, it's grunts, Pimm's and white shorts ... and no shortage of sporting drama. But how do you hold your own when talking about the biggest tennis tournament of them all? Here's everything you wanted to know about the event, but were waiting on someone else to ask.

Who should I be shouting for this year?

Kicking off the entire event, Novak Djokovic is the defending men's champion and will be hoping to pick up the silverware for the fifth time. He'll have stiff competition on his hands in the form of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, drawn to meet in the semis. Australian Nick Kyrgios is a safe bet as a dark horse. On the women's court, new world number one Ashleigh Barty is the favourite; defending champion Angelique Kerber is likely to give all comers a serious run for their money and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has a chance - if she can manage the wrist problem that felled her chances of winning the French Open.

What's with the strawberries and cream?

It's a huge part of Wimbledon's 142-year history, and the signature dish - 10 pieces, and lashings of cream - dates back to when high tea was all the rage and the event coincided with strawberry season. For the last 30 years, Wimbledon's strawberries have come from the same farm in Kent. It's expected that 190,000 servings will be sold in the next two weeks, and for the first time, a vegan option will be on sale.

Why are they so strict about the players wearing all-white?

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Again, this is down to tradition. Back in the tournament's earliest days, it was thought that sweat patches on players' clothing looked a little unseemly. Tennis whites soon became the norm and Wimbledon organisers, fond of upholding tradition, have been loath to meddle with it.

There have been outliers down the years, of course: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have been known to flout this rule with their brightly coloured pink or orange shorts. And officials famously told off Roger Federer for wearing orange-soled tennis shoes with his all-white outfit. The scamp.

Chris Quinn, from Greystones in the Republic, came up close and personal with the all-whites rule in 2017 - and became an internet sensation in the process. Chris was watching an invitational doubles match featuring Kim Clijsters on Court Three when he shouted a suggestion about where she should serve. Clijsters challenged him to face her serve by taking the place of her opponent, but he had to don a white skirt to get onto the hallowed court first.

What happens to the matches in the event of rain?

Since 1877, a total of 32 days have been rained off, the courts have been drenched by an inch of rain in less than 20 minutes and seen soaring temperatures of 35ºC. In 2009, Wimbledon's Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof to lessen the loss of playing time due to rain. Closing the roof takes a total of 40 minutes.

What on earth is a 'double bagel'?

In tennis, a bagel is a term denoting a situation when the set ends with a score of 6-0. They're a common enough occurrence in the early stages of a tournament when the greats meet with lowly ranked stars. Grand Slam matches in the men's singles category are best of five sets. Thus, a kind of "inner double bagel" is possible, when a tennis player wins two consecutive 6-0 sets in a single match.

For women in Grand Slam tournaments, a double bagel result is possible as the matches are best of three sets. It joins a long list of strange tennis terms, among them: Bisque (one stroke, which may be claimed by the receiver at any part of the set); breadstick (colloquial term for winning or losing a set 6-1); cannonball (a fast, flat serve); chip (blocking a shot with underspin); and a Hail Mary (extremely high lob, for defensive purposes).

Why is a score of zero called 'love' and not 'zero' or 'nil'? And why don't they just go up by 1, 2, 3 in games?

The Duchess of Cambridge at Wimbledon yesterday
The Duchess of Cambridge at Wimbledon yesterday

Some trace the term back to the 17th-century expression "play for love", meaning 'to play without any wager, for nothing'. As for the scoring system, some reckon it originated in 19th-century India, when British officers used to play a little-known game called sphairistike. That game's scoring system was based on the different gun calibres of the British naval ships. Officers would fire 15-pound guns on the main deck first, followed by the 30-pound guns of the middle deck, and finally the 40-pound guns of the lower deck.

How do the ball boys and girls get the gig?

Pretty decent summer job, right? Yet for the 250 or so ball boys and girls used in the tournament, a gruelling selection process has to be undertaken first. Teachers at local schools put forward their brightest and fittest, and to ensure budding candidates are fully prepared, physical training, which starts in February, is in intense two-hour bursts with exercises including squat thrusts, lunges and jumping.

They also must ace a written test on the finer points of the game. They get around £200 for a fortnight's work, and a customised Ralph Lauren uniform, for their troubles.

Who was our last great hope at Wimbledon?

We haven't done too badly.

Claire Curran, from Belfast, played at Junior Wimbledon in 1996. She is also a former top 100 doubles player and played at Wimbledon in four championships. She commentates on the Women's Tennis Association and the men's ATP website TV channels.

Ireland's very first (and so far only) female winner of Wimbledon was Tipperary woman Helena Rice, better known as Lena. In 1890, after an unsuccessful 1889 at Wimbledon, Lena returned to the famous courts in London. This time she emerged victorious and claimed the women's singles title - beating all of the other three competitors in the process.

In 1890, Kildare native Willoughby Hamilton also managed to take the men's title, making it a double for Ireland. Harold Segerson Mahony was the third and last Irishman to win Wimbledon (he won in 1896) and was our last representative at the competition for many years.

The Republic's most recent local hero has been Limerick man Conor Niland, who took to the famous Wimbledon courts in 2011. Niland's triumph in qualifying for Wimbledon marked the first time in 31 years that an Irishman or woman did so.

Have passport, will travel... have I any hope of getting a ticket?

It's all in the queueing... on the day of play, hopefuls make their way down to the SW19 area and try their luck in a first-come-first-served system. The queue usually starts in Wimbledon Park, and makes its way through the park and golf course towards the Gate 3 turnstiles, where the tickets are sold. Some enthusiastic fans camp overnight for tickets; others arrive between 5am and 6am.

Who are the newcomers to mention?

Greek newcomer Stefanos Tsitsipas and Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime are just two of the names that insiders are getting excited about - however seventh seed Tsitsipas lost in a five-set battle on Monday. Fifteen-year-old Cori 'Coco' Gauff, who was the youngest Wimbledon qualifier in the Open Era, met Venus Williams - and won - in the opening round.

What's the prize money like for the winners?

Both the singles winners in the 2019 tournament will win £2.35 million, while runners-up get to bank a £1.175 million cheque. In the doubles, the winning pair share £540,000, and runners-up get £270,000. Since 2007, Wimbledon has awarded equal prize money to men and women, but women are still afforded less time on the main show courts.

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