Wimbledon is back this summer after a forced absence last year, although things are set to look a little different at SW19 this time around.
The two week tournament was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since the Second World War, with the global pandemic still very much having a say on how the All England Club will operate this time around.
Novak Djokovic is the heavy favourite to become the first man since Roger Federer to make it three Wimbledon titles on the spin, while Serena Williams continues her quest to equal Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam titles.
While some aspects will remain very much the same, the absence of Rafael Nadal tops a list of things that will take on an entirely different look.
Let’s take a look at how the action will unfold on and off the court in these uncertain times, shall we?
Centre Court Will Be Full, But Nowhere Else
‘Freedom Day’ may have been put back, but the Wimbledon action will be enjoyed by 21,000 daily spectators.
Sure, that is half of its usual capacity, but Centre Court has been given approval to boast a full capacity of 14,979 for both the men’s and women’s finals.
Tennis fans will have to wear face masks while walking around the grounds of Wimbledon, but will be able to relax and remove them when sat at courtside. Food and drink stalls will remain open, but with social distancing in place.
While the action on the grass is what attracts millions of viewers worldwide, there are several traditions at Wimbledon that make it such a special place.
One of those is the renowned queueing system that sees fans desperate to see their tennis idols in action wait for hours in a bid to be admitted entrance to one of the main courts. All tickets have been sold online this year, so the sight of hundreds of Brits waiting in line is a thing of the past - perhaps forever.
Henman Hill Lives On
Do we still call it that? Well, whether you call it ‘Henman Hill’ or ‘Murray Mount’, you’ll be pleased to hear that it will be in use this summer.
Fans have flocked to the famous hill to take in the action since it was built for that very purpose in 1997. The authorities have confirmed that spectators will be able to sit on the slope, but that is about it. There is every chance that limited numbers, face masks and social distancing will all come into play.
No Autographs, No Pictures
There’s always something quite magical about the young tennis stars of the future clamoring to the front of the court in a bid to have a picture with their most-loved athletes.
Those less interested in a picture long for a signature from their sporting heroes and will ask them to sign anything from a shirt or magazine all the way through to tennis balls and body parts.
It’s all good fun, and we hope for a return to those days soon enough. However, for now, all players have been told to reject any requests for photos or to sign memorabilia.
No Gossip Around The Capital
The US Open has New York, the French Open has Paris, and the Australian Open has Melbourne.
All are thriving cities with a lot to offer to not only tourists, but also the tennis stars themselves. The same can be said for Wimbledon. On the doorstep of the famous SW19 venue are the bright lights of London.
The local and national press lap it up as the players spend their downtime in between matches taking in the sights that our capital city has to offer.
However, for 2021 at least, there will be no celebrity gossip for us to sink our teeth into. Those competing will be remaining within their designated bubbles either within the All England Club itself, or at neighbouring hotels.
The Show Must Go On
Despite all of the above, expect the players themselves to give all they have got and entertain us just as they usually would.
Andy Murray will be roared on by the local crowd, and Djokovic will be as menacing as ever. Unfortunately Simona Halep, defending champion on the women’s side has pulled out due a calf injury but that could open the door for seven-time winner Williams to win another crown, although tournament favourite Ashleigh Barty will have something to say about that.
It won’t quite be the same, but as Freddie Mercury quite rightly exclaimed, ‘The Show Must Go On’.