Saturday 23 September 2017

Your ultimate guide to hosting Wimbledon in your back garden

Queuing for everyone’s favourite tennis tournament can be a drag – so why not bypass the hassle and stage your own championship instead?

Tennis rackets carved into a bench ahead of the Wimbledon Championships (Adam Davy/PA)
Tennis rackets carved into a bench ahead of the Wimbledon Championships (Adam Davy/PA)

By Peter Cary

Getting a ticket for Wimbledon is notoriously tricky, so if you’re not lucky enough to be heading to SW19 this weekend why not set up your own version in your back garden?

Here’s a guide to setting up a superior competition to rival the best of the grand slams.

1. Prepare the grass

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(Anthony Devlin/PA)

The grass at Wimbledon has to be able to last in dry conditions, so that means trimming it to an even 8mm: the optimum cut height for withstanding wear and tear.

Ideally the seed should be 100 Perennial Ryegrass, and the courts should be kept dry and rolled to allow the correct amount of bounce. Of course, where back gardens are concerned, patchy grass, yellow grass, burned grass and lumpy grass are perfectly acceptable alternatives.

Retrieve the garden hose from the shed and puncture holes in it so it can work as a makeshift sprinkler. Just ask permission from the owner of the hose first.

2. Measure out the court

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(Philip Toscano/PA)

This takes a bit of planning, so make sure you have enough space.

The total court area should be 41m x 22m, with a singles court length of 23.77m x width of 8.23m. The doubles court should be 23.77m x 10.97m, and lines should be 50mm wide, other than at the baselines, which should be 100mm wide.

Chances are the size of your garden won’t allow for this, in which case consider moving to a bigger house, or borrowing from a neighbour. Best not to wreak havoc in a local park and face a hefty fine from the council. As a last resort, measure out as much space as you can and pretend it’s regulation standard.

3. Construct seating blocks

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(Anthony Devlin/PA)

Wimbledon’s centre court holds 15,000 people – so you’ll probably want to think about cutting that back.

Ordinary garden furniture will do, but make sure it’s comfortable and durable for your guests. Raised platforms are recommended for better views, but hire a certified scaffolder to guarantee safety.

Remember: the addition of a Royal Box is a priority. As President of the Back Garden Tennis Society you’ll need it to welcome your most well-to-do guests.

4. Construct nets

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(Dave Thompson/PA)

Your net posts should be an even 1.07m, with a net height of 0.914m at centre.

The top of the net should be fitted with a plain white band of 6.35cm on each side.

And don’t forget to ensure the cord used has a maximum diameter of 0.8cm, or the tennis gods will be very angry and are likely to make it rain out of spite. Of course, if all else fails, find some old chicken wire/bikes/clothes or whatever you can possibly lay your hands on and use that instead.

5. Employ ball boys and girls

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(Steve Paston/PA)

Younger siblings come in handy here.

Ideally they should be smartly dressed, have strong co-ordination and be very good at keeping still for long periods (and running very, very fast to collect balls when necessary).

6. Assign umpires

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(Philip Toscano/PA)

Their character should be discerning, with a keen eye for detail and one serious poker face.

An umpire’s ability to keep calm under pressure is their greatest asset, especially when facing the wrath of adrenaline-driven players. You’ll also have to construct a fitting high chair, or find a very sturdy step ladder in its place. Large side cushions are recommended.

7. Establish a club shop

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(Anthony Devlin/PA)

Large quantities of bric-a-brac are needed to turn a tidy profit, so rummage through drawers for old tennis memorabilia.

Once you’ve disguised your old swimming badges as tennis awards, and altered your senior school cricket trophy to make it look like the figure on top is holding an elongated tennis racket, you can start thinking about hand-drawn posters and cardboard key rings with catchy slogans.

Pricing the items is easy: think of what it’s worth, add £2 and multiply by three.

8. Find players – and invest an all-consuming hope in one of them

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( Adam Davy/PA)

Is Dad your man? Or Mum your woman?

Either way, just make sure at least one of your confirmed players sucks in all of your passion, enthusiasm, hope and joy for the duration of the tournament.

If they lose, it will be necessary to sulk for at least two days, so block out the extra time from your calendar immediately.

9. Prepare a fully-stocked refreshments stall

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(Philip Toscano/PA)

The classics are a must, so that means strawberries with plenty of cream, Pimm’s by the gallon, Champagne (Prosecco will do), and canapes.

As with all memorabilia, prices should be premium to guarantee a decent return on your investments – and if you find yourself in a tight spot where finances are concerned, consider scrapping the usual treats in favour of crisps and lemonade. It’s not as posh, but it certainly is refreshing.

10. Enjoy!

Wimbledon GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

With the hard work behind you and all the pieces set, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy the realisation of your dreams: playing host in your very own tennis tournament.

Sure, there’s a bit of elbow grease involved, but it beats standing in a queue for 24 hours.

This is the true theatre of champions.

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