Game, set and strawberries in SW19

An English garden in London SW19 threw open its gates to the world yesterday to begin its annual summer party. In these green and pleasant surroundings, warm beer and cricket - for some the signature of Englishness - is banished in favour of strawberries and cream and Pimm's.

The surprise first round defeat of the crowd's favourite, Andre Agassi, ruffled the genteel atmosphere for a moment but otherwise attention was where it has always been on day one - on overpriced but luxurious eating and drinking.

At the River Restaurant in the Savoy Hotel yesterday, you could have spent pounds 7.50 on a bowl of strawberries-and-cream as you looked over the sunlit Thames. At the SW19 garden party, 10 strawberries would set you back a mere pounds 1.80. A bit more than last year but when you fork out pounds 47 on a bottle of Bollinger, 18p a strawberry must be cheap, relatively.

Ensuring all things change while all things appear to remain the same, is hard work for the organisers of SW19's annual summer bash.

In 1933 gentlemen playing on the summer party's Centre Court were allowed to wear shorts for the first time. In 1980 electronic service line monitors were introduced. And yesterday the most dangerous job in sport was phased out at Wimbledon. The net court judges, who long ago should have been issued with full body amour to survive the likes of Pete Sampras's serves, were yesterday made redundant by another electronic device.

The revolution was quiet. On the show courts there was nothing to be heard of the bleeps that so infuriated Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe. McEnroe is not playing, so SW19's churches will be empty of praying umpires.

In two weeks' time, at the summer party, where tradition is everything, the bulldozers will be brought in to level a piece of sporting history; Number One court will be demolished. And like a phoenix it will reappear next year as the new, improved, super-stadium Number One court.

The English have a flair for mourning the loss of tradition. Perhaps if there is loss at Wembley tomorrow, the nation will be moved to wearing black arm-bands. But at Wimbledon yesterday it was a German who began the official mourning for number one court. Boris Becker, past winner and this year's number two seed, said: "It is a sign of the times. Bigger stadiums. But I like the atmosphere in court one. It had flair, character and style, but unfortunately, times change.

The organisers of the garden party refuse to accept anything will change. "The garden party atmosphere will remain - this is tennis in an English garden," is the official line.

Last year 384,882 people came to the party. The new court, 20 per cent smaller than the current Centre Court capacity, only threatens to enhance SW19's traditions.

In the members' enclosure, no one was really worried yesterday. "If you strip off the phoney traditions we have here, what do you think you'd find underneath?" asked one member. Before you have time to answer, another member has replied: "Why, the real traditions, of course. By the way, who is on Number One court today?"

Commentary, page 13

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen