The 126th Wimbledon is underway. Or to give it its full title: the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Championships.
A few things are synonymous with Wimbledon: the grass (it is the only grand-slam tournament played on natural grass); the strawberries (23 tonnes consumed last year) and cream (7,000 litres) and the rain.
Bad weather has become woven into the very fabric of the tournament as much as Virginia Wade, ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ Moran and her frilly knickers, or John ‘there was chalk dust!’ McEnroe. Over the years, the team of ground staff has become very adept at hauling the covers on and off the courts.
On the all-too-frequent occasions when the bad weather was unrelenting, we always had Sir Cliff Richard to pop up with an impromptu concert.
Of course, all that came to an end when, in 2009, after one downpour too many, the All England Club installed a retractable roof on Centre Court. Now ground staff can now concentrate their efforts on keeping the other 18 uncovered match courts dry.
It does not rain all the time at Wimbledon – although it may seem like it. In fact, in seven years out of a total of 125, there were no interruptions to play, including 2009 and 2010. In all that time there have only been 32 days completely lost to the weather.
The 1976 tournament took place during one of the warmest and driest summers on record across the UK. Temperatures at Wimbledon reached an average maximum of over 25 degrees Celsius.
The wettest tournament on record was 1997 when, according to the UK Met Office, 118mm fell during the two weeks of the tournament. This compares with an average rainfall for the last week in June and first week of July of 20mm.
The tournament organisers and match referees will have Met Office forecasters on site to give them up-to-date advice on weather developments.
June has been a dreadful month across the UK. By the month’s end it is expected that many regions will have experienced their wettest June in almost a century.
So what are the prospects for the next two weeks? After torrential downpours and flooding across the country during the previous three weeks, optimism may not be great. But the forecast suggests that, for at least the first week of the tournament, conditions should be quite favourable.
There may be some light rain during the latter part of Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning. Thereafter it will be mainly dry and warm with temperatures as high as 26 degrees Celsius on Thursday afternoon.
There is the prospect of rain at the weekend but, all-in-all, it looks like a reasonable start to the tournament.