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Qualifying begins: 20 June

The Draw: 24 June

Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June

Order of Play: 26 June

Championships begin: 27 June

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Friday 12 June 2015 20:42 PM BST
Educating Stuff: Hippopotennis
This month's Educating Stuff is all about our community project for 2014, Hippopotennis.  READ MORE

This month's Educating Stuff is all about our community project for 2014, Hippopotennis. Read on to find out what on earth we are talking about...

Think of a number, any number, double it, add a match of tennis then multiply it by 500 players and don’t tell me the answer.

Sport loves numbers and numbers in sport mean statistics.  If you have ever followed any sport, even just for an hour, you will understand the extraordinary power that a statistic can have over the discerning sports fan.  Tennis is no exception to this with every match peppered with numbers highlighting shot counts, ball speed, averages, timings, points won, points lost and so on and so forth.  Wimbledon is so in love with statistics that we produce a book of them, not just for that calendar year but for every year since 1877, it is called ‘The Compendium’ and it has no pictures.

Within this book is a number written in black and white that quietly states that during the two weeks of the tennis tournament here at Wimbledon 54,250 tennis balls are used for The Championships.

So it was that I decided to liberate this number from the book of statistics and try to present it in a way that people could better understand its enormity, but how? 

Every year since 2011 the Education Department has run a community art project for The Championships working with an artist on a work that showcases life behind the scenes at Wimbledon. For 2014 it was agreed that finding a way to visualise the compendium was a good way to open up a side of The Championships that ordinarily the public are not aware of and we have enlisted the help of both Wimbledon High School and designer – maker Maggie Ruddy to try to make sense of just one statistic from that publication; 54,250 balls.

To get to the route of the issue we decided to break it down.  What is a ball? What does a single ball look like? What do 54,250 balls look like? How much does a ball weigh? All these questions and many more were asked and some were answered.

After much thinking about, throwing around and randomly bouncing tennis balls the idea finally formed that the perfect answer to how best to visualise such a gargantuan number of balls would be to build a hippopotamus.  I will say that again in case it was lost, a hippopotamus.  Not just any hippopotamus, but a full size adult hippopotamus floating in a lake of water hyacinth and suspended in a pyramid.

Why the big hippopotamus?  Well many reasons, not least because everyone loves a hippo, or that it is just such a fabulous word, but because if you take all the statistics related to balls one avenue will lead you to the happy world of hippos.  A tennis ball weighs 57.7grams, not much really, about the weight of a large chicken egg.  If however you multiply the weight of a tennis ball by 54,250 you will discover that the chicken’s egg has miraculously hatched into a 3,100 kilo full size hippopotamus, complete with open jaws.

Why the pyramid?  Well if you want to know what the volume of 54,250 tennis balls would look like then build a pyramid with a base roughly 13m square and a point that is 2.45m high, so we did.

Why water hyacinth?  Well, water hyacinths are a favourite of the hippopotamus and often a hippopotamus can be seen floating in them.  Best of all though is that when viewed through the eyes of a designer a water hyacinth actually looks like a tennis ball with the addition of a little extra felt and surprisingly also sports a flower that is purple, therefore the water hyacinth is a green and purple plant so is on right on brand for Wimbledon.  A class of young artists from Wimbledon High School, with the help of their teacher, Taryn Lombard, provided the skill set for this part of project and over the course of a full school day on site the girls provided a whopping 200 flowers for the hippo to reside in.

So it is then that I present to you the inaugural Wimbledon Hippopotennis, a creature so rare that it can only be found hanging around the queue for a tennis championships held in Wimbledon between 23rd June  – 6th July 2014.

As yet the hippo shall remain faceless, I don’t want to ruin the surprise for those in the queue, but it also, rather sadly, has no name.  Such a noble creature needs an equally noble moniker, but despite our finest efforts here in the Education Department, we have yet to successfully name the beast.  So, further to my previous announcement I have a second though no less important one; we would like you, the public, to name our hippo.  

Tweet us your suggestion to @Wimbledon with #hippopotennis. The winner will be announced before the first ball is hit at the tournament. 

To return to our little mathematical conundrum, is the answer 54,250?

If you would like to know more about the community art projects run by the Education Department then take a look here.  If you need to know more about the many numbers of Wimbledon then look no further than the Wimbledon Compendium by Alan Little.