You cannot be’s Wimbledon 2023

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Monday: Wimbledon 2023 (BBC1, 1.45pm & 7pm; BBC2 10.30am & 9pm)

For romantic poet John Keats, autumn was the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, but for tennis fans, two weeks in summer is the season of strawberries and sparkling wine.

Yes, the eyes of the world will be on the prestigious All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in SW19 as the curtain goes up on the 2023 Wimbledon Championship.

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As is traditional, the opening day sees the men’s and ladies’ singles competitions get under way. First to walk into the cauldron of Centre Court will be Novak Djokovic, who won his fourth consecutive title here and his seventh overall after overcoming fiery Australian Nick Kyrgios in the 2022 final.

Qasa Alom, Clare Balding and Isa GuhaQasa Alom, Clare Balding and Isa Guha
Qasa Alom, Clare Balding and Isa Guha

Having already won the Australian and French Opens in 2023, and with the US Open in August, Djokovic is aiming to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slam events in the same year.

He’ll have to triumph at Wimbledon first.

As any SW19 devotee knows, tradition is everything with this tennis tournament, from players wearing predominantly white clothing on court, to acknowledging the presence of members of the Royal family with either a bow or a curtsey.

That said, there have been several important changes in the past few years. The addition of a retractable roof on Centre Court in 2009 and, a decade later, on Court No 1 put an end to rain-delayed showpiece matches.

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More recently, from 2022, it was announced the Wimbledon honour board for the women’s competition no longer carried the honorifics Miss or Mrs.

There’s a change in store for this year’s tennis tournament too, as veteran broadcaster Clare Balding steps gracefully into the presenting shoes vacated last year by former player and long-term host Sue Barker.

Clare will lead the BBC’s comprehensive coverage, picking up from Isa Guha in the afternoon, and will be joined by some of the most celebrated names in the sport, including John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Pat Cash.

Speaking about being unveiled as the new face of Wimbledon, Clare enthused: “It’s a huge honour to be given this responsibility but I am very aware that no one person can fill Sue’s shoes.

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“This will always be a team effort and we’re lucky that the BBC line-up includes former professionals with huge insight as well as wonderful reporters and commentators.

“It’s my job to bring out the best in them and to help make our viewers feel they have a front row seat on the greatest sporting stage.”

It’s a long way from Clare’s early days as a trainee with BBC National Radio in 1994, but she’s become a much-loved, familiar face over the past 29 years.

Clare has gone from being the BBC’s lead horse-racing presenter to covering major sporting events, including the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games, before expanding into hosting episodes of Countryfile, fronting Today at Wimbledon from 2015, and even a Saturday night quiz show, Britain’s Brightest, as well as her own, eponymous sports chat show.

We’ll have to wait and see whether she’ll have the eventual winner of Wimbledon 2023 on as a guest when the chalk dust settles in around two weeks’ time.