It won’t be breaking news to tennis lovers, but we’re wondering this morning how many of our other readers know that a Bay-winged Hawk called Rufus is on the permanent staff of the The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon Tournament takes place this week.

Rufus is listed as an official Wimbledon employee, complete with his own radio transmitter to detect his location, and this year will carry a Wimbledon Championships 2021 security photocard.

Rufus is the successor of the previous hawk, Hamish, whose job it was to scare away the pigeons that make kamikaze attacks on the courts, disturb the crowds and players and leave unwanted droppings. Rufus was also used during the 2012 Summer Olympics and Westminster Abbey, and is employed part-time at various hospitals, airfields, and landfill sites.

This will be Rufus’ 15th year as remunerated bird – his earnings go to his owner and trainer Imogen Davis. Every morning during the competition he takes a morning flight over the courts for roughly an hour before matches begin.

Rufus’ presence creates enough of a threat that unwanted birds are generally too concerned to fly around an area where they know a hawk has been active — so it’s a case of working smarter, not harder, and aside from his popularity at the club, he has a following of 10,000 on Twitter!

For an entertaining Rufus video, go here:

There are other facts about Wimbledon you may not have known, including:

– Around 54,000 tennis balls are used in the Wimbledon tournament, which are inspected and replaced every seven to nine games in order to keep them in optimum condition. When they’re not used, tennis balls are even put in a refrigerated container to keep them looking spotless! If you’re a superfan, you’ll be pleased to hear you can buy a can of three balls for £2.50 after Wimbledon have finished with them – quite a bargain, actually.

– One of the most distinctive features of Wimbledon is the extremely strict dress code which players must follow – they are all required to dress in white. In 2013, Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was asked to change his shoes just because they had orange soles. And this is true – if you have dark arm hair, the Club of England could ask you to bleach it white!

– In 2017, 23 tonnes of strawberries and 7,000 litres of fresh cream were served to visitors. If you were to lay these berries in a line, they’d stretch almost 37 miles end-to-end. Every year, over 140,000 bowls of strawberries and cream are dished out for the spectators and players. But did you know that all the fruit comes from one farm in Kent? Every morning before dawn, two teams of 40 pickers arrive at the farm to pick over 100,000 strawberries for one day’s consumption.

– Around 250 ball boys and girls are selected from 27 nearby schools, who at around the age of just 15, then have the intense job of keeping track of the fast-moving tennis ball. They have to take a test to make sure they can stand completely still for at least 3 minutes. Each BBG is then expected to attend weekly training sessions of 2.5 hours – and they have to be precise, disciplined and fast – it’s almost military-like!

-Roger Federer (2003–2007, 2009, 2012, 2017) holds the record for the most Gentlemen’s Singles titles with eight. Björn Borg (1976–1980) and Federer (2003–2007) share the record for most consecutive victories with five.

-Martina Navratilova (1978–1979, 1982–1987, 1990) holds the record for most victories with nine. Navratilova holds the record for most consecutive victories with six (1982–1987).

– In 2010, Taylor Dent smashed the Wimbledon record for the fastest serve of all time during his match against Novak Djokovic, serving a mind-blowing 148 mph! Venus Williams still holds the record for the fastest serve by a female player of 129 mph which she set in 2008 in her match against her sister Serena. Until that point the sisters had shared the record of 126 mph.

For the tournament’s return after a Covid-cancelled renewal last year, the UK Government has allowed Wimbledon to admit 21,000 spectators each day, which is half of its normal capacity. The Centre Court can seat full crowds of around 15,000 for the women’s and men’s finals.

– All tickets for the event are being sold online, rather than the postal ballot, and ticket holders will have to show proof of their Covid status, so either proof of two vaccinations or a negative test for those aged 11 and above.

As for what will happen on the courts this year:

Men:

In part because of his excellence and in part because of the field’s depletion— Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem among the absentees; Andy Murray is no longer a contender; in weeks, Roger Federer turns 40—Novak Djokovic is an overwhelming favourite. And a title would put him three-fourths of the way to a Grand Slam. It would also move him to a tie with Federer and Nadal for 20 career singles majors.

The best long-shot among the male players is considered to be Andrey Rublev, the ginger-haired Russian. He’s a wonderful player, with easy power. No one has more ability to take a midrally ball and smoke a winner. He’s a brilliant player week-to-week, who wins lots of matches but still needs to make a dent at a major. Perhaps his luck changes this week.

Women:

Simona Halep, the defending champion, is out on account of a calf injury. The champ before her, Angie Kerber, is nearing the end of her Hall of Fame career. Most of the top women have games that translate well to grass. That includes top seed Ash Barty, due-to-break-out Aryna Sabalenka and Serena Williams, seven times the trophy hoister.

Barty is a worthy favourite and provided she is not compromised, she has a good chance of living up to her seeding.

Bianca Andreescu is the dark horse. Since her 2019 U.S. Open success, it’s been one setback after another, illness added to injury. At something close to healthy, she could be dangerous.

There are a host of Brits to choose from on the first day, today. Murray, Evans, Katie Swan, Liam Broady, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Jodie Burrage are all in action throughout the day. Perhaps most intriguing of the Brits in action is 19-year-old Jack Draper who has drawn number one seed Djokovic.

The full Tournament Match Schedule can be found on the Wimbledon website, here.

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