A closer examination shows a curious element that, from a distance, makes the Wimbledon men’s singles trophy appear to be lacking in eccentricities. A gleaming pineapple sits atop the 18-inch silver-gilt trophy, which has been raised by luminaries including Bjorn Borg and Novak Djokovic.
The victors are given a three-quarter-size copy of the trophy, replete with the fruit on top and the names of all prior winners. What do we know about this feature’s beginnings? How has it evolved throughout the ages? Time to make the tropics current.
The reason the pineapple appears on the trophy is not totally apparent, although most versions concur that the most logical explanation has to do with the fruit’s scarcity in the late 19th century. When Wimbledon first started in 1877, the pineapple was seen as a delicacy only eaten by members of high society and a symbol of distinction befitting the exclusive All England Club and the champion’s trophy.
The first pineapple brought back from the New World by Christopher Columbus was in 1492, but it took until the early 20th century for pineapples to become more popular in western Europe.
The third version of the trophy will be presented to the men’s singles winner on Centre Court this year. Due to the name of the newspaper that gave it, the first was referred to as The Field Cup. After the Britishman won three straight finals between 1881 and 1883, William Renshaw was let to keep it.
Renshaw, whose seven victories left him one behind Wimbledon’s all-time leader Roger Federer with eight, also received to keep the Challenge Cup because his illustrious run lasted until 1886.
That trophy had cost the organizers 50 guineas, or a little more than £1 at the time. This was a “not insignificant” sum of money, according to Wimbledon. The third version cost around £13,000/$16,000 more, almost twice as much in today’s money. Possibly as a result, Wimbledon ruled that the trophy “would never become the property of the winner”.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Championship of the World replica trophy has been awarded to winners since 1949. The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, the biggest tennis museum in the world and located on the tournament grounds, now owns and displays the original Field Cup. The whereabouts of the second trophy are a mystery.