The end of June each year hails the arrival of what for me is the biggest and best sporting event in the calendar – Wimbledon.
The SW19 Grand Slam is one of the highlights of the tennis year, and if you’re able to get to the famous grounds to witness some amazing tennis in person, I absolutely recommend you do so. If you do venture into the depths of South West London, what will you need to bring and prepare yourself for?
If you didn’t manage to get tickets in the ballot, The Queue is your next best option (aside from entering every available competition to win tickets and crossing every appendage you can that you win). The Queue is a sight to behold, at times up to 9000 people snake across the fields opposite the All England Club with their picnic blankets and snacks at the ready. It being England, these thousands will all also be fully prepared for rain, sun, wind and hail and willing to go through anything to get through the gates and into Wimbledon.
The first thing you need to know about The Queue is you cannot be too early on the day, the first 1000-1500 people will probably have camped out for Centre, Court 1 or Court 2 tickets but if you just want Ground Passes (considerably cheaper and you see a LOT of tennis if the weather is good) then you’ll ideally want to be there before 7:30am. As you arrive in the queue, you are issued with a queue ticket that has your number on it, I’m reliably informed that anything under 4000 is an almost guaranteed entry, and anything under 6000 is very likely. The first year I went to Wimbledon I arrived at about 8am and was nearly 8000th in the queue, so my hopes weren’t high for getting in but luckily, just after 1pm I bought my ticket and went through the gates. This year, I was around 3500th (having arrived at about 6:50am) and was through the gates shortly after 11am, well before the scheduled 11:30 start time for matches on outside courts.
You’ll be able to purchase picnic blankets, ponchos and other bits and pieces whilst in the queue; generally they come as a bundle with a newspaper, normally for about £3. This year I took my own poncho (£5 from Mountain Warehouse) as I wanted something a little sturdier than the clear plastic ones we were given free by HSBC. Once you’re through the queue and security it’s over the bridge to the ticket barriers to hand over your money (£20 for the first week) and into the grounds. Centre court is to your left as you enter and Court 1 to your right, with the outside courts splayed out in front of you. As it was tipping down with rain when we arrived, we headed straight for Henman Hill/Murray Mound to grab a spot and watch the Centre Court match at 1pm (straight sets win for Laura Robson, phew!). Slowly the rain cleared and outside court matches began and we saw plenty of tennis. Courts 18 and 12 are really good to get to as they have plenty of tiered seating. Make sure you check the order of play to see if any of your favourites are playing on an outside court. The practice courts (just further on from Henman Hill) are another great place to go and see some stars, and quite often they stop and sign autographs for people as they are leaving. Our day ended with perching on Henman Hill in the rain watching Andy Murray smash his way through to the fourth round, to a rapturous cheer from the brolly covered crowd.
Food is fairly pricey (about £9 for burger and chips or fish and chips) and the obligatory Pimms is a whopping £7.50 but if you prepare yourself for that (and bring plenty of snacks for the queue) you don’t need to be haemorrhaging money to have a good time. The gift shop has some relatively modest souvenirs (keyrings are all around £4) and some less so. Overall, it is a brilliant day out, and the atmosphere is amazing, and very British. The sound of corks popping is about as frequent as the sound of tennis balls being hit, and everyone is there for a good time. Don’t forget a poncho, brolly, suncream, snacks and your camera and you should be in for a great day.