Whenever one thinks of tennis , I would think that Wimbledon inevitably come up in the minds of most. Wimbledon is definitely one of the four Grand Slams that is steeped in history and the one that professional tennis players really want to win. Wimbledon is one of the very view tennis tournaments played on grass and also the only one of the grand slams that is competed for on grass. Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis tournament and few might argue when I say that it’s also the most prestigious.
Wimbledon has been held annually since 1877 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and is named after a suburb of London , i.e. Wimbledon. Seeing that the game is played on grass , it’s also frequently referred to as lawn tennis. The annual Wimbledon tournament is held over 2 weeks during late June, early July and the timing is perfect,as it’s summer in Britain! But then again it is a British summer and some rain for a couple of days during the tournament is not all that uncommon….
During my stay in London during 2009 I had the privilege to attend a couple of matches at Wimbledon and it was definitely an unforgettable experience! Just the prestige and tradition that surrounds the whole tournament is something that is really special. It is like every spectator I encountered there understands the history behind the tournament and how much it actually means to the players competing for the ultimate prize. There is a certain mutual respect among the spectators ,unlike any other sporting event I’ve attended and something I will definitely remember for a long time to come.
If you haven’t been to London before , it is quite important to note that the London Underground (Tube) is the easiest way to get around and so getting to Wimbledon is inevitably easiest by train/tube. Dependent on where you are staying in London you have a couple of options available to you that’ll enable you to get to the tennis ; a) taking the London Underground , b) London Overland Train(In certain areas) or c) buses and taxis.
- The closest underground tube stop to the Tennis Club is Southfields ,which is on the district line (green line) and the train conductor will tell the passengers to get off there for the tennis. From the station it is about a 10 minute walk to Wimbledon and you will see signs everywhere!
- There is also shuttle buses leaving from the Southfields station every 5 minutes if you don’t want to walk to the tennis club from the tube station.
- You could also take a bus from the Victoria station (quite central to London) that’ll take about 45 minutes , but I’d really rather take the underground to Southfields, as spoken about above.
TIP: There is a tube stop named “Wimbledon” , but the Southfields stop is way closer to the Tennis grounds!
Tickets for the latter stages of the tournament are really hard to come by and you are advised to try to get tickets in advance. Here are some of the ways to get tickets:
- Ticket Ballot – it’s a random draw and you cannot choose which days or which matches you want to attend . Closes 31st of December of the year before the tournament. ( Example: June 2011 tournament’s ballot would close 31 December 2010)
- Same Day tickets – This is risky , but not impossible. Check below for a detailed discussion under “Queue”
- Ground Entrance Pass – 6000 Ground pass tickets are sold daily. This entitles you to entrance into the tennis club’s grounds. This also provides for free entrance into the smaller courts and “Henman Hill”. You thus have access to all the courts except Centre Court , Court 1 or 2. On sale at 9-30 am in the morning and the price is decreased at 5pm to allow for late entrance into the grounds.
- Ticket Resale Kiosk – People who leave early are able to give their already used tickets to the Wimbledon Club to be resold for charity. The Kiosk is Inside the Wimbledon Grounds and tickets are sold at around 2-30pm.
- Official Wimbledon Packages : Wimbledon offers various all-inclusive tour packages.
- Debentures: In order to raise cash , The All England Lawn Club issues debentures every 5 years. In exchange for investing in the club you also receive a certain amount of tickets to Wimbledon.
The Famous Queue
Wimbledon remains one of the very few major UK sporting events where tickets are still sold to the public on the day of the event. On arrival at the queue you are given a “Queue Card” which shows the date and your place in the queue. You are thus able to leave the queue temporarily to maybe go for a toilet break or get something to eat. You will lose your opportunity to buy tickets if you take too long and your place in the queue has already moved past the ticketing point! There are 2 tickets – a) Show Court tickets (Centre Court, Court 1 and 2) and b) General Ground passes. General ground passes can bought around 9-30 am of the day of the event and is not too difficult too come by.
Wimbledon is also where you see people camping overnight just to get tickets!! Well, it is a lot more organized than you might think…. If you want tickets for 1 of the Show Courts (Centre Court, Court 1 and Court 2) you will have to camp overnight , especially for the latter stages of the tournament. At 7-30am every morning the people in the queue are given wristbands for show court tickets, of which the total is exactly equal to the number of tickets available. No wristband = no ticketing possibility for show court tennis. Approximately 500 tickets per court per day are sold in this way. If you camped there overnight , you’ll obviously be closer to the front of the queue and increase your chance of getting tickets. Wimbledon provides toilet facilities as well as places to store your camping equipment. I think this a just another great part of the Wimbledon experience and hundreds of tennis fans from all over the world do this annually.
Really Important: It is important to note that debit and credit cards are not accepted when buying tickets at the ground. Cash only!!
Really Important : Only Ground pass tickets are sold for the final 4 days of the tournament and zero tickets are sold at the ground for the Centre Court during the final four days. Thus you can’t buy finals tickets at the ground.
Henman Hill is basically a terrace alongside Court 1, inside the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s grounds and has a giant Television screen that shows the important tennis matches happening live. The name of the Hill is usually changed according to the top current UK player’s name and I suppose that it will be named Mount Murray in the not too distant future! Thousands of spectators watch live matches on the finals weekend of the tournament and the atmosphere is really electric and a true great experience in itself. You basically only need a standard ground pass ticket that allows for entrance into the grounds
As the UK weather is truly unpredictable , it comes with no surprise that Centre Court was fitted with a retractable roof in 2009. This allows for play to continue on Centre Court , even if the outside weather doesn’t permit play. Another great tradition is that players bow in front of the Royal box during days that British royalty attend the tennis at Wimbledon. It is also tradition for players at Wimbledon to wear all white clothing or predominantly white. Just another tradition that adds to the prestige of the whole Tournament.
I had the privilege to attend the 2009 semi-final between Andy Murray and Andy Roddick and there was a great atmosphere as everyone was rooting for the local boy. Unfortunately Murray lost the match , but the whole Wimbledon experience , from the pristine grass of Wimbledon to the quality of plays , everything was simply great. There was a great festive atmosphere and the Pimms (synonymous with British summer)was flowing. I will without a doubt attend more matches at Wimbledon if I’m ever around there at that time! Find out more about Wimbledon tennis on their official website at wimbledon.com.