There is nothing quite like The Championships at Wimbledon, currently being played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Wimbledon is a borough of south west London, not just the name of the tournament that is being played.
The thing that makes Wimbledon different is the atmosphere. Even those who haven’t been able to get tickets for seats on the main courts queue for hours to buy ‘grounds’ tickets. These allow you to wander most of the grounds and see a lot of play on the smaller courts. There is so much to see and do.
Like other parts of the iconic London season –The Trooping of the Colour, Royal Ascot, The Henley Regatta, The Henley Festival and The Cartier International Polo Tournament among others – Wimbledon has its own traditions. There’s the quick as lightening ball boys and girls, the strict dress code for players, tall glasses of Pimms (a long cocktail made with a gin based spirit served with fruit and mint), champagne and most of all, strawberries and cream. Twenty-eight thousand kilograms (that’s 61,000 pounds) of strawberries are served during the Wimbledon tournament each year. There’s just something about how strawberries and cream taste at Wimbledon. It’s shocking how much people are willing to pay for them too!
Tickets For Wimbledon
The most common way to obtain tickets is by entering the official Wimbledon ballot. If your ballot is chosen, you are offered the opportunity to purchase tickets for a particular court on a named day. Every day, there are also returned tickets issued for sale (48 hours before the day’s play begins) via the Ticketmaster website. In addition, a limited number of tickets are sold on each day to those in the queue at the Gate 3 turnstiles; one ticket per person, all payments must be in cash. You can also buy grounds passes on the day which allow access to unreserved seating and standing room on courts 3 – 19.
Just to give you an unofficial idea of the odds for the ballot, my husband and I have entered the Wimbledon ballot eight years out of ten. We were chosen to buy tickets on four occasions. You can find out more on the Wimbledon website. You can generally apply for a ballot in August for the following year. Letters go out with offers to purchase tickets from February of the year of the championships. If you don’t receive a letter, it means your ballot was unsuccessful.
The Wimbledon grounds open at 10.30am each day. While everyone waits for the tennis to begin at 1.00pm bands play, restaurants and bars offer meals, drinks and snacks. People wander round soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the lovely surroundings.
Eating and Drinking at Wimbledon
There are some wonderful places to eat and drink at Wimbledon, including my favourite, The Wingfield Restaurant.
Attached to Centre Court and overlooking the grounds, The Wingfield Restaurant is a great place to enjoy an elegant yet unpretentious lunch before play begins (advance reservations absolutely essential).
The Tennis at Wimbledon
Promptly at 1.00pm the tennis begins. The excitement is palpable. There’s a strict etiquette to watching tennis at Wimbledon. The umpire must be obeyed instantly when he asks for silence. You can only enter or exit the courts when there is a break in play. But while there are rules to be followed there is no dampening of the enthusiasm of the crowds when cheering for their favourite. If the player is from the United Kingdom, things can get pretty raucous!
One of the fun parts of sitting on Centre Court for me is seeing who has been invited to sit in the Royal Box that day. Although our seats were quite a way apart, in past years I have watched tennis with Colin Firth, Ann Hathaway, Anna Wintour, Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, the King and Queen of Spain, and the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie among others.
Every day, there are several matches on each court. Play on Centre Court can go on as late as 11pm when the Wimbledon grounds close. People also watch the tennis on a huge television screen while seated on Murray Mount, the large hill behind Court One.
More than just a tennis championship, Wimbledon is a wonderful example of how tradition and history are such an important part of life in the UK. There’s plenty of pomp and ceremony but it’s also good fun. We Brits may be famous for our reserve but Wimbledon is one place where we really do let go and cheer our favourites on. A wonderful competition in a fantastic atmosphere, Wimbledon is definitely one of the year’s sporting and social highlights.