This is my fifth summer living in London and each year for two weeks in late June and early July, it feels as if tennis becomes everyone’s favourite sport as Wimbledon takes centre stage on an always busy sporting summer calendar.
The third of the year’s four grand slams, tennis’s premier tournaments, the All England Lawn Tennis Championships were first played in 1877 and for many decades have been an iconic symbol of this city.
Unlike my previous two mid-week visits in 2012 just a few weeks after arriving in the country, this year we headed through on Friday after work and camped overnight in the Queue to watch tennis on the middle Saturday. While show court tickets (Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2) can be ‘won’ in a ballot or purchased online, ground admission tickets to the outside courts 3-18 can only be bought on the day and it is this ‘system’ – The Queue – that makes Wimbledon unique in my opinion.
Unlike many sporting events which are ridiculously expensive and / or incredibly difficult to get tickets for, the Queue allows anyone with patience and time to purchase tickets on the day as several thousand ground passes are available. It’s also unbeatable value in that for £25, you’re able to enjoy a full day of top-class sport.
Furthermore, those early enough in the Queue are even able to purchase show court tickets as a few hundred are made available for sale each morning up until the semi-finals – the first 500 in the queue are able to buy a Centre Court ticket, the second 500 Court 1 tickets and the third 500 Court 2 tickets.
Everyone is allocated a numbered and dated queue card upon arrival and as we arrived by 6.30 on Friday night having come straight from work, our position was a very respectable 1160. This afforded us the opportunity to purchase Court 2 tickets, which was brilliant.
It’s a really fun evening and typically British in its efficiency and orderly organisation. They say Britain invented the queue and if that’s true, Wimbledon perfected it!
We were woken by the Stewards at 6am to a sea of people who had arrived first thing in the morning and once our tents were packed up, the waiting began. After queuing to drop our tents at ‘left luggage’, we patiently made our way into the grounds with the turnstiles opening promptly at 9.30 and the grounds following at 10.30.
Like many others, we made a beeline for Court 3 to see the 5th seed Kei Nishakori. Court 3 only has unreserved seating so once you leave your seat for whatever reason, you’ll have to queue outside the court entrance and wait for others to leave before getting back in. To my mind this is the fairest way and ensures not only that everyone has an opportunity to watch the top players but that the court is always full. Nishakori had lots of home-grown Japanese support and there was a good atmosphere around the court.
Nishakori won the rain-interrupted match in straight sets following which we headed over to Court 12 to see ladies action and the Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro. Big serving Del Potro had upset the 4th seed Stan Wawrinka in the previous round and is always entertaining to watch.
After a short delay on Court 12 during the ladies match, the rain finally pi**ed of and we had a wonderful late afternoon and early evening of superb tennis. After a super tie-break set on Court 12, which Del Potro won, we moved across to Court 2 to watch the 12th seed Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga take on the 18th seed American John Isner.
I really enjoyed watching on Court 2 as I felt the tiered-design made you feel more on top of the action that on Court 3. Tsonga, the firm crowd favourite, went two sets down but kept on fighting and there was a terrific atmosphere around court with everyone willing the Frenchman on and hoping he would take the set and extend the match. With light continuing to fade, the set went to a tie-break which Tsonga won 7-5. As expected, play was called off at the conclusion of the set and while we were disappointed not to see the conclusion of the match, we were lucky to have seen play until just before 9.30.
It had been a phenomenal day out at SW 19 and I look forward to getting back into the Queue next year.
How to get tickets –
- The Ballot – You can enter a ballot to win show court tickets with all information available on Wimbledon’s website.
- The Queue – 500 tickets are made available for each of Centre Court, Court 1 and Court 2. I’m not sure of the number of ground entry tickets available but if you are there by say 7am, you should get in.
- Ticketmaster release several hundred for Centre Court and Court 3 ay 9am the day before.
- Returns – Ticketmaster release returns for Centre Court and Court 3 back into general sale at midday two days before
Note that tickets purchased in the Queue must be paid for in cash.
How to get there –
The closest station is Southfields (NOT Wimbledon) which is on the green district line. From there it’s a well sign-posted walk of maybe 10 minutes.