So you missed the Wimbledon ballot due last December (who thinks of tennis in the dead of winter?), yet you’re still itching to see Andy Murray attempt a repeat win. No problem — join a queue. Which queue is another issue. It depends how much time and money you are willing to spend.
Outlined by Londonist last year, Ticketmaster offers tickets for the next day’s play, though take note: it does require patience with the refresh button, and often ends unsuccessfully. The lazier option is rifling through websites such as seat wave.com where Court One and Centre Court tickets run from £500 to (wait for it…) £3,500 a ticket. Even discounted sites ebay and Gumtree offer similar eye-watering prices.
If you want to save pennies AND have lots of fun, then wake up at the break of dawn and join the on-the-day queue. Yes, waking up with the birds is never easy, but Wimbledon is one of the few live sporting events where you can buy premium tickets the same day, and manage to have a bit of a party too. Here’s our top do’s and don’ts to making the best out of your day, from sunrise to sunset.
Before you get in
Do: wake up early. The grounds open at 9.30am, but as there are only 500 tickets available for each of the three main courts (Centre Court, Court 1 and Court 2), it’s suggested you either get into camping mode or arrive by 5-6am. Depending on who is playing and how late in the tournament it is, there’s a better chance of getting ground passes (which includes Courts 3-19) if you arrive before 8am. But that’s not always the case. Last year, one attendee ignored BBC Breakfast’s warnings to stay home altogether, and arrived midday, getting into the grounds one hour later. It should be noted there is a no queue-jumping policy, which is strictly managed by a ticketing system. So if you’re late and miss your friends, you’re stuck at the back. A complete list of ticket prices is here (payable with cash only).
Do: dress up. Despite Wimbledon’s formalities, anything goes when it comes to celebrating. Fans come from far and wide to support the players, and this is duly noted by detailed face painting, extravagant costumes and patriotic umbrellas and flags. This is not the time to be shy — get creative and show your spirit.
Don’t: be afraid to pitch a tent. To guarantee the best spot in line, camp out in a tent (which, according to Wimbledon rules, must be no bigger than two-man size). Bring along your choice of booze, order a take-away pizza (deliveries can be made direct to the Wimbledon Park Gate) and mix and mingle among your fellow queueing rivals. Just ensure that you don’t light any barbecues and that you’re quiet by 10pm. Stewards will wake you at 6am, when you must take down your tent (and be prepared to store it in left luggage for £5). The good news — you only have to travel several metres to get to the front of the queue.
Do: make friends. This is key in the early (and inevitably long) queueing stages. These are the people who might share their reading material, their chairs, their blankets — maybe even play a game of frisbee or footie with you. These are also the people you could end up hanging out with throughout the day, potentially creating an unforgettable party on Murray Mound.
Don’t: drink alcohol in the queue. It’s a long day, and you want to make sure you pace yourself, particularly if the sun is blaring. Instead of booze, run to the back of the car park, where the queue snakes around, and buy a coffee at the pop-up cafe. Then get comfortable, and read the papers (that you hopefully picked up on your way there), and work out your schedule. Remember: look beyond the main courts. Your favourite players may be on the side courts, just a few feet from where you are sitting. And, as is often the case, it’s much more entertaining to hang out on the smaller courts. Tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver (cousin to Maria) had last year’s Court 3 bent over laughing from their shrieks, nose dives and friendly insults.
Do: bring suncream and umbrellas. Whether it’s bucketing it down or basking in 30°C degrees heat — be prepared. Wimbledon is known for both scenarios to happen at any point in the day, so always carry an umbrella that protects from both the sun and the rain, and suncream, which is much cheaper if brought from home (compared with Wimbledon’s small spray bottle costing £15!).
Don’t: bring more than one bag. Strict rules, here. One bag per person is allowed, and will be thoroughly searched upon entry. If it is bigger than 40cm x 30cm x 30cm, or contains recording devices, hard items such as hampers and flasks, camping equipment like chairs and tents or sharp objects including can openers and knives, it will be taken to left luggage.
Don’t: forget the Centre Court queue. If you didn’t manage to get Centre Court tickets at the front, Wimbledon awards you one more chance to gain entry. Directly behind Court 18, there is (yet another) queue, this one for Centre Court’s resale tickets. Just as there is a one-in-one-out policy for the grounds, Centre Court works much the same, allowing hopefuls to wait for people to leave. Centre Court play does not begin until 1pm (2pm for the final matches), however it’s recommended you again queue from 9.30am when the grounds open. The waiting can be tedious, but you could meet BBC presenters Boris Becker and John McEnroe as they often broadcast live from this area (as opposed to their usual positioning in front of Court 18). Judy Murray (Andy’s mum) also has made regular appearances here, signing autographs and chatting to loyal, yet weary, fans.
Do: have a picnic. Despite the intense list of rules and regulations, Wimbledon allows you to bring in one bottle of wine, or two 500ml cans of beer per person, and the food of your choice, so long as it’s not in a hard container. Having a picnic on Murray Mound, where tranquil waterways flow around its borders, can be one of the more relaxing moments at Wimbledon. Though — as your supplies are limited — you might find you’re running to the food and beverage stands later in the day. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out on at least one Pimms (£20 per jug) and strawberries and cream (£2.50), where the strawberries are delivered fresh each morning from an organic farm in Kent. Remember to once again bring cash, as not all retailers take cards. And there is usually a long queue (yes, another one) for the HSBC cash points tucked underneath Centre Court.
Don’t: forget the rest of the grounds. Need a break from the courts? You’ll find restaurants surrounding the outer grounds — like The Conservatory Kitchen near Court 1 that has fresh-baked pastries and salads, or one level higher, The Champagne Bar that serves seafood, sushi and champagne. Further afield, next to Court 3, you’ll find the modern pizzeria The Baseline that specialises in home-made Italian pizzas. Once your appetite is satiated, stroll through the Lawn Tennis Museum near Gate 3, where you can see championship trophies, listen to previous players talk about their opponents or read about tennis at the Olympics. Then head to the practice courts where you just might see the pros warming up (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich are known to take full advantage of these courts).
Do: read the placards around the courts. Did you know Centre Court was opened by King George V in 1922, and that the longest running match was 11 hours and 5 minutes between USA’s John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut in 2010. Keep an eye out for other fun facts posted on green mounted placards around the grounds.
Wimbledon takes place between Monday 23 June-Sunday 6 July. For more information, head to their website.