For two weeks each year, the world turns its attention to London SW19 and Wimbledon. This leafy part of South London comes under intense scrutiny as the world waits to find out who will win the greatest tennis tournament of them all. Players from over 60 counties compete in the five main events, all wanting to take the crown.
This is one of the famous sporting events in the world, and we were lucky enough to win tickets for Centre Court in the ballot. This is open to all members of the public (we only had to send off an application form last year).
So, last week my dad and I ventured off to South London (we’re from the north – North London that is – so it did feel a bit wrong) to watch some of the most talented players in tennis ply their trade.
The first thing you need to know when visiting Wimbledon is that you should take the tube, but not get off at Wimbledon Station. The stop you need is called Southfields, on the District Line. It’s not far from Central London.
You will know when you’re in the right place, as the station staff have transformed the stop! There are Wimbledon banners, chairs in the Wimbledon colours and even green covering the platforms, designed to look like grass.
It’s beautiful around here. Wimbledon is an upmarket part of London, very green and leafy, so it’s a pleasant walk to the grounds, especially if the sun is shining. This year (so far) we’ve been very lucky, but, as I’m sure you know, that isn’t always the case.
If you have a ticket, the queues aren’t at all long and we only stood in a line for about two minutes. Then our bags were searched and we were in, ready to take in the sights and sounds of Wimbledon 2015.
Unlike many other events, there is far more leeway about what you are allowed to take inside, including drinks such as bottled water. However, the grounds are full of places to eat and drink, from fish and chips and pizza to sit down restaurants, the purchase of Pimms or frozen yoghurt, and even its own sweet shop, newsagent and chemist (pharmacy). You can also buy used balls – 54,250 balls are used throughout the two weeks, which are stored at 68’F. However, be warned that it’s not cheap (as you would expect), so it’s probably wise to bring some snacks.
We walked around the outside courts where play was already underway. Centre and Number One Court usually start at 1pm, but the outer courts begin at 11.30. It was about noon when we arrived and already very busy. However, we were lucky enough to see some of Fernando Verdasco of Spain take on Martin Plizan of Slovakia on Court No 14.
Wimbledon, or to give it its full name, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, is a beautiful place. It reminded me, in a strange way, of a Disney theme park, but one which focusses on sport. It was lovely to simply walk around and admire the flowers, the sights and sounds, and it was also super clean. I saw so many members of staff making sure that rubbish was removed or the toilets cleaned.
We made our way onto Centre Court, capacity 15,000, just before 1pm. Our seats were right at the back, but that was fine as it meant we could see the whole of the court. It was gorgeous.
As we were attending on Day One, we were treated to some excellent tennis, courtesy of the 2014 Wimbledon Champion Novak Djokovic, who is some athlete (his calf muscles are something else….). It was incredible to see him right in front of us, and his opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, also played extremely well. It was very, very hot, and each time the players switched sides and sat down to take a drink, a ballgirl would appear and hold an umbrella over their head.
We also saw Maria Sharapova play Johanna Konta, the British player. I couldn’t believe how loud Sharapova’s grunts were. I have heard them on television, but in person they are extremely forceful and she makes them on every shot. I’m sure it would put me off.
The tennis I enjoyed the most was by Stan Wawrinka, the French Open champion. He came on third and hit the ball absolutely beautifully, especially with his one-handed backhand. It was a real delight to watch.
We left at around 7pm, having had a marvellous day. However, we did have some annoying experiences – thanks to fellow fans. Here are my tips for how not to annoy the Wimbledon audience…
- Turn off your phone
- If your phone goes when play is going on, turn it off. Don’t answer it. After you’ve spoken, turn it off, as otherwise it is sure to ring again (yes, this did happen, right in front of us).
- Don’t bring food in a paper bag (it’s very noisy when you rustle about to get things)
- Don’t eat crisps while watching tennis. They are even noisier
- Don’t chat while the action is going on. Or if you do need to chat, perhaps whisper…..
And: don’t worry about wearing white (that’s just for the players!)
Need to know regarding tickets: There are four ways to get tickets for Wimbledon: via the ballot (as we did), the queue, ticketmaster, or official hospitality packages (but these will cost you!)
The public ballot, which was introduced in 1924, is seen as the fairest way to distribute tickets for the show courts (Centre, No 1 and No 2). It is open to everyone and is (unsurprisingly) very oversubscribed.
There are a limited number of tickets on sale each day for the show courts, but these tend to sell very quickly and people queue up days in advance. Ticket prices also go up during the tournament. Our Centre Court tickets cost £50 each for the first day. This had gone up to £84 a ticket to see a Centre Court match on Saturday, and will be £160 for the men’s final which takes place this Sunday at 2pm. You can’t buy tickets for the quarter-finals onwards from the turnstiles.
You can buy general “grounds admission” tickets by queueing up and these allow you access to courts No 3 to 19 (first come, first served). These open from 10.30am and close one hour after play ends (or at 11pm). They cost £25 the first week (for entry before 5pm £18 afterwards), and £20 the second week.
You can also buy certain tickets via ticketmaster, and allocations are also sent to tennis clubs across the country.
When you leave the ground, you can post your ticket back into the resale kiosk and someone else will then be able to purchase it, with all profits going to charity.
Do check the website as the queue is often at capacity, especially the second week and you will really have no chance of getting in.
Need to know: who’s playing? The Order of Play for each day at Wimbledon is announced the evening before.
Need to know regarding transport: Southfields (on the District Line) is the nearest tube stop and the nearest railway station is Wimbledon. There is a regular shuttle bus from Wimbledon station during the Championships. The tennis courts are located around 15 minutes walk away from Southfields, although you can take a fixed price taxi if you want too. Five people go in each cab and pay £2.50 to be dropped nearer the grounds.
Can you bring kids? Babies and children under the age of 5 are not allowed into Centre Court, No 1, No 2 or No 3 or Courts 12 and 18. Those under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult and have their own ticket.
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