Acing Wimbledon: Your Guide to Watching The Games

England, Parties, Festivals & Events — By on July 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

by Carmi Louw
Special to Lost Girls World

Many consider Wimbledon tennis championships to be the most prestigious of the four Grand Slams around the world.  True, unlike the other three, it has been going since the 1870’s, and apart from offering players the chance to win some pretty over-sized silverware, it also offers up to £1,000,000 in prize money.

2010 was a big year for Wimbledon, as Centre Court sported its brand new retractable roof, the Queen decided to stop by for the first time since 1977, and we witnessed the longest tennis match ever played (183 games which took just over 11 hours!).  After a few friends and I spent a day there, I realized there’s a lot more to Wimbledon than just nibbling strawberries and sipping Pimm’s liquour.  Should you have the good fortune to attend he games in South West London next year, here’s what you’ll need to know:

How to get a ticket to Wimbledon
You can enter a public ballot for tickets, but many prefer to buy them the day of.  Ticket prices vary over the two weeks of play: You can get a Ground Admission ticket for £5 – £20, allowing you access to all courts apart from Centre Court, Court No.1 and Court No.2.  A ticket to one of these three main courts would set you back between £25 and £85, or you can get a “resale ticket” (see below for more on this).

If you want to buy a ticket from a third party vendor, such as eBay, make sure it’s a “debenture” ticket, or else you might be turned away.  You can call the Wimbledon ticket office to check whether the ticket you’re about to buy is legit, but it should say “debenture” on the ticket itself.

When to arrive

The Guide to Queuing and my numbered queue card

If you want to buy tickets on the day, get familiar with one word: “Queue.”  If you want a Ground Admission ticket for the whole day you should try to get there before 7.30am, and don’t expect to get in until a couple of hours after gates open at 9.30am.

For a ticket to the one of the three main courts, you should so get familiar with another word: Camping.  In fact many people camp out in the queue just for the atmosphere, especially during the first 10 days when these tickets are on sale.  It’s free to camp in line but there are no showers on the grounds.  You will also have to pack up your tent in the morning since you can’t take it with you to the tennis.

How to save some cash

As I said, if you can’t afford a ticket to one of the three main courts, you can get a Ground Admission and then queue up for a “resale” ticket later in the afternoon once people start heading home.  It will only set you back about £5, but you have a chance at spotting Federer, Nadal, or one of the Williams sisters this way.

You might be surprised to hear that you can bring your own food and a limited amount of alcohol to Wimbledon.  With strawberries and cream setting you back about £2.50 and a glass of Pimm’s a whopping £6.50, it pays to take a trip to the supermarket the day before.  Just remember that you can’t bring coolers through security!

How to get there
Wimbledon is well serviced by train and tube to central London and has good bars, shops and supermarkets.  If you’re coming just for the tennis it might pay to stay in Wimbledon, but if you’re keen to see lots of London town too, it would be better to stay somewhere more central.

It helps to bring a hat

Shuttle buses operate between central London, Wimbledon and the tennis club for the duration of the tournament, but in general it’s cheaper to use London transport (just make sure you get an Oyster card!).  Take a train from Waterloo or the District Line underground to Wimbledon station, then catch bus 439 to the club.  Allow about an hour to get from central London to the club.

What to bring
If next year is anything like this one was, make sure you bring a hat, sunnies and lots of sunscreen.  Most of the courts are uncovered and you have no choice but to sit in the sun if you want to watch a game.  You are only allowed to bring one bag per person with some size restrictions, and your bags will be scanned at security.  Unfortunately I had to throw away my corkscrew because it was deemed an unsafe item.

In previous years it has been very rainy, so check the weather forecast as it might pay to pack a raincoat.

What to see
Order of play is only decided and published on the Wimbledon website the evening prior.  You can see the order of play on a big board as you enter the grounds, but there are no times listed since there’s no real way of knowing how long a match will last.

Watching mixed doubles at Centre Court

Check out the “show courts” (listed in your guide to queuing), for a glance at some B-list tennis celebs.  We managed to catch Thomas Berdych on Court 12, I didn’t know who he was at the time but he went on to beat Federer and play Nadal in the finals!  If you want to chill out on the grass, head to the Aorangi hill to watch a game on the big screen.

For me, watching Federer play a set at Centre Court was worth getting up at 6am, queueing for over 5 hours and getting mildly sun burnt. I guess that’s why everyone keeps coming back…

For more information you can check out www.wimbledon.org, and for transport information visit www.tfl.gov.uk.

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