THE sun is out and summer is definitely here so it is time to get prepared for a London summer must do — the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. For two weeks every June/July, south west London is the focus of media, players and spectators from across the world. After many years of cheering on the tennis champs playing at Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis Club from my arm chair at home, last year I got the chance to cheer them on for real.
Out of all my London experiences I would have to say that this is the one that fits a London summer to a tee. If you’re organised, you can apply for tickets to Wimbledon in the yearly ballot but for those of you , who like me, are far more on the disorganised side – joining ‘The Queue’ on the day is the way to go (and quite a bit of fun).
Many people bring along their tents and camp chairs and spend the night waiting in line for the precious Centre Court or high court tickets. For me, I was lucky enough to live within walking distance so even though it was an early start I got to sleep in the comfort of my own bed. I joined the crowds in the queue about 7.30 am and managed to get a £20 General Admission ticket to the grounds by 10am.
Being a part of the queue is part of the Wimbledon experience and I would have to say one of the most perfectly organised events. You get a queue card and an information pamphlet — not to mention a variety of food and entertainment vendors to keep you occupied and entertained while you wait.
However, the real fun starts once you get inside the gates. While you may not get to see a match on the Centre Court, you can still get your fair share of tennis. With plenty of courts for smaller qualifying games you can watch a great match while taking in the atmosphere. You can even try your luck at spotting a hotshot on a warm up court!
The best part about the atmosphere at Wimbledon is that everyone is so friendly and pleasant (a great change from normal London). The uniforms worn by hosts, umpires and staff are perfectly matched, ironed and worn and they all seem to proudly wear their green, purple and white. Even the flowers in the potted plants match! The only people that seem to be serious are the ball boys and girls. Apparently it takes months of training to gain this honour and they must spend all of it learning how to not smile!
If you are a serious tennis aficionado and need to watch the professional matches — don’t fear, you can watch them from the ‘Murray Mound’ (formerly known as ‘Henman Hill’). It is an amphitheatre type setting where you can watch the centre court match on a massive screen. You can still hear the cheers from inside the stadium while you watch the players fight it out for the title. This is also a perfect spot to relax, grab a bite to eat or some Pimms to drink — or even try the traditional strawberries and cream that Wimbledon is so famous for. And guess what? This isn’t Australia, so you are even allowed to bring your own picnic in!
But if watching the pro’s on a big screen is not your thing, then no worries – from two o’clock in the afternoon you can line up again for Centre Court tickets that have been handed in from people leaving through the front gates. They only cost £5, with the proceeds going to charity. We held out long enough to get the ‘second chance’ Centre Court tickets and got into our seats in time to see our very own Jelena Dokic followed by the British favourite Andy Murray. Luckily for us Centre Court has the retractable roof and when the rain came — as it inevitably does — we still got to watch the rest of our match.
It’s a long day with a lot of waiting around but it is an absolute must on London’s Top 100. If I were to rank the things that I do in London — this would be Number 1!