This year was my second run at the Wimbledon tennis championships, and boy was it fun. However unless you are lucky enough to get tickets in the ballot, or happen to be a celebrity with a half decent agent, chances are you’ll need a few pointers as to actually getting into the All England Club grounds. And so dear readers, read on…
1) Get there early.
I’m talking really early. As in, your Dad’s idea of getting to the airport on time, plus an extra hour more ‘early’. Wimbledon is famously located in SW19, and getting there from E3 in time for a decent Queue spot is no picnic. A 2.30am alarm, followed by leaving the house at 3am, three buses and a hilariously drunk woman on Clapham High Street later and we arrived at about 4.50am. Being awake and semi-functional at this time is possible, if you only just believe. (And there are rewards!)
Also get there early on in the actual Championships. In week one, even if you only get your hands on a Grounds pass you’ll still see some pretty awesome matches on the smaller outside courts – by week two most players have been knocked out, so there are fewer matches to see without those Golden Tickets of Centre Court, Court No. 1 or Court No. 2. Think planning, think strategy.
2) It’s all about the prep.
Make sandwiches, buy snacks, and definitely pre-mix your Pimms. Think of your Wimbledon experience as a one day festival and you won’t go far wrong. The food is expensive, the drinks are astronomical, and you will feel so smug whipping out your handily prepared brie, parma ham and salad baguette instead of having to elbow through the crowds for a measly plate of overpriced whatever.
Official guidelines state that although alcohol can be brought on site, you should limit yourself to one bottle of wine or two 500ml cans of beer (or the equivalent). Forget about the wine – white should be drunk cold and red should be relegated to October. It’s all about the cans, or more specifically four of those spirit-and-a-mixer things that every supermarket in London seems to have on offer as soon as the sun appears. Those are at the top of your bag, not to be touched until after lunch. For the second layer, take a large bottle of Pimms, mix with lemonade and distribute into 500ml plastic bottles, as many as you have the balls for. After all, as one of our Queue friends assessed, it does look just like iced tea…
4) The Queue
It’s amazing and you’ll make friends for life (the whole day). We had a middle aged couple from Manchester in front, a family of South Africans behind and four teenagers to our right. The Mancunians were hilarious, the South Africans impressed with our alcoholic sneakiness, and the teenagers came out with some excellent one liners. There’s nothing like bonding over 6am drinking and the horror of a £4 bacon sandwich.
On site takes card, but to get in (aka buy tickets) you need cash. And for decent tickets you need a lot. Check the prices on the website, close your eyes and thrust your wad of notes at the attendant – it’s a painful moment, but it’s worth it.
6) The weather
We were forecast heavy rain; I ended up with burnt forearms. We live in the UK, we should all be used to the rain/sunshine/rain/sunshine thing by now. Take rain coat, sunglasses, sunscreen, jumper, hay fever tablets and another jumper.
If getting up at stupid o’clock isn’t for you, then you can be boring and lazy and watch it on TV. But I’ve sat in Court 1 and the atmosphere of screaming on Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Babs) couldn’t have been replicated in my living room. Neither could sitting on Henman Hill getting irritated with Andy Murray for being a crap finisher, along with every other person actually there watching. And Mr Feliciano Lopez’s arse certainly would never have looked that wonderful through a television screen…
Sod the World Cup, I love Wimbledon.