London//visit: Wimbledon

All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Church Rd, Wimbledon, London SW19 5AE

From the moment you disembark at Wimbledon train station, there’s a magical feeling in the air. The local high street is buzzing, every shop window decorated with tennis paraphernalia, as a stream of people make their way through the suburban streets on the 15 minute walk to the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where the annual Championships are held. From every lamp post hangs a green and purple banner and hanging baskets laden with purple flowers.

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Once you enter the grounds, the atmosphere is tangible: whether it’s the smart uniforms of the officials, the regimented lines of ball-boys and girls making their way from court to court, the beautifully stylish fashion worn by those in the crowd, roars emerging from inside the show courts after a particularly dramatic point, or the vast amounts of beautiful flowers – all tasteful and beautiful in the Wimbledon colours of white, purple and green – there is something truly special about this sporting event.

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Wimbledon has plenty of traditions to make it feel special: the rule that all players must dress in stylish all-white, the ban on advertising inside the grounds, the rigorously trained teenage ball-boys and girls, the umbrellas held above the players whenever they sit down to take a break, calling the players ‘Gentlemen, Ladies, Boys and Girls’, the hawk who periodically flies over the grounds to clear the area of pigeons…

However, all this fades away once the players make their first serve. Tennis is an amazing sport to watch because every single point has the capacity to be dramatic – and usually is! Every point matters, meaning that no moment is boring. The complicated rules are pretty easy to pick up (or at least, get a rough grasp of), and seem to be specifically designed to create dramatic and tense matches! Even if you’ve no idea who the players are when they step out onto the court, within a few sets you will be emotionally invested, have picked a favourite and spotted their family in the crowd (usually those sitting in the best seats and shouting a lot!) Especially later in the tournament, when the players are of an equal standard, plenty of dramatic moments are guaranteed, and the speed and ferocity of the players is incredible! There’s nothing better of than a long, desperate rally that has the crowd gasping after every shot.

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One of the nicest things about Wimbledon is the fact that once you’re inside the grounds, everyone, whether they have tickets for Centre, No. 1, No. 2, or a grounds ticket, is able to wander around the grounds and watch the matches being played on the other 15 courts. The majority of these have only a few rows of benches around them, so people wandering past can stop to watch some of these more low-profile matches. You may see Juniors, Seniors (including tennis stars of the past) or wheelchair tennis!

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There is also the opportunity to sit on Henman Hill/Murray Mound, with a view of a huge screen which broadcasts the most dramatic current match. The hill can get extremely crowded on busy days, with plenty of people happily sitting there all day with a large picnic! This ‘wander around’ atmosphere is so lovely, and it’s fab that those who buy less expensive grounds tickets can still catch some amazing tennis simply by taking up an unreserved seat on No. 3 Court.

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The view from Murray Mound
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No. 3 Court: all seat here are unreserved

Furthermore, if those with tickets for Centre or No. 1 Court need to leave early in the day before play has finished, they can notify those on the gate, and their seats will then be put up for ‘resale’, available to buy for only £5 by those with grounds tickets! All the proceeds from this go to charity.

There’s plenty of food and drink to buy within the grounds – but be warned, this will be extremely marked up and expensive. For example, a large cup of Pimms and lemonade (which, of course, they have ready-mixed on tap) sells for a cool £8.50!! You can avoid paying a similarly eye-watering price for simple strawberries and cream by buying a punnet of strawberries from the local grocer’s stall on the walk from the station for only £1.60 (thank me later). It’s advisable to bring plenty of your own food – and you can also bring alcohol into the grounds: a bottle of wine, or two cans of pre-mixed G&T or Pimms and lemonade, per person. However, ‘main course’-type food within the grounds is a little more reasonably priced, with both pizzas and large pulled pork burritos going for £8.50, as well as plenty of other cuisines. There is also the glamorous Wingfield Restaurant, in which you can reserve tables for lunch and afternoon tea.

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Ticket prices range from £60-210 for Centre Court to £8-25 for grounds admission. If you, or someone you know, are part of your local tennis club, a certain number of tickets will usually be available through them. Additionally, you can queue up outside the grounds for tickets each day, and might even be able to buy tickets for one of the show courts! Be warned though: many fans queue overnight, even camping out.

Find all the info here.

Visited 12 July 2018.

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