By SUIEE SUAREZ
I t’s the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It’s the site of some of the most memorable tennis battles in history! I was in London in late June and early July, so I set a day aside to experience the spectacle, history, and tradition of tennis uniquely Wimbledon. Here are some tips for when you find the opportunity to do Wimbledon on a future trip to London.
Early start. Get to the queue as early as you can. Trains from London normally leave at 5 a.m., meaning if you’re coming from Waterloo station, you’ll arrive at the Wimbledon station in 18 minutes. Should you decide to take a ride share cab at the taxi rank this early in the morning, you should be at the world-famous tennis venue in just under 10. It should be a pleasant ride throughout since Wimbledon happens in the summer. The sun should be out by 4:45 a.m. and the temperature would be in the high teens or low 20s (centigrade). Make full use of local cabbie knowledge. Ask for the best place to get dropped off at, closest to the queue. If you get this wrong, you could walk half a mile to get to the right place. Shared cab ride fare, £2.50 per person, cash.
The long wait. Once you make it to the field, ask the event marshals—all in uniform and bearing identification cards—for directions to the end of the queue. You cannot miss it. Just look for staff carrying a large yellow flag, with a capital letter ‘Q’ on it. Join the people in line. Get a queue card, which indicates the date and a number, in five digits, meaning you’re one of the many thousands already lined up.
Get settled. Time to lie down on the mat or unfold that camping chair, unpack your food and drink, wrap yourself up in a blanket, and open that book. Wait time at this point: at least three hours.
The long walk. If all goes well, you’ll be roused by the marshals instructing the masses to pack up and start walking. It’s a very encouraging sign that you’re moving toward the entrance to Wimbledon, each step taking you closer to the tennis courts and the players. But this could take another two hours. Be patient and hang on. Read up on the security restrictions on what you can and cannot bring into the venue. For example, opaque water containers, like metal flasks, are not allowed. Large bags and picnic chairs should be deposited at the lockers, before you make your way through the x-ray machines at the security tent. Over the pedestrian bridge and beyond are the entry gates to Wimbledon. Tickets to access the grounds cost £25, cash. Want tickets to get into Center Court and Courts 1-3, reserved seating? Subject to availability and corresponding ticket fees.
Grab lunch. There are lots to choose from, from sit-down restaurants serving continental food, fastfood counters, champagne bars, Pimms bars, and beer on tap to Mexican or Chinese food, burgers, sandwiches, and good old fish and chips. Whatever you choose, save space for Wimbledon’s traditional strawberries and cream, for £2.50. Check the boards for the game schedules and head out to the courts. You’ll have to queue again at the court entrance for the unreserved seats, since they only allow people in and out during natural breaks in the game. You may want to make your way around to the far side of the courts, as there are several entryways, and those on the other side could have shorter or no lines at all. Read up on the spectator etiquette, as there are some things you’re not supposed to clap at, like when a player does a double fault.
Enjoy the rest of the day. Wimbledon is like a tennis theme park, only that the mystical characters you see on TV or on the pages of glossy sports magazines are there—live, in front of you. The sounds of the player’s grunts and their whacks are genuine. You will feel them. You can spend hours on end watching matches on the bleachers, or on the slopes of Henman Hill, spread out on a blanket sipping a drink and munching on a sandwich and crisps, along with hundreds more, tuned onto the big screen. Bring a hat, apply sunblock, and be in comfortable attire. You’ll be under the sun all day.
Feeling lucky? Just off to the side of Henman Hill is a booth that resells tickets to the main courts. These come from ticket holders that leave the venue early and are resold at 3 p.m. daily. Proceeds from the ticket resale goes to charity. There’s a line that forms in the morning, waiting for the booth to open in the afternoon.
At the end of the day. Getting back is pretty easy. You can grab a bus, cab, or Uber (around £6 to £8) back to the Wimbledon station, and from there you can make it back to central London. One final tip: Tune in to BBC on the telly and see the day’s coverage of Wimbledon. It’s fun to play a game of “spot yourself” on the bleachers or Henman Hill. Have your phone ready to snap screen grabs and post it on your social media account, saying “I was there.”