With the Championships rapidly approaching, we thought we’d give some perspective on one of the great occasions in the British sporting calendar as well as one of the most popular events in the British social season.
Worple Rd – where it all began
In 1869 a 4 acre plot of land, just off Worple Rd in Wimbledon, was leased by the newly founded All-England Croquet Club. The Croquet Championships carried on for a few years but didn’t seem to take off. One of the members suggested setting aside one of the 12 croquet lawns for use by the emerging new sport of Lawn Tennis.
The first Wimbledon Tennis Championships took place in 1877 and rapidly grew in popularity. Wimbledon became a major part of the social calendar and it became clear a new, larger venue was needed. Although the move was delayed by World War I, the All-England Lawn Tennis Club bought new premises on Church Rd and by 1922 the first Championships were held at the new location.
The pavilion and grounds of the original ‘Wimbledon’ are preserved within the playing fields of Wimbledon High School. A small plaque on the outside wall commemorates this local landmark.
How to get tickets
This is perhaps the most common question about Wimbledon. There are quite a variety of ways depending on your stamina, determination and budget !
Enter the ballot – this is the easiest way and the way most tickets are distributed. You have to apply though before the end of December i.e. 6 months ahead of the Championships. For the first time this year, applications from overseas applicants were allowed online which should make it easier. It’s pot luck what you get allocated if you are successful in the ballot.
Queue up – there are about 500 tickets per day set aside for sale on the day for each of the 3 Show Courts; Centre Court, Number 1 and Number 2 Courts. People camp at the golf course, owned by the All-England Club, opposite the tennis centre. Be prepared for a long wait though. To get one of the 500 prized Centre Court tickets, you may have to queue for up to 2 nights ! You can join the queue, without quite such a long wait, to secure Grounds Admission passes i.e. the rest of the complex except the show courts and this is often quite a good compromise.
Top TipWimbledon is very good at recycling tickets. As people leave, they will let others in. Many of the Wimbledon visitors are there for Corporate entertaining or people with long journeys home. By 5pm the crowds have thinned out considerably.
The price for Grounds Admission Passes drops after 5pm. You can usually just turn up at 5pm and buy a Ground Admission Pass. For 2014, this will cost just £ 14. They will generally play on until about 8:30-9:00pm so you will still see plenty of tennis. No 100% guarantee but it’s always worked for us.
Buy a hospitality package or debenture – there are some hospitality packages sold each year via the Keith Prowse or Sportsworld ticketing agencies. Alternatively, buying a debenture allows the debenture holder a ticket to that court for each day of the Championships for a 5 year period. The prices though for debentures for Centre Court for 2016-2020 are priced at £50,000 !
Become a member – Wimbledon is a Private Members Club and very difficult to join. There is a long waiting list and it doesn’t really depend how much money you have. It’s all to do with who you know because you have to be recommended and seconded by existing members of good standing who have known you several years. There is a loophole though ! If you can just win Wimbledon, then you are usually made an Honorary Member so get playing…
Once inside the Grounds
The Church Rd site, the home of the Championships since 1922, extends over an enormous 13.5 acre area, about the same size as Windsor Castle and it’s grounds. There are 19 different courts including the 3 Show Courts so it can take a little while to get your bearings.
Although traditionally there was a clamour to get to the show courts, in recent years one of the most popular places to hang out has been the patch of grass overlooking the Aorangi Pavilion. This is more well known as Henman Hill or Murray Mound. (Tim Henman was a British tennis player who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 4 out of 5 years from 1998-2002 but never quite made it to the Final).
The first image below shows Henman Hill when it’s nice and quiet in the run up to the Championships. Observe the serene beauty of the place, the zen like calm.
The later images though show what Henman Hill is like during a big match, in this case the famous Semi-Final of the Olympic 2012 Tennis Tournament when Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Now, with the giant viewing screen in place, and with the tightly packed crowd fuelled by a never ending supply of Pimms, the atmosphere ends up as something more akin to a football match or a music festival.
Henman Hill is the perfect place to while away a few hours so don’t worry too much if you’ve made it inside the grounds but haven’t got to Centre Court.
Getting ready for the Championships
With less than a month to go, Wimbledon is busy sprucing itself up. We recently went round on an excellent guided tour there (highly recommended) and it was a hive of activity. Workmen were making their final preparations everywhere.
From cutting the famous grass
to cleaning all the windows
to even painting the retractable roof over Centre Court
Finally, a Champion emerges
After 2 weeks of intense competition a champion will emerge to lift the famous trophy.
There are of course various different categories but for the British we had become rather obsessed with having another Mens Singles Champion. It had after all been as far back as 1936 when Fred Perry had last tasted success. Fred was a legendary figure in the game and is still immortalised outside the Debenture Holders’ Entrance to Centre Court.
7/7/2013 was a notable day therefore in British sporting history. When Andy Murray finally defeated Novak Djokovic in the Final at 5:24pm, it seemed like an enormous weight had lifted off our collective shoulders. After all, the vast majority of us had never even known a British Mens Champion in our lifetime !
Curiously, Virginia Wade had won the Ladies title back in 1977 so maybe the double 7 is lucky for us Brits.
We make no apologies therefore for keeping as the final image, the moment we had all been praying for:
Enjoy a trip to Wimbledon, either during the Championships themselves, or take one of their excellent Guided Tours during the rest of the year.
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