Wednesday, July 5, 2017
I had the great privilege of having a dream come true yesterday. I finally made it to Wimbledon. We didn't have advanced tickets so I did some research and we decided to go late afternoon, stay through the evening, and take our chances with the queue. It worked! We got in (after having the Wimbledon queue experience), saw some terrific tennis, and got to enjoy the electrifying atmosphere.
Hundreds camp out each night in an effort to be first in the morning queue for day passes into the park. We opted instead to try for tickets for later in the day and skip the camping part.
We left Oxford a bit after 2pm and arrived at Wimbledon just before 4pm where we parked at parking lot #10 because parking is only £10 starting at 4pm. We queued to get a gate pass to the Park and were in the queue over 2 hours as it snaked along. The time passed quickly, though, because we met a young man in front of us from Germany and talked with him the whole time. It's always a delight to make a new friend and have an interesting conversation.
"We've all gone a bit Wimbledon"
We finally made it into the park just past 6pm -- we paid £18 to get into the park after 5pm. With a park pass, you can see games on courts 3-18 but it's really crowded and nearly impossible to get a seat to see anything. So we went to the resale booth above court 18 and bought £10 resale tickets to Center Court. We stopped along the way to quickly eat a picnic we brought which was a big mistake. By the time we made it into Center Court, the last match had just ended. We got to see the court but no play.
Results are still posted by hand
Henman Hill or more recently known as Murray Mount
I was surprised to see the skyline of London and to see that Wimbledon is so close to London. It was also a lovely summer sunny afternoon and a perfect evening.
A quick picnic that cost us from seeing play on Center Court
Center Court as the crowds were leaving
We then turned in out tickets, explaining we didn't get to see any play, and were kindly given tickets to Court Two. We were lucky enough to see an entire match of women's singles: Ons Jabeur from Tunisia (ranked #104) against Sventlana Kuznetsova from Russia (ranked #51). Svetlana won and, although it wasn't a close match, it was still great tennis.
Ons Jabeur 3, 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6, 6
It was an amazing day that I'll never forget. It was a great way to spend the 4th of July, or as my daughter said, Brexit of 1776.
Now that I know just about any one can get into Wimbledon with some luck, planning, and patience, I'm already looking forward to going back next year -- next time for a full day. I think it is pretty remarkable that for such a world class athletic event, that ordinary folks, without advanced tickets or spending a fortune, and with a little patience, have the opportunity to attend one of the most beloved sporting events in the world. I'm grateful for that. It's a magical place!
Here are some of the sites that helped me figure out what I needed to know to make our attempt to get into the Park and buy return tickets successfully. Also, here are a few things I learned about Wimbledon:
- 39,000 spectators in the grounds at any one time. The space really handles crowds well
- Center Court holds 15,000; Court One has a capacity for 11,393
- There are 40 courts in total -- 18 Championships grass courts (Centre + Nos 1-18, minus #13) plus 22 grass practice courts in Aorangi Park and at Southlands College nearby
- Championships courts grass playing height is 8mm. Court grass composed of 100% rye grass.
- The screen on Henman Hill (or most recently known as Murray Mound) is 40 square metres in size
- 674 matches played over a two week period with 757 players (2017)
- There is usually no play scheduled on middle Sunday to allow the courts to recover from intensive use of Week 1 and be thoroughly watered to ensure optimum performance in Week 2
- Around 6,000 staff are taken on each year for Championships, including 250 Ball boys & girls
- 28,000kg of strawberries are consumed during the tournament with over 10,000 liters of fresh cream
- Since 1954, money raised from returned tickets has been donated to charity
- There are 360 official umpires working each day
This is dedicated to my dear mother-in-law who loved to watch Wimbledon. We thought of you often, Jean, and knew you were with us in spirit.