Once a year, London goes grass-court mad for the oldest tennis tournament in the world: Wimbledon – or, to give it its full title: The Championships, Wimbledon.
It’s fitting that one of the world’s most prestigious cities would play host to the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament. And as you’d expect, there are a large number of customs, traditions and oddball practices that go along with attending this highly historic sporting event.
Here’s our rundown of everything you need to know about this exclusive and quintessentially English mainstay of London’s cultural calendar.
How do you get tickets?
The easiest (but still not very easy) way to get tickets for Wimbledon is to apply for tickets through the ballot. Demand for Wimbledon tickets is huge, so the ballot is wildly oversubscribed every year. The process is that you register for the ballot in the hope of being allocated a random ticket – there is no way of knowing which day you will be going, or which court you will be assigned to. Anyone lucky enough to snag a centre court ticket for the men’s final is liable to be paying upwards of £200 a ticket!
The ballot opens on September 1st each year and closes at the end of December, and you are contacted by June to be informed whether you’ve got a ticket – at which point you head to the website to pay for it. Remember that only one person per household may apply!
Needless to say, not everyone is successful (and the ballot is no longer an option for this year’s competition), but fear not – there’s always…
The Wimbledon Queue
Wimbledon is one of the few sporting events that allow you to buy premium tickets for matches taking place on the day of purchase – but you’ll have to put some effort in!
A limited number of tickets are available every day for Centre Court, No.1 Court and No.2 Court – except for the last 4 days of the competition, for which all tickets are sold in advance. To get your hands on them you’d be well advised to start queueing with the hardcore fans – many of whom are already in place (and often in tents) by 4 am, waiting for the grounds to open at 10:30am. Be advised that those who camp overnight will be woken up by stewards at 6am and told to start dismantling their tents.
When you arrive at the back of the infamous Wimbledon Queue, you will be issued with a Queue Card. DO NOT LOSE IT! The card is dated and numbered to show your position in The Queue, and it’s non-transferrable.
Once you’re in the queue, you’re in for a great time. There are plenty of tennis-themed activities organised to keep you occupied while you wait, and the queue is organised into lettered sections, which gives you time to enjoy some strawberries before your section is called forward. And with the holiday spirit in full flow you shouldn’t be surprised to see a jug or two of Pimms…
Don’t be too downhearted if you don’t manage to get hold of tickets into the courts – you can still get your fill of the Wimbledon experience with a Grounds Pass!
There are several thousand Grounds Passes available each day at the turnstiles, granting access to the unreserved seating and standing room on Courts No. 3-18. This is also how you make your way onto Henman Hill (or, if you prefer, Murray Mound) where you can watch the big screen streaming the action live from centre court. Don’t forget to wave when you see the cameras!
Food and drink
Okay so everyone knows Wimbledon is famous for strawberries, cream and Pimms – but why limit yourself!
Wimbledon have a rule where you can bring in pretty much any picnic food you like – as long as you carry it in a bag no bigger than 60cm x 45cm x 25cm. You can also bring in a refreshing boozy beverage to sip on – as long as you adhere to the rules! Attendees are strictly limited to just one bottle of wine or two 500ml cans of beer/alcoholic drink per person. Spirits are strictly forbidden, however, all alcohol must be consumed in dedicated areas, and glass is not allowed into the courts.
What to wear?
The players might be wearing white, but there’s no need for you to be so pedestrian!
Spectators usually opt for a summery colour palette, floral dresses and lace. If you really want to show your dedication to Wimbledon, why not swathe yourself in the 2 main colours of Wimbledon – purple and green, with an element of white to add to freshness and modernity!
And a word to the wise from our Wimbledon insider – she wouldn’t be caught dead without a panama hat, Ray Ban shades, and a generous layer of much-needed sun cream.
Booing, heckling or swearing are not the done thing at Wimbledon – regardless of what you’ve lip-read Andy Murray saying. You may, however, hear a little tutting if a player throws an unsportsmanlike, John McEnroe-style tantrum.
It is acceptable to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’, though – as if you’re watching the New Year Eve’s fireworks – and then cheer with a rhythmic clap when the Hawk-Eye replay appears on the screen.. .always a nail biting moment when games are reaching their climax.
Never applaud double faults or unforced errors – even if they are the errors of Andy Murray’s opponent! Phones should obviously be on silent and camera flashes are best off, especially if you want to capture a serve.
And if the ball lands in the crowd you should always toss back to the ball boy/girl – but never during play.
Head to Southfields Underground station on the District Line. From there, you can get to the Championships via a short walk or shuttle bus.