Attending Wimbledon has long been on my bucket list, but living in Australia for over 20 years made it difficult to achieve. Thankfully, Wimbledon remains one of the few major UK sporting events with premium tickets for sale on the day of play through ‘The Queue’. As the capitalisation implies, joining The Queue is not an experience to be taken lightly – getting an allocated seat on one of the top three courts entails camping overnight and queuing for hours before play begins.
My cousins, who are seasoned Wimbledon Queuers, were going to queue for tickets for the first day of Wimbledon in 2014. As I was in the UK, I decided to take advantage of their experience and join them. In contrast to the old days, when queuing overnight entailed sitting in a chair on the pavement of Wimbledon Park Road (often with an umbrella), the current provisions for The Queue are luxurious and, in typical British-style, orderly.
We arrived at Wimbledon Park at about 3pm on Sunday, and were issued with numbered queue cards. As instructed, we pitched our tents in order along marked rows. It was a lovely summer’s evening and some people were playing rounders and French cricket, while others were sitting around chatting. Facilities were adequate for overnight camping – there was a smattering of food stalls, and a couple of toilet blocks, which were kept relatively clean, considering the usage they got.
I went to bed at about 10pm and managed to get a decent night’s sleep, thanks to a few glasses of wine and a pair of earplugs, before we were roused by officials at 5.30am. We were given an hour to dismantle our tents and put our camping equipment in the left luggage facility, which charges £1 for bags and £5 for tents. Once the camping stuff was out of the way it was time to queue in earnest. The overnight queue bunched up, allowing the hordes of people pouring in on the first tubes to join the end of the line.
Slowly the line moved closer to the hallowed turf of the All England Tennis Club (AETC). A distance which would normally take about 5 to 10 minutes to walk took three hours as we were processed along the way. Queue cards were stamped, wrist bands issued for our chosen court, free Robinson’s orange juice was dispensed, security checks were cleared and, finally, tickets were purchased (cash only). Ticket prices vary according to the day of play and the court. For example, for the first day of play in 2015 ticket prices range from £25 for access to the Grounds and unreserved seating on courts 3 to 19, to £50 for an allocated Centre Court seat.
We could have got tickets for Court 1, but decided to go for Court 2 as we preferred the line-up of players and play starts earlier on Court 2 (11.30am) than Court 1 (1pm). I was happy with our decision, Court 2 is small enough to see the players clearly, yet large enough to realise you’re at a major tournament event. We saw completed games won by Tomas Berdych, Venus Williams, and Andrey Kuznetsov. Unfortunately, after a glorious sunny day, rain stopped play at about 8pm just after the start of the game between Radwanska and Mitu. As the light was also failing and it was doubtful play would resume, we left.
Organising The Queue is a huge undertaking, involving hundreds of people. It’s jolly decent of the AETC to offer this option for people who can’t get tickets any other way, especially as they could easily sell all the tickets online or in the ballot with much less fuss. But then again, I think the Brits like an excuse for a good queue!
So that’s another item ticked off my bucket list. Would I queue at Wimbledon again? Absolutely! Where else could I combine two great British traditions, Wimbledon and queuing, in one unforgettable experience?
For more information: http://www.wimbledon.com/pdf/W14_CH_046_5_Guide_to_queueing.pdf