When I first started planning this trip, I really wanted to go to Wimbledon. I mentioned it to Mary and Lisa (who I first met playing tennis), and they wanted to go too. And we couldn't very well go to England and not visit Lisa's family in Scotland, and that's how this whole portion of the trip evolved. So after Scotland we headed to London -- with big plans to spend some time at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club! After dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed straight there. After queueing for less than an hour, we had grounds passes to the club.
The ticket process is really interesting. Wimbledon is one of the only places where you can buy same day tickets to a professional sporting event. They reserve 6,000 tickets -- 500 for each of the show courts (center, no. 1 and no. 2) and the rest for grounds passes for same day ticket holders. The whole process is called queueing, because people line up for hours (and sometimes overnight) in a long queue to get tickets. The queue is an experience in and of itself. It is very well organized and very civilized. People are polite and friendly. Lots of people bring picnics and entertainment. Even though you could be standing around for hours, it really doesn't feel like it.
In the afternoons and evenings, they let people from the queue in as others leave the grounds. So the first night we got in relatively quickly. The club itself is amazing and TV doesn't do it justice. It is a beautiful setting. Other than the 3 show courts, all of the other courts are open to anyone who wants to watch. I couldn't believe how close you can get to the courts -- it really feels like you are right there on court with the players! After watching so many professional tennis players for so many years, it was really fun to be seeing them all in person. We watched several matches that night -- including Kuznetsova, Safin, and Tursunov. We also sat on Henman Hill and watched part of the Andy Murray match. It was an incredible atmosphere to be a part of!
The next day we got up really early so we could hit the queue as soon as possible. We caught the first tube (underground) to Wimbledon and were in line by 6:15 a.m. We finally got entry into the grounds around 10 a.m. The time really passed quickly, and we were well prepared with snacks from Marks & Spencer! We had the most incredible day -- I really don't think it could have gone any better. After getting in the grounds, we grabbed terrific seats on court 3. We watched the Hantuchova - Zheng match, and then a portion of the Fernando Verdasco match. We also watched the Bryan brothers, and Kuznetsova and Mauresmo play doubles. We sat on Henman Hill for part of the Federer match, and enjoyed several glasses of Pimms!
By far the best part of the day was sitting on center court. Another great thing that Wimbledon does is resell tickets to the show courts if people leave early. As people leave, they can choose to turn their ticket in, and the club resells the tickets for £5, with all the proceeds going to charity. There is a box office where you can buy resale tickets. When we first went to get tickets, the queue was really long so we skipped it in order to watch more live tennis. We went back after the first set of the Querrey-Cilic match on center court, and got tickets right away. We were blown away by how good the tickets were! We were sitting three rows from center court, right at the level of the players. It was so close to the action that we could hear the players talking to themselves! It was absolutely amazing. Center court is an incredible tennis court. One of the most amazing things was how quiet everyone would get when play would start. It is hard to imagine so many people being quiet enough to hear a pin drop, but that's exactly how it was. And the Querrey-Cilic match was terrific. It went to 5 sets and was easily the best match of the day!
Wimbledon was absolutely fabulous -- and exceeded all of my expectations! We had a truly incredible experience. It has made me want to go to all of the other grand slams now as well!