10 July 2016

Views on all things Wimbledon

Hello readers!

View from atop the hill
I realized before heading to the UK a few weeks back that I had somehow never written any tips for attending Wimbledon. A clear oversight on my part, but one that I will now remedy!

I should name this blog post "Tips from a tennis addict who hates the Wimbledon queue/ticketing process" because that is an accurate way for me to describe my feelings when I try to finagle ways to attend the grass court slam.

Although 2016 marked my third visit to the Wimbledon Championships, we go way back to 1996 when I first visited the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Back then the gift shop was much smaller and you could check out Centre Court through a little piece of plexiglass. She and I have come a long way.

Each year I've attended Wimbledon I've done things a bit differently, but here's my take on the tournament, which is my second favorite Slam to attend (#1 forever and always the Australian Open - see my grand slam rankings I did after attending all four in 2011).

My last day at Wimbledon was "Wacky Wednesday" in 2013 (recap here) so I had high expectations of my 2016 attendance. And boy, did I have a magical four days.

A few highlights:
Serena warms up for her first round match
Centre Court - I had been in CC three previous times, but I was shocked to learn that this year I would make my 2016 Centre Court debut in the second row. I had tickets for Serena's first match as defending champion, got to see Andy Murray for the first time at Wimbledon, then saw Caroline Wozniacki versus Svetlana Kuznetsova followed by a bonus match of Vandeweghe/Bondarenko.

It is simply unreal to sit so close. I could see all the emotions, hear every sound the players made and almost feel the exertion when the players hit the ball. I was awestruck for awhile watching Serena right in front of me and hearing the force of her shot and effort in striking the ball. Incredible.

One thing about Centre Court that is so different from other slam stadiums is that you able to get SO low in terms of viewing. I have sat in lower sections at the US Open and Aussie Open, but you are still sitting above the players. Here, you can literally walk onto the court and there is something crazy cool about being that close to the action.
Venus Williams - seeing the five-time champ at Wimbledon was high on my tennis fan bucket list and I was thrilled I got to see Venus on the intimacy of Court 18. I sat right next to Venus and Serena's sister Isha and two spots down from Mama Oracene so talk about feeling like I was part of the Williams family! My sole goal this year was to see Venus at Wimbledon and I was thrilled that this dream to come true. The crowd was so into the match, which was a tough three-setter against the talented Maria Sakkari, and because I got a great seat as soon as I got into the grounds that day, I really got to enjoy this one. What a magical atmosphere!

Watching Venus on Court 18 was amazing
Williams Sisters doubles - as a huge Venus and Serena fan, there is something so special about seeing them on the same side of the court playing doubles. When they played their first round match on No. 3 Court, the welcome the crowd gave the sisters was incredible, and the support throughout the match was an absolute joy to witness. I had never seen them play doubles at Wimbledon, so again this was a first I really enjoyed.
As always, Tennis Twitter provides so many opportunities to meet up with fellow tennis fans and media friends. I met a few new people, saw many longtime friends and sat next to such friendly fans again and again. I rarely attend tournaments with friends or family and much prefer it on my own to keep things flexible and ensure I get to see what I want onsite. Also, if you are ever thinking it's not ideal to attend a tournament like Wimbledon on your own, I say scrap that thinking because engaging with those around you can be so much fun. A special shoutout to @FootfaultTennis who got me a Court 3 ticket on my final day and we shared the Venus experience together on Court 18. 

The crowd on No. 3 court was delighted with Venus and Serena doubles

I also had a chance to contribute a few quotes to a piece on Venus Williams after the match she played on Day 4. My friend Nick McCarvel interviewed me afterward for his great article, which you can read here. I also had a chance to take part in a podcast talking about Venus, Serena and all things Wimbledon with my friends from The Body Serve podcast. Listen here!

Now, onto some thoughts and tips on what I consider to be the most important aspects of attending Wimbledon.

Ticketing
Boo!! Didn't hear me? BOOOOOOO! I detest the Wimbledon ticketing system, or lack thereof. First of all, flying across the world to attend a tournament or sporting event of any kind without having actual tickets in hand is ridiculous. Secondly, not everyone in the world likes to stand in line or sit in damp grass in a field for 6+ hours just to get into the grounds well after the gates open.

Here are options for ticketing, based on the ones I have tried:

1) The ballot: In December each year, the Wimbledon Public Ballot opens and you simply register with your name and address and that's it. For me, this resulted in zero tickets, so I can't attest to its process. But from what I understand you get offered tickets to sessions and can accept or not accept. I will try this again in the future but all I know is that I struck out on this option for 2016.

My second row Centre Court ticket!
2)  Ticketmaster: MY FAVE. Yes, you can buy Wimbledon tickets like its a normal sporting event 1-2 days before the day's play. I heard about this in 2011 but thought it was a myth because as soon as I logged in all tickets were gone. But in 2013 I sat shaking with anticipation at noon on the Sunday before play began as I attempted to get a Tuesday Centre Court ticket. And I did! There are two sets of tickets sold on Ticketmaster UK:
            a). At 9am the day before play, several hundred Centre Court and No. 3 Court tickets are sold online.
            b). At 12pm two days before play, Centre Court and No. 3 Court tickets are sold online.

My tips: get logged in and start hitting refresh a full minute before 9am or 12pm. Be prepared for super annoying captcha "I'm not a robot" steps before you will know if you got a ticket. This year, I got the first Tuesday tickets this way but struck out other times, mostly because I was onsite and only could search on my phone which was hard.  If you are successful, you go to the designated gate to pick up on the day (usually from 9.30am) which is great because the queues are really short and then you are inside until the gates open fully at 10.30am. You just need to show the ticket confirmation email on your phone (or printed), your ID and the credit card you purchased the tickets with and there you go.

So thankful I did not have to go this way
3) Queuing: Please don't try to convince me that The Queue is fun in anyway, because I do not fly across the pond to spend many, many hours waiting in a long line outside to get tickets to a sporting event. I don't need to get up in the middle of the night to head to the queue, and then be tired all day long due to lack of sleep. And don't even get me started on having to camp. No. I have queued on three different occasions so I have had enough of that experience for this lifetime.

I would love to take my mom to Wimbledon, as she's such a great tennis fan and she'd love to go. But my mom can't sit on the ground, nor would her fake hip and fake knee deal with bringing some camping chair of some kind to sit in for hours on end, plus the last few hours you have no choice but to stand, and even with a cane my mom would not be able to do ALL this just to get into the grounds, where you have to do a fair bit of walking to get around. Queuing is not a great option for anyone elderly or with physical limitations like my mom hence why the system pisses me off even more.
My view of the Queue in 2013
But, if this is your speed or you can't get tickets any other way, here are some tips:
  • When to arrive: This totally depends on the Order of Play. There is just no consistency to timings as there are many factors. My experiences: in 2011 on Day 1, we arrived in The Queue around 4 or 5am and we got Court 1 tickets. By 2pm I felt ill due to waking up at 2.30am. On Day 3 that year, my friend and I arrived onsite around 10am and got a grounds pass. I can't remember what time it was that we got through the gates. In 2013, I queued on Day 1 and I think I arrived around 6am. I got No. 2 Court. Again, I can't recall what time I got in the gates but I think it was around 11am. 
  • What to bring: something to sit on that can keep you dry and dispose of, reading materials to pass the time and plenty of USB phone chargers to keep you amused. 
  • Bring CASH: you will need cash for your tickets, and for anything else you need to buy while queuing. There are coffee and food stands to help keep you going along the way and they are cash only.
  • Follow the Wimbledon Queue Twitter account as this is a great way to find out how the queue is progressing. I've tweeted them to check how many people are in the queue to gauge how long the wait might be.
The Grounds
  • Practice courts: To be honest, I don't bother trying to see practice courts at Wimbledon. It's definitely the worst slam in terms of that access, which is a shame but I'm not the biggest fan anymore of seeing practice sessions. The court are located at the very northern part of the grounds, and you have to stand in a raised walkway area which is always very crowded. I think there is another area where you can see courts but it's always too busy for me to bother. Sometimes I have seen players practice on the smaller courts but usually at least for the first week they are all usually on the practice courts.
Monica Puig was one of the rare players I saw practicing on a match court
  • Resale tickets: one thing Wimbledon does that I love is the resale ticket queue. Ticketholders who don't stay the entire day can donate their tickets as they leave the grounds and if you're in the grounds you can queue up and spend 5-10 pounds for a show court ticket. I did this in 2011 and saw two sets of Andy Roddick in a seat just behind the Royal Box.
  • Food and drink: you can bring in a bit of food and drink which is a nice way to keep costs down (and not spend heaps of time standing in lines for food). I usually brought in a sandwich/quiche and fruit and had no issues but I saw many people bring in large bags of food. Be prepared for significant bag searches - the most diligent of the slams from my experience. A word of warning - don't bring in any metal water bottles as I have heard they will not allow them. If you're not keen to bring in food, then the onsite restaurants are fine. I usually go to the Food Village below the No. 1 Court (close to the practice courts) to the smallish store that sells sandwiches, sushi, wraps and a few snacks and drinks. The lines here are never very long and there are benches and tables nearby to eat at. 
  • Views: Walk to the top of Henman Hill/Murray Mound. It's beautiful. Also, near the resale queue is a wonderful area to look at Court 18 and beyond. Wimbledon is by far the most beautiful slam and when you feel like navigating all the crowds one of my favorite things to do between matches is to just wander along the grounds.
Wimbledon Village:
The Wimbledon Village shop windows are incredible
Wimbledon Village is such a special place. Many people walk to Wimbledon via the village, and it's such a wonderful atmosphere during the Championships. The Village shops all decorate their windows and fully embrace the tournament. Many players stay in and around the village so it's great place to player spot.
There are great cafes and eateries which are hopping morning noon and night, and I love spending time here. The Dog and Fox pub is by far the hub of the village and it's a great place to grab a drink and watch matches if you're not at the tourney. My fave place to grab a sandwich to take with me to the tennis and grab a coffee was Paul's and I loved Le Pain Quotidien. I saw many players and tennis coaches, media, etc there as the food is great and there's plenty of tables. I also love Carluccios.


This year, I was lucky to be in the village on the Sunday before play started. I hung out with my friend @frameyourself and a few of her mates as we played spotted and enjoyed the vibe. Also, because I stayed near the village I walked through it twice a day on my way to and from the tourney. There is something so special about walking down Church Road from the village to Wimbledon.

Where to stay:
I have written on my travel blog about how much I love using Airbnb. This is especially true on my tennis travels because I'm gone all day/night so I hate spending tons of money on hotels. I also often stay with friends when I travel, so I have only paid to stay near Wimbledon twice and both were through Airbnb.

In 2013 I stayed a few nights in South Wimbledon and that was fine. I could take a bus a few stops to Wimbledon Village and then walk. This year, I stayed in Edge Hill, which is just down the road from the village. I could walk to Wimbledon in 30 minutes so I did that instead of using any form of public transport. The closest tube stations to Wimbledon are Southfields and Wimbledon, but I detest the tube so I like to be able to walk if possible.

In 2011 I spent one night in a hotel near Hyde Park and that was just a bit too far from the Wimbledon Queue for me as we cabbed it there in the wee hours of the morning.

Got questions? Hit me up in the comments!

A few more photos from my 2016 Wimbledon experience:


























10 comments:

  1. Very nice, Steph. Really enjoyed this.

    Hope you have a nice week.

    Victor Pecci

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  2. Thanks for posting this Steph! I've begun some planning for my first (!!!) trip over there for next year. I'm wondering if you have heard of and/or know anybody who has taken part in the Wimbledon Experience Tours? Looks awesome because they take care of everything for you but the price tag is steep. This is the package I was looking at- https://www.wimbledon-experience.com/tickets-programmes/the-championships-programme.aspx

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    1. Hi Angie! I don't know anyone who has done that tour before. Yes, I imagine it'd be very pricey! Ouch. Are you just not keen to try the ballot and go yourself?

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  3. I was thinking about it but I'm a bit apprehensive because this will be my first time ever traveling abroad on my own and want to ensure everything will be in place.

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    1. Oh I get it. I've been traveling so long I forget what it's like to start out! Good luck whichever way you do it :)

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  4. Thank you for this helpful information. Just curious - did you ever receive any notice(s) from Wimbledon indicating that you were not selected in the public ballot? I entered and never heard a word - wondering if that is standard protocol.

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    1. Hi - my pleasure! No, once I submitted the ballot and got my confirmation, I never received any other email!

      Here is what that email said: "You will be contacted by the end of March 2016 if you are successful in the main ballot. Returned or declined tickets are continually re-balloted so, if you are unsuccessful in the main ballot, your application will be reconsidered in subsequent, smaller ballots. "

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  5. Great tips! Wasn't aware of the Ticketmaster option, so great to learn of that. I attended for a day during the first week this year. Queued for a grounds pass, got there about 7 and entered about 11. Though I'm not eager to repeat the experience, I actually enjoyed the queue, talking with the other queuers, the stewards, etc., hearing about best queue strategies (i.e., get there before the Underground trains start running at 5:30 to have the best chance for a show court). One more tip - all the show courts except Center Court have some seats saved for grounds pass holders. We did that first thing (since we'd been standing for four hours already and wanted a seat), and we got a seat at Court 3 after about 10 minutes. Later in the day these show court queue get longer, so we skipped them. Two things I'd like to see at Wimbledon are better (at least healthier) food, and more places to sit and relax. I'm looking forward to a more relaxed tennis experience in Cinci next month. :-)

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    1. Hey Sam! That is a really good point about the show courts having seats for grounds pass holders. I never heard that about Courts 1&2 but learned that this year about Court 3. Yes I agree the food isn't super healthy :) Have fun in Cincy I love that tourney but sadly can't make it this year.

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