The Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London are one of the greatest tennis events on the planet. Every year there are stories in the tabloids about the ridiculous prices being charged for tickets, food and drinks, but don't let them put you off. You can still have a great time on a small budget and see some world-class tennis.
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The tournament usually runs the last week of June and the first week of July at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in the London borough of Wimbledon. Usually, there's no play on the middle Sunday unless matches have been rained out and they're catching up.
The first week of Wimbledon is the best week to go if you want to see a lot of tennis. During the second week, less tennis is played on the outside courts, so your admission price gets you less.
Wimbledon is the only major grand slam where fans without tickets for the day's play can line up and still get great seats on Centre Court, Court 1 and Court 2, where the best matches are scheduled. The bad news is the lines for these tickets often start the night before. Usually there are 2 lines and about 250 seats for each court are distributed to each of them. Fans are handed vouchers when they line up and the following morning stewards hand out wristbands that are color-coded to specific courts. Fans then go to the ticket office and redeem their vouchers for an actual ticket. Prices vary depending on the day, but you won't pay more than £60 (about $100).
Of course, you don't have to stand in an overnight line to see tennis at Wimbledon. General admission to the grounds costs £15 (about $20) and allows you to see all tennis being played apart from the main courts. That ticket allows you to watch tennis on 18 courts, although you may have to stand.
Don't be put off if the general admission line is over a mile long when you arrive, it moves quickly.
There is one way of seeing tennis on the main courts if you don't stand in line. Starting at 2:30 p.m., return tickets - those returned by people leaving early - go on sale for approximately £7 ($12). The money you pay goes to charity. To get these tickets follow the signposts inside the ground to get to the booth that resells them.
Spectators who are leaving, also give away their tickets, so hang around with a mournful look in your eye and someone may take pity on you and give you a ticket as they leave.
Since the games are played on grass, rain does stop play. Always know what the weather forecast is before standing in line and paying for a ticket. Go online and check Wimbledon's rain check policy (a link is provided in the Resources box).
If you think the food and drink inside the grounds is too expensive, wander out and walk into Wimbledon Village. You're sure to find a pub there where you can get a pint of bitter and a ploughman's lunch or a beef patty. If you do leave, be sure to get your hand stamped so you can be readmitted.
If you tire of the tennis, visit the Wimbledon Museum. Here you can witness the famous Wimbledon Championship trophies, The Gentlemen's Singles Challenge Cup, which dates from 1887, The Ladies' Singles Trophy and the "Venue Rosewater Dish" from 1886. The museum has some amazing exhibits; one is a movie of the 2005 Wimbledon Championships made with a special 200° camera, with 5 separate lenses, to give a "Matrix" style freeze-and-fly view of the shots from many different angles. Another cool exhibit has tennis great John McEnroe appearing as a 3-D ghost to guide viewers through a recreation of the 1980s Gentlemen's Dressing Room and another deals with the fashions at the venue from the 1880s on.
Royalty spotting is also a good diversion for the tennis fatigued. British Royalty has been associated with Wimbledon since 1907, and you may spot members of the Royal Family in The Royal Box on Center Court. Celebrities and rock stars hang out in The Members Box.
Be sure to sample the ubiquitous strawberries and cream, the traditional snack at Wimbledon. Approximately 60,000 pounds of strawberries and 1,850 gallons of cream are sold each year during the championships. Wash it all down with the equally traditional Pimm's No 1.
Tips and warnings
- The best way to get to Wimbledon from anywhere in London is by Tube. The nearest stations to the grounds are Wimbledon and Southfields, and you can take a shuttle bus from either to the tennis.
- The conventional wisdom is that the shuttle from Wimbledon Station takes you to where the shorter of the two lines form for the exclusive Center Court tickets.
- More information can be found on the Web site (a link is provided in the Resources box). For ticket enquiries, call: +44 (0)20 8971 2473.
- Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. The tournament was first played in 1877. Then, the only event held was the Gentlemen's Singles competition. Ladies' Singles and Gentlemen's Doubles were added in 1884, and Ladies' Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added in 1913.
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