I’ve wanted to go to the Wimbledon Championships since I was a girl, but have never managed to get ballot tickets. This year there wasn’t a public ballot but I managed to get hold of tickets, through either the LTA membership ballot or through the volunteers ballot. Wimbledon centre court tickets here we come (once I’d baulked at the price but decided I couldn’t not go).
A school and tennis mum friend said she’d love to go too, so we made our plans. We had tickets for mens semi final day, so it was exciting to see the build up, and hope that we might get a Brit in the semi final. And yes, Cameron Norrie had a brilliant run through to set up his Novak Djokovic semi final.
Unfortunately we were only going to get one semi because Nadal was injured and withdrew. So I was a bit worried we’d spent a whole lot of money, and would only get to see one big match, and then have to find space around the outdoor courts to watch juniors or wheelchair tennis. In fact, once we arrived, we saw they’d added the womens doubles semi finals to centre court as well, so we knew we’d see some great tennis.
Planning for a first time visit to Wimbledon
Wimbledon isn’t an easy day out even if you don’t have to get in the queue overnight. There’s still plenty to check and get ready before you go.
The Wimbledon app
Tickets come through the app, and there’s so much information on there too. With the tickets, you get 2 in the ballot, then before going you have to transfer the guest ticket to your second person. Tickets and photo ID are needed for security on entry, and there are bag searches.
A friend did say that there were app issues earlier during Wimbledon weekend, so she advised screenshotting the tickets, then to use your phone in airplane mode to save on battery while there. My phone wouldn’t let me screenshot my full ticket, only the short version – although when finding our seats, the steward did only need to see that version rather than the full one. You could always take photos of each others full ticket and use them than way if the app is playing.`
The communication is excellent ahead of your trip – there’s a visitors handbook they send out which has all the information about transport, location, tickets, venue, and food.
There are rules over bag sizes and types (no coolboxes or hard edge large bags), no flasks or opaque bottles over 500ml. Water bottles need to be see through, or you might have to drink or tip them out.
You can take limited alcohol in with you, so do check before you go.
Both hot and cold drinks are supplied in refillable/deposit return cups – not great as they’re open, but good for reusing. There are a few water taps you can refill bottles at around the site too. The queues weren’t too long, and they went down fast.
There’s no specific dress code unless you’re in the royal box, but people do tend to dress up. They do ask for no ripped jeans or sports shorts, so go for smarter casual rather than anything too relaxed. I did wear jeans in the end – although it was very hot.
The biggest tip is wear lots of sun lotion, and take a hat and fan. If you’re someone who burns, wear something to cover up. We were lucky that we were under cover in centre court, but I felt for those out in the sun – even with hats on there were lots of red arms visible. Fans are used a lot in hot weather to try and keep cool. I think I’d have struggled being in the open all day.
The non show courts are all open, and very few have shade. So take and drink plenty of water, top up the lotion and wear light colours to help keep cool.
The nearest tube is Southfields. It’s about a 15 minute walk straight up the road (although their signs just keep saying 5 minutes more). The day involves lots of walking so comfy shoes are essential.
Our Wimbledon experience
We loved it.
Due to off peak travel, we arrived around 11.15. We didn’t have to queue for more than a couple of minutes to go through the ticket and ID check. Bag checks were fast too.
Because centre court play wasn’t starting til 1.30pm, we decided to get lunch first, then watch some tennis on the outside courts.
Food at Wimbledon
There are plenty of food venues – from hot food to sandwiches, from formal sit down restaurants and bistro (serioues pricy), to take away stalls. We decided on flatbread wraps – halloumi, sunblush tomato and salad, which were delicious. They were very garlicky – I apologise for the people sitting next to us. All I could smell was garlic – I think it was emitting from our pores in the heat! It was more than you’d pay on the high street, for similar, but if you don’t want to pay, you can take your own food instead.
There’s lots of bench seating, and obviously you can sit out on Henman Hill to eat.
Then it was time to soak up the atmosphere. Centre Court and Court 1 look really beautiful with the floral displays outside. Wimbledon is a bit like a maze – you need longer than a day to really find your way around although there are maps, signs and people to ask.
Seeing the order of play boards, and the huge draw/results boards is really something. Even right at the end of the tournament, there’s plenty of tennis to watch. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see some players out practising. There were rumblings around us saying Djokovic was pracitising out the back of where we were, and there were plenty of players walking around, presumably juniors, and others being chaperoned to different courts or back in. If you go earlier in the tournament, I presume there would be a lot more players walking between courts to spot.
Watching the tennis at Wimbledon
We easily found places to sit and stand to watch a couple of Boys Under 14 matches. These boys were so much better than I thought they’d be at that young age, they’re amazing to watch. We didn’t see any of the girls matches though.
Considering I’m around tennis courts all the time, it was strange how small the grass courts seemed. You’re really up close on the outside courts, sitting right up to the barriers, and the players are really close. It must be a bit strange for them seeing faces watching and cameras pointing at them so near.
Wimbledon Centre Court centenary
After a wander around the courts, and watching some matches, we headed to Centre Court. It was 100 years of Wimbledon Centre Court this year which was nice to be part of. It’s pretty special being at Centre Court and the atmosphere is amazing.
At first the seating was quite empty. We were sitting up on the 3rd level, but there was still a great view. I wish I’d had the room in my bag to take my good camera and lens so I could have got much better photos.
We watched the first women’s doubles semi final – Ostapenko and Kichenok vs Krecjikova and Siniakova, with the latter winning in the end. It’s so interesting to see how the different players set up their partnership, and the way they serve.
Gentlemen’s singles semi finals
The seats began to fill up ready for the men’s semi final. The atmosphere definitely changed at that point, especially when Norrie and Djokovic came out onto court. We did have a chuckle because there was a girl a couple of rows in front of us who kept shouting out to support Novak holding up a banner, while everyone else was supporting Cameron.
Norrie played a good first set and broke early to then take the first set. Then Djokovic unfortunately got back to his normal playing level, and wasn’t going to let Norrie get the better of him. Cam’s first serve really wasn’t working, but he gave us a good match. A great run at Wimbledon, his first grand slam semi final. Maybe next year he’ll be able to get to the final.
We decided we needed to go for a walkaround after that. After going to the theatre for so many years I find sports events really weird how you can just get up and walk around, go and get food or drinks. With tennis, people were tennis to miss around 3 games, by the time they’d gone at change of end, walked and come back – having to wait for the next change of end.
Pimms at Wimbledon
Pimms was next on the list. The queues were really efficient so we didn’t wait long. All drinks now seem to be reusable cups, so you pay £1 deposit, then return them afterwards to be reused. We decided to just keep ours – mainly because we didn’t see any return points, but N liked having the souvenir. We didn’t bother with strawberries and cream, but you could really go to town. For a Pimms and box of strawberries, you’d be looking at around £20. I’m not sure making the most of the experience to have both of those is worth it.
It was lovely to find an empty outside court to sit and watch the comings and goings from a distance, enjoy the sunshine and drink, and look over to the other courts where there were still matches going on.
As it was getting late, we decided that we didn’t want to head back into centre court again to watch the other ladies doubles semi final. We wanted to go for a wander around the grounds again, visit the Wimbledon Shop to get some souvenirs for our boys, and then get dinner elsewhere.
The Wimbledon Shop
There’s the main shop and an express pop up place selling limited items. You can also buy online. I bought N a baseball cap, but the child size ended up too small, so I kept that for myself, and ordered him a different adult size. I also treated myself to one of the towels, because it’s always been something I’ve wanted since I was a child.
When we headed to the shop it wasn’t too busy, and there weren’t long queues. But earlier in the day I’d seen huge queues to go insde. It think this was probably straight after we came out of watching the men’s semi finals. If you want the most choice of items you need to go earlier – we couldn’t get any older boys size t shirts at all by the time we were there. But be prepared to queue.
After we’d had enough, we headed for the walk back to Southfields in the hope of finding somewhere to eat before heading home. Off the main junction near the station, there were a few restaurants of different cuisines. We decided on Thai, and with a friendly welcome, fast service and tasty food, we were very happy with a great day out.
Our Wimbledon verdict
Wimbledon isn’t the cheapest day out if you want show court tickets and are lucky enough to get them. If you treat it like a treat day out, it’s definitely worth it, especially if you can get there at start of play at 11, and stay until late. I had worried about there being long matches into the evening, because we’d have had to get the tube back by around 10.10 to catch the last train home.
With Wimbledon Championships tickets you can also get into the museum for free during the fortnight. I’d have liked to have done this, but there was quite a queue for it. I think if I did Wimbledon again, I’d try and organise staying over in London the day before so we could get there for opening. There’s so much to do and see over and above what we did, it’s worth planning to spend more time there.
Getting Wimbledon tickets
While I’d never choose to camp out and queue, we discussed potentially going early morning with the boys in future to get grounds tickets on the gate which are more reasonably priced. If you go in the first week you’re likely to get to see some seeded players even on the outside courts, in the second week you’ll get more doubles, wheelchair and juniors to watch.
Otherwise, we’ll always still try the ballot, and hope we get Wimbledon centre court tickets again. The only downside is you can only have what you’re given, on the day you’re given and only 2 tickets at a time. That doesn’t work for a family. There’s no way of swapping to a different lower priced court or day. If you live locally you can try and go down and get returns – we left ours to resell on at the gate for latecomers, and the proceeds go to tennis charities.
If you want to go in to the ballot, there are several options. There’s the public ballot and a members ballot. It’s not expensive to join the LTA, and you’ll get early access to so many tennis tournaments across the year. as well as the members ballot access. For the public ballot you just need to sign up on the MyWimbledon website to hear about when the ballot opens.
Have you ever been to watch the tennis at Wimbledon? What tips would you add?
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