Once upon a time, I was afraid to try to go to Wimbledon without tickets in hand. The idea of queuing for hours (the way that the majority of people gain admission) and then not getting in just seemed too risky. So I made my first trip to “The Championships” in 2010 when I was lucky enough to get Centre Court tickets for the first Thursday through the Lawn Tennis Association ballot. I went a day early and queued for grounds passes on Wednesday, which was an added bonus – especially once I ended up with a front row seat for the 5th set of the Isner-Mahut marathon match!
So when my friend Amy scored tickets for Court 1 on “Manic Monday” through the international ballot and invited me to go, I thought once again it would be worth getting to London early to queue for grounds passes again. But while I easily made it in back in 2010, this time around it was not so certain.
Amy and I and my friend Sophie agreed to meet at the Southfields station near Wimbledon at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. I arrived in London only the night before, not getting to my hotel until after 11, so waking up by 4:30 to shower and get to the Tube meant I was running on very little sleep! When I went in 2010, I arrived at the Queue about 7:30 a.m. and was number 2500-something. This time, getting there at 6:15 a.m., we were numbers 8497, 8498 and 8499!
The first 1500 people in the Queue get tickets to Centre Court, Court 1 and Court 2. After that, it is all grounds passes and while I heard from someone back in 2010 that they sell 7500 grounds passes (meaning we would make the cut), a steward later explained that how many they sell depends on a variety of factors, including the weather and if they think it is too hot to cram more people onto the grounds. Which left us in limbo for hours.
I won’t bore you with the details of how we passed the next six hours, but by 11, I was doing the math and figured they should be at about 7500 admitted by noon. We decided to give it until 1 p.m. and if we didn’t get in as part of the initial group, we would call it a day and leave. To make a long story short, we were on the grounds at 1:15 p.m. and were likely among the last to get in!
After grabbing lunch (some very subpar Mexican food, I should know better…), Sophie and I headed to Court 12 to see young American Madison Keys. Of course, we had to queue again, but we were on court within about 15 minutes. I scored a second row seat in the corner of the court in time to see Madison win the second set and the match.
Then Sophie joined me to wait for the men’s doubles match to follow, which featured Lleyton Hewitt (playing in his last Wimbledon) and young Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis. I just love Hewitt’s fire and attitude, so figured it would be a fun match to watch and we were not disappointed! The match went five and the longer they played, the more the crazy Aussie fans crowded onto Court 12, making the atmosphere pretty electric!
After that match wrapped up, Sophie and I met up with Amy again and they decided to call it a day. I, however, saw that Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils were just starting on Court 1 and wanted to try to get in to see it. At the same time, Andy Murray was on Centre Court, so I figured most Brits would be out on Henman Hill/Murray Mound watching that match and that I might be able to find someone willing to give up their Court 1 ticket. I hung around outside the main entrance to Court 1 and after watching several others ask for spare tickets and get denied, I saw a woman ask a couple for their tickets and they gave her both! I immediately swooped in and asked if she was using both. She said no, handed me the second one and then gave me a hug, saying it was our lucky day!
Simon and Monfils did not disappoint! As darkness set in on Court 1, though, the match was suspended, with Simon up two sets to one, but trailing in the fourth. Luckily, I saw on Twitter that it was moving to Centre Court, where they had closed the roof and turned the lights on. For whatever reason, Wimbledon officials did not announce this initially on Court 1, so as I hustled over to Centre Court, I was among the few going that way. As a result, I was first in line to grab a seat when the stewards got the official word that it would be open seating for the conclusion of the match. Soon, I was sitting in the front row on Centre Court!
To no one’s surprise, Monfils took the fourth set to force a fifth. Unfortunately, he faded after that and lost 6-2, bringing an otherwise exciting match to a bit of an anti-climactic conclusion. Nonetheless, it wrapped up a fantastic day of tennis and I got my money’s and my time’s worth out of it! I may have queued for seven hours, but I at least saw more than seven hours of tennis!
And I still had Manic Monday to look forward to…
p.s. I’ve decided I totally want to go and camp out overnight for tickets some time – I think it would be fun! Who’s with me??