As we count down our last month in London, we are trying to tick off the last few things on our “to see in London” list. One of the biggies was a day at a sporting classic: Wimbledon 2014.
Despite living about five miles away from the AELTC we’d never been and, given the incredibly oversubscribed ballot, we’d be lucky to get tickets on our first (and only) attempt. But whaddya know? We got lucky with tickets for the third show court: Court #2, where the doubles matches were playing.
Confession time: I’m not a huge fan of the tennis. I can’t play it (massive hand/eye coordination issues) and, whilst I will happily watch a gripping match, I don’t tend to follow it all that closely.
Despite that, I LOVED Wimbledon. It is held up as one of the bastions of “Britishness” (in a good, non-UKIP way), and I can see why. There is queuing (lots of it, all civilised), Pimms and a genuine respect for the sport everyone is there to see. I didn’t see a single person flout the “silence during play” rule or the sporting principle of not applauding net faults. I found much joy in the civility and ceremony of the whole thing.
Plus, what other sport has a refereeing team all smartly decked out in flat caps and matching shirts? NONE, I tell you.
Your ticket bags you a seat on your allocated court all day, but you are free to wander around the grounds and return to your seats as you please. The non-show courts (of which there are many) often have junior matches or “invitation” matches for former stars, which are well worth a watch. Earlier in the tournament games are more widely spread across courts due to the sheer number of games, so you may catch a big name on a smaller court!
The site itself, as well as being much bigger than I expected, is pretty interesting and offers excellent people watching opportunities! The AELTC really go to town on the grounds – everywhere you look are stunning hanging baskets, ivy covered buildings and statues to look at. There is plenty to see, and if you run out you can always buy a (very expensive!) cup of Pimms and sit up on “Henman Hill” to watch Centre Court on the big screens. I’ll be honest, this was the only let down of the day. We hit it about 6pm and it was packed to the rafters, mostly with pretty hammered people. Choose your spot wisely if you go towards the end of the day!
The “BYO” food and drink allowance is pretty generous (a bottle of wine per person), so we brought a Posh Picnic (complete with prosecco!) and had a break between games to enjoy some fizz and M&S sandwiches (the height of sophistication for us Northerners).
Oh, and we managed to see some pretty decent tennis too! We saw the Bryan Brothers get through to the doubles semi-finals, and Soares and Hingis get through to the mixed doubles finals, amongst others.
If you plan to be in London over a Wimbledon tournament, it is well worth being organised and navigating the rather antiquated ballot system to see if you can get a ticket. We had such a wonderful day in the sunshine, and I was so glad we get to say goodbye to London having attended one of the great events in the London sporting calendar.