The world’s most famous tennis tournament brings top stars to London’s grass courts. Find out more about the event, and tips on how to bag a ticket (2-15 July, 2018).
You might think Wimbledon (the venue) is all about tennis, but actually, its full name is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It was actually founded for croquet only, in 1869. Tennis soon became more popular, and the first championship was held eight years later, in July 1877.
The Championships began life on rented meadowland on Wimbledon’s Worple Road, moving to its current home on Church Road in 1922. With room for 13,500 people when it opened, many feared the new site was too big and would become an embarrassment. They could not have been more wrong.
In 1937, the BBC was a year old and its first live sports coverage was of Wimbledon, with 30 minutes of Centre Court action every day. It was watched by the several thousand people in north London, who lived close to the transmitters and had a TV.
The famous dress code was made official in 1963, dictating that players must dress "predominantly in white." It was upgraded to "almost entirely in white" in 1995. A smart dress code applies also to spectators in Centre Court’s Royal Box: Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was barred from here in 2015 because he wasn’t wearing a shirt and tie. Instead, he had to watch Novak Djokovic win his third Wimbledon title from a hospitality area, missing out on the chance to sit with other famous faces.
A Royal Connection
The Queen visited Wimbledon for the first time in 1957 to watch the men’s doubles final between Lew Hoad and Neale Fraser. She has attended the Championships four times, but in 2016 she passed on her patronage to the Duchess of Cambridge, who watched the men’s final with Prince William last year.
How to Buy Tickets
Watching a match here isn’t as tricky as you might think. During the tournament, tickets are set aside every day for the No.1, No. 2 and Centre Courts (except for the final four days on Centre Court). Thousands of Grounds Passes are available, which allow access to unreserved seats on Courts 3-18.
Arrive as early as possible before the grounds open at 10.30am to join the famous Queue (an institution in its own right). Many people queue for hours in advance, especially for the coveted Centre Court tickets. One ticket only is offered to each person as they reach the front.
Once inside, the Ticket Resale Booth opens at around 3 pm, which is important to know if you have a Grounds Pass only. Spectators who have already left Centre Court for the day hand back their tickets here, and you can queue to buy them for £15 each.
You can take a tour of the grounds, including Centre Court, throughout the year and visit the Wimbledon Museum. On display are trophies as well as tennis kits and equipment used by champions. During the Championships (2-15 Jul), the museum is only open to ticketholders, while tours are suspended until 21 Jul.
Did you know?
The tournament puts 2,200 catering staff to work, making Wimbledon the largest single annual sports catering operation in Europe.
In 2017, spectators consumed 33,000kg of English strawberries, 10,000 litres of fresh cream, 17,000 portions of fish and chips and 29,000 bottles of Champagne.
The fastest serve ever recorded was the American player Taylor Dent’s 148mph effort in 2010. Venus Williams holds the record for women; she belted a ball at 129mph in 2008.
King George VI is the only member of the royal family to have competed, during Wimbledon’s 50th jubilee year in 1926. Thirty years old and not yet king, he played in the Gentlemen’s Doubles, but didn’t make it past the first round.