Non-Traditional

Wimbledon – Sort of…

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit guilty as I stood in line (the queue for you Londoners) to enter tennis’ most prestigious event.  Sure, I like tennis, but I don’t love tennis. While I was thrilled to be among those checking the world’s oldest tennis tournament off of my bucket list, I knew there were countless others who would do just about anything to graze these hallowed grounds – grounds that have hosted the event since 1877. Oh well. I was here and I was going to make the most of it.

It started by coincidence that I was going to be in London for business. As soon as I realized Wimbledon was happening, I put the plan in motion and did some research. Little did I know that the London area was also hosting other major sporting events including the F1 at Silverstone and the World Cup of Cricket – in which England would be vying for it’s first World Cup Championship. Needless to say, London was the center of the sports universe on Sunday. It didn’t matter. Wimbledon was the easy choice for me.

The Centre Court at Wimbledon seats only about 15,000 fans. So one would think only the very wealthy or corporate folks have a shot at attending – but Wimbledon does it different. The majority of tickets for Centre Court are offered through a lottery a year in advance, effectively ensuring even commoners can experience the event.

grounds

Of course, there were tickets on the secondary market – and the Men’s Championship were listed for well over $5,000USD, But there’s another option that allows fans to experience Wimbledon. They sell access to the grounds on the day of the event and provide viewing options around the grounds. They offer two different types of tickets – $40 Court 1 tickets – allowing you access to one of the major courts and $10 General Admission tickets – providing access to the grounds, including smaller court matches – just not Court 1 or Centre Court.

To secure these tickets, you have to queue up, the earlier the better. A colleague and I arrived at about 9:00am for the 10:30am gate opening and were handed a Queue Card, mine was #1538.

Queue Card

While in line, we chatted with a very friendly local couple who helped us to understand the process and what to expect once we entered the grounds. If you didn’t have a local handy, the kind folks at Wimbledon handed out 31-page pamphlets entitled “A Guide to Queueing”. So very British of them.

Guide to Queueing

We passed by this unique sculpture and I later found out the story behind it. It represents a water fountain, built out of 2,631 tennis balls. The balls represent the lives that could be saved every day if people had clean water and decent toilets.

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Another fan was Rodrigo from Dallas.  He was working with the NFL on international expansion and, like us, just so happened to be in town during the event. The conversation passed the time quickly and before you knew it, we were entering the grounds!

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Once inside what we thought was the gate, the excitement was building, but little did we know, we still weren’t guaranteed admission into the grounds. We were about 50 people away from entry when the volunteers stopped the line and said they are filling up and we may or may not be granted entry. He later continued that they may let us in, but we may be required to purchase the more costly “Court 1” tickets. So what, even at $40 it was still a bargain. Who would say no? It didn’t matter. As luck prevailed, they allowed another 300 people through having to only purchase the GA tickets!

Ticket

Once inside, we were greeted by another volunteer who helped us to plan our day.  He said the most sought-after position for GA seating is on Aorangi Terrace, more commonly known as the easier to say, Henman Hill.  The Hill is a grassy area with direct view of a large-screen TV with the London skyline off in the distance. He suggested that we might want to opt for Court 2, which offers better seating and less congestion, but smaller screens.

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It was hard to believe that we were here for a matchup between two of the top players in the world – possibly of all time. Roger Federer (the heavy fan favorite) was taking on Novak Djokovic.

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The Fred Perry statue sits just outside of Centre Court. Perry is a Brit who won three straight Wimbledon titles in 1934, 1935 & 1936 – and he did it as an amateur! Perry was also the first player to win the Career Grand Slam. The statue was put up in 1984 – surely in part due to the fact that he was the last Brit to win the Championship. That was, until 2013 when Andy Murray finally broke through.

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As we made our way around the grounds, it became very clear that this event caters to a different clientele. Men and women looked as though they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine. The orchestra seated outside of Centre Court entertained the crowd with music that belongs in the next James Bond film.

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Everywhere you looked, the patrons were milling about with bottles of champagne – some even with “koozies” to keep the bubbles chilled. Have you ever seen a champagne bottle koozie?

Koozie

Of course, when at Wimbledon, you must have strawberries and cream! The refreshing mix is exactly what its name represents – strawberries swimming in cream. Nothing fancy but it’s become a must-have at Wimbledon dating back to the inception of the tournament. At about three bucks, it’s a check mark that won’t cost you your wallet.

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If you’re not enjoying a bottle of chilled champagne, the must-have drink is Pimm’s #1 Cup. This drink is to Wimbledon what the Mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby. Pimm’s #1 is a gin-based alcohol that is infused with herbs, spices and orange. The Pimm’s #1 Cup cocktail at Wimbledon adds lemon-lime soda and some garnishes to make a refreshing summer drink that is hard to describe, but almost tastes like iced tea.

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If you’re so inclined, here’s the recipe. I’m pretty sure Wimbledon served it with lemon-lime soda. I had it elsewhere during the week and they served it with lemonade – equally as good and a bit less sweet.

Traditional Pimm’s Cup

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
4 oz. English lemonade or lemon-lime soda
Mint sprig, cucumber slice, strawberry slice and apple slice, for garnish

We made our way over to Henman Hill only to find the place packed to the edges.

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Even the picnic area behind the hill, with an obstructed view of the TV was full.

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We briefly checked out a couple of matches as we meandered around the grounds. On Court 12, the Men’s Senior Invitational Doubles had Todd Woodbridge and Jonas Bjorkman defeating Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis.

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Court #3 Men’s Senior Doubles
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Girls Doubles

But make no mistake. The highlight of the day was the Centre Court match of two legends. We settled into our Court 2 seats and prepared for the main event. Many others joined us. While nothing would beat being inside Centre Court, this option wasn’t too shabby. The fans were all into the match and sat silently, as though the players were on the grass below us. The picture doesn’t do it justice as our view of the screen was just fine.

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We sat glued in our seats (except for the occasional Pimm’s refills). Djokovic took the first set 7-6 and Federer quickly responded to take the second, 6-1. Djokovic again won the tie break in the third set. Federer responded by taking the fourth set 6-4, setting up the tie break fifth set. After three hours, we looked at each other in amazement thinking how quickly time went by, but there was so much more tennis to play.

In the fifth, Federer was up two Championship Points, but couldn’t close the deal. Once again, the giants came to a tie at 12-12.  Wimbledon inserted a new tie break rule just this year that would limit the match. It’s a good thing or these two would still be playing. In the final tie break, it was all Novak as he cruised to victory.

After a record nearly five hours of play, Djokovic earned back-to-back victories at Wimbledon and his fifth overall Championship. Meanwhile, Federer sits at eight Championships having last won in 2017.

The Championships - Wimbledon 2019
PC: Getty Images

One last very unique aspect of Wimbledon has to do with ticket resale inside the grounds. As patrons leave the Men’s Championship match, they can turn in their tickets so that Wimbledon can resell the seats to the final Women’s Doubles Match that’s played after the Men’s Championship on Centre Court. Anyone, including those with GA tickets, can get in the queue to purchase these tickets – with all of the money going to charity.  This is a great way to not only raise money for charity, but it allows fans to see a match on Centre Court – and to keep the stadium full for the final match. Truly an all-around win.

We shared a cab back to the City with a couple of locals. They told us that Lewis Hamilton, an Englishman, had won the F1 race and they now turned their attention to their phones as England was battling New Zealand in the final moments of the Cricket World Cup. During the ride, England had pulled off a miraculous play to win the Championship. Don’t ask me the details – I know nothing about the sport.  All I can say is, what a day for England.

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In the “small world” department, after posting to social media from the event, a Phoenix-based friend responded that she too was at Wimbledon.  Of course, she wasn’t slumming it like us.  She got to experience Wimbledon from Centre Court while hosting clients. I’m guessing her strawberries were a little sweeter and her champagne had smaller bubbles. What an epic event to have experienced with your clients – or better yet, on behalf of your supplier/partner.

While Wimbledon wasn’t high on my Bucket List, I’m thrilled to say I was able to cross it off  – and to being there to witness history, even better.

Stop wondering. Start wandering!

 

1 comment

  1. This is a brilliant description of your experience! It’s a “must see” for fans of any sport! And thought it was my second trip (first time was on my own very large dime) yes – hosting clients was a great way to get the “smaller bubbles”!

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