Updated: May 21, 2021
I am going to miss the queue again this year!
The Wimbledon ticket queue is a time-honored tradition known to tennis fans worldwide. Even those fans who have never set foot on English soil know of the queue. It’s as iconic as the lawns themselves. Okay, perhaps not quite that iconic but it’s up there with the strawberries and cream. I love the Wimbledon Queue… and I'm going to miss the queue again this year.
Tennis is my passion and I cherish no place in the tennis universe more than the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. “The Championships”. WIMBLEDON! I'm what you might call a “hardcore” fan. Well, perhaps “semi-hardcore”. I arrive at the hallowed gates of the Wimbledon Common no later than 6:00 on the morning before the day I intend to enter the grounds. It is the only way I know how to stand a fighting chance of securing one of the most prized possessions in all of tennis: A ticket to Centre Court.
I will admit I do not join any earlier as there is only so much time I allow myself to go without a proper shower. In total, it works out to 28 hours from joining the queue to entering the All England Club. Hardcore enough!
In years past, I would join the queue at 6:00 AM on the Sunday before the tournament started, catching an Uber from Bromley, a one-way trip of about 15 miles. Of course, this is slightly more convenient than travelling from Japan, Singapore, New Zealand or just about any other corner of the planet. Maybe even Antarctica
In some years, the queue became so popular that I wasn't even among the first 500 attendees, so only tickets to Number 1 Court were available for purchase. It is almost hard to believe that many other people were willing to show up before me - at 6:00 AM - on a Sunday, at least 28 hours before seeing a player strike a ball. For those that like to sleep in: If you are not among the first 1,000, then there's always Number 2 Court.
Eventually, I changed my personal Wimbledon tradition to queuing on the 1st Monday of the tournament. In the process, I used up an obscene amount of cellular data and at least 2 portable chargers, to watch all the Monday action from my phone. Live tennis! Live from the Common! There but not really there… tolerating the endless buffering… because it’s Wimbledon and it’s worth it!
If I may describe the scene for those who haven’t experienced the pleasure: Thousands of people queue and you are surrounded by avid tennis in a festive, friendly atmosphere... once everyone is fully awake. There are fans from all walks of life, from all over the world with their nation's flag draped on their humble accommodations for the night: a tent.
In 2019, Simona Halep saw to it that, once again there will be an abundance of Romanians in 2021. I’m often delighted to see the same people year after year, knowing some have queued every year for decades. Of those timid of the prospect and wary of the wait, I've managed to convince quite a few to cast their doubts aside and endeavor to face queue at least once. The necessary “facilities” are available and local takeaway staff hand out their menus and deliver to the Common gates.
This year, as in nearly all years for the better part of two decades, many are intent on seeing Roger Federer. When Federer started play on Centre Court, opening day Monday, July 9th, 2018, people had been in the queue since the previous Thursday. At least a few true diehard fans who didn't make it into the first 500, instead of taking Number 1 Court tickets they decided to stay in the queue until the Wednesday, July 11th, assuming Roger would make the second round. Seriously, some people waited in line for nearly a week.
The friendly marshals, charged with making sure no one pushes in or sneaks away for longer than 30 minutes, get you up at the crack of sparrows each day. You don't mind it though as you're too excited! You are going to Wimbledon!! Besides, in all likelihood, you’ll already be busy taking your tents down, leaving your bags in 'left luggage' and buying coffee from the numerous snack bars.
If I live to 80, I hope to still be reveling in the queue annually. If you go, you'll see that age is nothing but a number and traveling halfway across the world is a mere inconvenience. I am sad to see another year pass without it. I sincerely hope we haven’t seen the last of the queue, but I believe it will return.
As the poem goes...
“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…”
then I will see you there!