Six reasons why you should go to Wimbledon 2016
“I think I must be in heaven!” These were the words uttered by my friend as we stepped through the gates of the iconic Wimbledon lawn tennis grounds last June. This was followed by, “How can I ever get married? What can be better than this?”
Our love for Wimbledon started as schoolgirls, watching it between exams. We’d talked for years about entering the ballot or camping out in the queue. So being there, in the grounds, holding proper tickets, was the equivalent of our 14 year-old selves meeting Leonardo DiCaprio in his Romeo & Juliet days. This year, having been lucky in the ballot again, our excitement was uncontainable. Because Wimbledon is all kinds of joy rolled into one, and possibly the most sublime event I have ever been to… here’s why you need to go next year:
- Andy Murray. You might not agree with me, but I think Andy Murray is amaze-tennis-balls, both on and off the court. British or Scottish – I don’t give a monkey’s. You can’t deny this man has become one helluva tennis player. And don’t tell me you didn’t do a little fist-pump when he won the Olympic gold medal. I also love his indifference to people pleasing. He’s a sportsman through-and-through, his private life is his own, and he is unapologetic about it. Which is why it’s all the more charming when hints to his mischievous side and dry sense of humour emerge on Twitter or in interviews (didn’t you heave an ‘aww shucks’ kinda sigh when you learned he tied his wedding ring to his tennis shoes… no? just me?)
- Food glorious food. Bring a picnic and you’ll find tables dotted about the courts, or get there early and you could secure a spot on Murray Mount for a pre-ordered Wimbledon Afternoon Tea Picnic. Peruse the food courts or refreshment stands and you’ll find heartily portioned pizzas, sushi, sandwiches, pasties, burritos… and of course, strawberries and cream (HSBC customers get free pots of strawberries and cream, which are usually £2.50). Take a table at one of the plush restaurants, and while they aren’t cheap, they’re worth the extra pennies – this year, the selection at the Conservatory Kitchen included salmon with dill sauce, coronation chicken, a ploughman’s platter, fresh salads as well as hot dishes, and an irresistible selection of tray bakes, cakes and scones. And whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy a Pimms!
- Britishness at its best. “I’m sorry”, “Oh no, I’m sorry”, “No really, my fault, I’m sorry”. Sorry-offs will be commonplace at Wimbledon. As is chivalry, polite members of staff, popping champagne corks, and jovial security officials who call you madam.
- The grounds. The grounds at Wimbledon really are something to behold and can’t really be sensed from watching it on the telly. The shrubbery is clipped and pruned while the flowers are abundant and in beautiful blooms of purples to match with the championship’s logo. Pathways are pristine and litter-free. And there’s a feeling of warm familiarity – catching the players walking onto courts, watching Sue Barker being filmed for the BBC beside Murray Mount, spotting celebrities in the crowds, seeing the ball boys and girls marching from match to match. It’s like being a character on a TV set.
- Actual tennis. Of course, it’d be remiss of me not to mention the matches themselves, although I could, because going to Wimbledon is much more than that. I’m more than happy watching it on television. However, if you can get tickets, there’s nothing like witnessing the athleticism of tennis players on the immaculate grass courts, whooping with the crowds when those eye-wateringly accurate passing shots fall inside the lines. Or clapping alongside Hawk Eye as it decides the fate of one player or another. Or getting behind the underdog as they reach deep to pull out all the stops against world number ones.
- The Village. If you’ve got tickets to the championships, there’s one travel tip I’d give – get the tube or rail to Wimbledon station, rather than Southfields. Arrive at about 10.30am and you will have enough time to take a leisurely stroll up the hill through Wimbledon Village towards the courts. The boutique shops and bustling eateries are worth a visit anyway, but during the tennis, they have a competition for the best window. It’s a real treat to walk past and admire the creative displays. The window at restaurant Thai Tho never fails to impress, and the food is good here too.
So if you’re missing the constant BBC coverage of Wimbledon, worry not – the ballot for next year’s tournament usually opens in August for the following year, and you’ll have until December to get your applications in.