Tim Henman, a British tennis player who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2001.
Ask any random British citizen about "The Championships," and you will likely get this response: "Ahh...Wimbledon," followed by a look of enchantment, eyes quite possibly looking towards the heavens.
This year, one of Britain's most famous and most-watched sporting events runs from June 25 to July 8. Wimbledon evokes delicate images of strawberries and cream, Pimms and lemonade, and gleaming white traditional outfits worn by players who dart around the grass courts that distinguish this tournament from all others.
Although you can apply for tickets through a ballot system for the famous "Centre" or "Number One" courts, one of the best ways to experience Wimbledon is the general-admission option. I did this on a couple of occasions when I lived in the hallowed SW19 postcode area of London for a few years.
Scoring general-admission tickets requires getting out of bed at the crack of dawn, and — in true British style — joining a queue that winds around the grounds and surrounding neighbourhood, drinking tea from a flask, reading the Times of London and waiting for the line to start moving. Some people queue overnight; it is not uncommon when you leave the grounds at, say, 6 p.m. to see people queuing for the next day's play.
Inside, your general-admission ticket allows you to roam the outside courts where, quite often, you can see some great matches involving lower seeds and past champions. As you wander the grounds, make sure you plump for a glass of champagne with your strawberries and cream — but do bring a wheelbarrow of cash, as these delights do not come cheap.
Head to "Henman Hill" (named for Tim Henman, a British player who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2001) and watch some of the action happening on Centre Court via a huge screen. Usually, quite the party is going on - especially if Britain's Andy Murray is in action, carrying the weight of a country's expectation on his young shoulders. As you may know, Britain has not had a male Grand Slam winner since Fred Perry won the US Open in 1936 (he won Wimbledon that year, too). That is a drought of epic proportions — male tennis players were still wearing long trousers back in those days. Yikes. So you can understand how poor Andy must feel.
After Henman Hill, make your way to the Wimbledon Museum, one of the best sports history experiences you will find on the planet. Trust me.
When you've worn out the soles of your feet, head into Wimbledon Village for a pint and a bite to eat at the Dog and Fox. Revel in the post-tennis atmosphere as tourists and locals alike discuss the day's play, the form of Andy Murray and, of course, what the weather will be like tomorrow.
By Matt Goff
- Sports & Recreation