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So you are a tennis fan and have always dreamed of going to Wimbledon but are not sure where to start? Well, rightly so! It is the hardest Grand Slam tennis tournament to gain access to. So, join the club (not literally the tennis club, silly) and let’s start learning! And who better to learn from than someone who recently went through this escapade in my venture to attend my first Grand Slam in the English countryside during the summer of 2013. Getting tickets for this tennis tournament is no easy feat and not for the impatient fan. So since I was successful with getting onto the grounds on my first try, I figured I’d pass along some tips for how you too can find your way into Wimbledon. Keep in mind that there are a few other options but these are your two best bets for getting in the gate.
Buy Tickets on Ticketmaster
New this year, you can now buy tickets online via TicketMaster! Tickets were not on sale yet as of early December but use this link to check back regularly. There are also ticket packages available for sale via the Wimbledon Experience website.
Enter the Lottery (aka Public Ballot)
The first step is to enter the lottery for tennis tickets. Do not be mistaken, this is not a lottery for a $20 million Powerball, but it is the way that the All England Lawn Club tries its best to create an equal opportunity for all people throughout the world to gain access to this tennis tradition. So you start by going to the Wimbledon website where you will find a request form for a request form. Sounds confusing right? Only in such a hierarchical culture (monarchy complete with queens and baby princes) would you find something so confusing and traditional that requires snail mail as well as self-addressed stamped envelopes and other convoluted rules to get the job done. But these are the English garden mazes you must navigate for the best possibility of making it on to Centre Court. But do not dismay, the process got much simpler for non-UK residents in 2014!
History of the Public Ballot
This public ballot process was introduced in 1924. Originally the drawing was done by hand but today’s technology allows the random selection to be performed by a computer. While this random selection does allow equal opportunity for tickets, there are always more people who apply for tickets than tickets available to be awarded, so be prepared to be delighted or disappointed. The waiting game is quite fun if you have the patience for months of anticipation, but it’s all worth it for the moment when you receive the sealed envelopes from the All England Lawn Club with an answer on if you were selected for seats or not.
The Wait is Over: Online Application For Non-Residents Has Arrived!
While it may not seem that current for those of us who would have been on the Internet for close to 20 years, it is a pretty big deal for Wimbledon to be making the switch to online ballots this year for non-UK residents. Up until this year the only way to participate was by completing an online form so that I could receive the actual ballot application to even to get started. And, yes, it arrived via snail mail. So traditional and charming! But, no more. Non-UK residents can now complete application online. All hail the 21st-century England! If you live in the UK you can also visit the website to find out how to proceed with your ballot entry.
Completing Your Online Lottery Application (non-UK residents only)
- Visit this website between December 1, 2016-December 15, 2016 to apply.
- After you submit your online application, you will receive two emails back from Wimbledon.
- The first email is to verify your application and will require a response back within 24 hours of when you receive it.
- The second email will be to confirm that you have officially been entered into the public ballad for Wimbledon tickets.
- You must have an email address that will be active through October 2017.
- You can only apply the other online ballot process if you have a permanent residence outside of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
- Only one application per household will be admissible.
- Tickets will be required to be picked up on the day of the event at the All England Lawn club and are non-transferable.
We plan to try again each year but sadly, in the recent years, we has not been awarded tickets via the lottery. Our first try in 2013 led us to the next best option – queuing.
Queue for a Spot
Queue is a fancy British word for standing in line. But standing in line at the Old England Lawn Club is like no other line you will ever see. Tennis fans start lining (or “queuing”) up at least 24 hours before the next day’s events even start. So to have a shot at a seat for a Centre Court match the following day, you have to be in line overnight for possibly multiple days depending on how far into the tournament it is and who is play. So you might want to consider camping. Yes, with tents.
We did not go this route (instead opting for a nice day and meal out in London the day before), but instead chose the first tube out of London to Wimbledon around 5 AM. An insider tip: you actually need to get off a stop before Wimbledon Village at the Southfields tube station. Once off the train, just follow the masses towards the longest line you may ever wait in your life: the Wimbledon Queue. But it is not just about waiting in line, it is so much more.
In the queue, you will find thousands and thousands of tennis fans from nearby villages and London as well as far off places like Australia, India, China, and of course a few of us Americans as well. We spent our time from the chilly pre-sunrise moments until 11 AM when we finally walked through the gates into the stadium area, sharing stories with fellow line waiters about momentous tennis moments, previous day matches, and even making new friends whom we may visit on a future worldwide adventure. Contact information was exchanged and new friends were made as the day heated up for some exciting tennis.
Queuing Does Not Always Translate to Tennis Seats
One word of warning: just because you are in the queue does not mean you will get into the Wimbledon stadium area. You must be there by 7 AM on most days, and even earlier for big matches that are closer to the Championship, if you want to stand a chance of getting off of the queuing field and into the court area. But if you’re lucky enough to make it in, like we were, then you will have access to all courts with the exception of Centre Court, Court One and Court Two. Court Three will have some availability but it will be much more limited. And if you manage to be in the front of the queue (likely because you camped out the previous night), there are limited seats for the queue to Center Court, Court One and Court Two as well.
A Tip for Grass Front Court Viewing
We found that going to the smaller courts like Courts 17 and 18 were our best bets to see some amazing tennis and sit literally in the first row, almost touching the grass. We were almost close enough to touch tennis players like Feliciano Lopez, Lu Yen-hsun, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Lucie Safarova. And, all this action on a glorious 72° partly sunny day filled with Wimbledon traditions such as strawberries and cream, Pimm’s and some time on Henman Hill (which may have been famously renamed to Murray Mound this year with Andy Murray’s championship victory!).
Our Plan For Future Years
While the queue was certainly worthwhile to do one time and I would recommend it to anyone who has the time, energy and excitement for tennis that we do, I think we will do it a little differently next time around. When you travel from so far away with the hope and dream of getting into the stadium it’s a little bit nerve-racking to sit around for six hours thinking I may or may not actually get to see some tennis today.
So in 2014, and all years to follow, we will not so patiently enter the public ballot (online this year!!) and hope to win some tickets. When/if that day ever comes, we will excitedly plan our trip back to Wimbledon and London for a much more structured and less hectic visit to the land of tennis traditions. Although doing the queue was quite the experience and story to remember for years to come. If you’re not up for traveling across the pond, feel free to copy our at home refreshment guide including Pimm’s and Lemonade with fresh fruit, home cooked Scones (ours are from Trader Joe’s), strawberries and cream and maybe some English biscuits. Cheers!
Share your Wimbledon tips
Have you been to Wimbledon before? How did you go about getting tickets? Please share your thoughts and comments as well as any tips for how to have an even better Wimbledon experience in the comment section below so that our readers can learn more about how to see this amazing tennis tradition live and in person!
2014 Wimbledon Highlights
Miss this year’s tournament? Check out the 2014 Wimbledon highlights in the video below:
Have you been to a Grand Slam tennis tournament before? Which one and who did you see play?