Tom O’Neal and Roz McArdle lined up at Wimbledon’s famous ticket line with barely any hope of getting into the venue. At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, stewards said there were 4,000 people in front of them and it was “very unlikely” that they would make it inside.
But they and hundreds of others are tenaciously nudging along the meander line, clinging to the faintest glimmer of hope that they might see at least one match at the tennis citadel.
“Maybe you could try it,” McArdle said. “We left work around 4pm and got here around 5pm. If I didn’t make it in time, I might be back on Friday.”
They were doing what people have been doing for over a century. Join the line that weaves through the adjacent golf course to the box office, where each person can purchase a ticket. One-day tickets to the world’s most famous tennis tournament, some of which have queues for over 24 hours.
“It’s totally worth it,” said Shreyas Dharmadhikari, a lawyer in Jabalpur, central India. “It’s a pilgrimage for the love of tennis, the love of Wimbledon.”
With a capacity of approximately 42,000 people, Wimbledon has been selling tickets for months in advance through an open voting system, with some tickets sold through tennis clubs, people living near the All England Club and other selected means. assign. It’s one of the hardest tickets to come by in the sport, but the tournament offers thousands of tickets to the public every day if they don’t mind waiting hours.
This queue is one of the longest old-fashioned box office queues in the world, the sports equivalent of the infamous Studio 54 queue, but much older.
On Wednesday, Dharmadhikali brought her son Arjun, who was wearing a sticker handed out by the stewards that said “lined up in the rain”. They were handed cards numbered 11,466 and 11,477, waited five and a half hours to get in, watched some games and ate strawberries and cream and were overjoyed.
But on Monday, despite a disastrous opening day, some people waited nearly twice as long for the line in intermittent rain. Tournament organizers blamed increased security over the threat of climate change protests for the delay, which caused the line to slow down significantly.
The threat came true Wednesday when two protesters ran onto Court 18 and knocked over a box of orange confetti. The protesters were quickly removed and the game resumed, but only after another rain delay in the tournament plagued by the protesters. After weeks of little rain in London, it rained intermittently during his first three days of the tournament, wreaking havoc on the schedule and in soggy queues.
But even in the absence of special circumstances, lines can be long (sometimes over a mile), tedious, adventurous, wet, fun and quintessentially British establishments.
Two schoolboys, Simon, 10, and his brother Stefano, 8, watch 21-year-old Italian Yannick Sinner beat his favorite player Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) in straight sets. I waited for Wednesday while quietly reading the manga in anticipation. on Court 1.
“I’ve been waiting for maybe two hours,” Simon said.
About an hour later, a steward told a group in the middle of the line that the ticket manager had informed them that there were 1,600 people ahead of them and that only 250 more tickets were available. Gasps of disbelief and disappointment were heard from the group, but no one left immediately.
“How you receive this information is entirely up to you,” the steward said, doing everything but ordering everyone home.
It wasn’t easy for Daniel Payten and her husband, David Payten, who flew in from Sydney, Australia with their three children. They never considered the possibility of being kicked out of the daily line by doing what hundreds of people do every day. They camped overnight in tents.
The tent area, where spectators spend the night to ensure a good spot to line up the next day, is the most festive area of the procession. People are playing soccer, cards, cricket, reading, and drinking cocktails. On Wednesday afternoon, the sun came out and the young men in line voluntarily took off their shirts to soak up the sun.
“It’s kind of like a carnival,” said one steward, who asked not to be named because he wasn’t allowed to speak to reporters.
The Paytens arrived at 3:30 pm and were met by several tents in the neighborhood, one of whom had a dog. They chatted, ate and drank as they prepared for a cricket match on the flat grass later that night. Daniel’s brother, Chris Carsley, who lives in London, arrived early and set up three tents (only two people are given tickets per tent). His daughter, Eliza Kersley, lives a 15-minute walk from the same mystical place her relatives traveled her 10,000 miles to visit.
She stopped by only to see relatives. Because neither she nor her father had plans to attend camp and the next day’s game.
“If I had stayed overnight, I would have been too drunk to go inside,” joked Chris Carsley.
But with only about 200 people ahead of their group, the Australian cousins were virtually guaranteed entry to Thursday’s game.
“It’s well worth it,” said David Payten. “It’s an adventure.”
One of our visitors from Japan, who will be staying for the better part of two weeks during the Games, brought a solar-powered portable washing machine.
Maria Balhechet, a professional violinist from Dorset in the south of England, and her son Felix Bailey, a tennis player, arrived at 12:30 pm Wednesday for Thursday’s match. They were given card number 101. This means that he is only 100 in front of them. Balhechet attended camp last year with her other son and earned a third-row ticket to an epic match between eventual men’s singles finalists Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Her whole experience, though, was exhausting. Moisture invaded the tent and she couldn’t sleep at all, she vowed never to do it again.
But she was there on Wednesday.
“It’s like giving birth,” she said. “You might go through it and say, ‘I’ll never do it again,’ but of course you’d want to.”
They were getting ready to wake up at 6am on Thursday (after standing in line for almost 18 hours). Campers are given 30 minutes to dismantle their tents and store them in storage each day, then line up and wait another 4 hours for the gates to open. After watching tennis, some people return to the park to pick up their tents and line up again. Therefore, you will need a washing machine.
Among those still hoping to attend on Wednesday was a group of teenage tennis players at the Time to Play Tennis Academy in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. According to coach Doug Robinson, the group hoped to fly from Harare to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then to London, where they would watch Wimbledon live and then play across England.
By late Wednesday afternoon, they were still well behind the line. The children were sitting on the ground chatting, and Robinson took stock of the situation.
“It doesn’t look very good from here,” he said. “But this is Wimbledon, we have to take our chances.”