On day two of play at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Championships, as Serena Williams made her return to center court after a year’s absence from the sport she dominated for so long, she struggled against world number 1. 115, Harmony Tan, ultimately losing in a three-set marathon match. Yet, during a quiet moment, a Briton shouted from the stands: “Come on, Serena, you’re the best!” and he was greeted with polite laughter and widespread appreciation from the crowd.
It’s Wimbledon for you.
The oldest tennis tournament in the world is an unmissable event for any tennis fan. Wimbledon is played annually on meticulously maintained grass courts and remains one of the very few top competitions remaining on the delicate surface. The tournament is one of four Grand Slam tournaments on the tennis calendar, but Wimbledon is markedly different in character from competitions in New York, Paris and Melbourne.
There’s absolutely some cheering from the spectators shouted at the players, but it’s more polite than you’ll find elsewhere. (See: “You are the greatest!”) There is respect for the game and the players, and Wimbledon itself.
This atmosphere is governed by a set of rules, including all-white outfits for every player competing. As the official rulebook reads: “Competitors must be dressed in appropriate tennis attire which is almost entirely white and this applies from the time the player enters the court enclosure. White does not include the off-white or cream.” This applies to shoe laces, all visible underwear due to perspiration and all bandages.
In addition, there is the royal aspect of the tournament: there is a royal box at Center Court, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is the godmother of the famous tennis club and regularly attends Wimbledon. She even made her first joint outing with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to attend the 2018 women’s final.
Without further ado, here’s T&C’s unofficial guide to Wimbledon: what to wear, how to spot the royals and, of course, what to eat and drink at the tournament (think strawberries).
How to Get Wimbledon Tickets
There are many ways to get tickets for the tournament. You can buy them online in advance, through something called the “Public vote at Wimbledon“However, unlike other major tournaments, Wimbledon reserves a small amount of tickets for fans who queue – aka stand in line – each morning. Queuing for tickets is an experience , and you can end up with tickets to Center Court, Court No. 1 or Court No. 2: all three pay courts Queuing is a fun experience, with lots of people queuing waiting to see if they will get a ticket for the day.
What to wear at Wimbledon
In terms of dress code, think “casual chic”. You don’t want to show up in sportswear. Many women opt for sundresses or jumpsuits, clothes that you will feel comfortable in to spend the day, but will still feel good together. The men can often be spotted wearing panama hats in the stands, as a way to stay stylish and keep the sun out of their eyes. Also be sure to bring a pair of sunglasses. (Can we suggest some of the royal family’s favorite shades?) Plus, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a celebrity, so you want to look your best.
The weather in London in late June and early July is generally in the 60s and 70s. It’s hot when you’re sitting in direct sunlight, but it’s definitely cooler in the shade, so be sure to bring a layer. And, of course, this is London, so there’s always a chance of rain; be sure to check the forecast and dress accordingly.
What to eat and drink at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is famous for its strawberries and cream snacks, and if you go there, you absolutely have to try them. For lunch, however, we recommend picnicking on Henman Hill, where you can watch the games on the big screen. You can either prepare your own picnic, or Wimbledon lets you book a picnic they prepare for you– which comes in a backpack, complete with several dishes (strawberries for dessert, of course) and wine. The picnic bag is for two people and includes cutlery, plates, wine glasses, napkins and a gingham tablecloth. However, they do sell out, so plan ahead.
In terms of drinks, Wimbledon is famous for its Pimm’s Cup, but recently the tournament has teamed up with Sipsmith, a London gin company, for a series of strawberry-inspired drinks you can get all over the court. The Strawberry Smash Spritz is the perfect refreshing drink for a day at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and pairs perfectly with your strawberry and cream snack. Our tip: bring it in a cup to go, so you can take it to the side courts to sip and watch the tennis.
How to Spot the British Royal Family
Wimbledon is said to be Kate Middleton’s favorite event of the year, and she is often a regular throughout the tournament. Kate and other members of the royal family can usually be spotted in the royal box at Center Court. Additionally, as patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club since 2016, Kate almost always attends the Wimbledon final to present trophies. So if you want a guaranteed royal sighting, your odds are higher later in the tournament.
The best time to buy Wimbledon merchandise
If you didn’t get a t-shirt or hat, did you even go to Wimbledon? The best time to drop by is actually at the start of the first match on center court, when everyone has rushed to their seats. Definitely see the beginning, but come out in the middle if you can to sneak into the shop to grab a t-shirt without queuing. Or just buy online.
Where to see the best tennis
Last, but not least, what you came to Wimbledon for: tennis! Top-ranked players and Britain’s stars will play on Center Court and Courts 1 and 2. However, you can often see some amazing tennis if you take a walk around the side courts. They will be extremely busy in the morning – just as people are entering the pitch – so your time to go and watch these matches is mid to late afternoon. (Unlike other Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon only has one session per day, no “day” and “night” sessions.)
Remember that you won’t be able to enter or exit a pitch while the game is in progress, but some pitches don’t have official stands – you can just drop by and see all the action up close.
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