England - Wimbledon

by Kimp 8. July 2015 18:21

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History

Lawn tennis was popularized in London England.

In the early 1870's, an Army Officer by the name of Walter Wingfield, created the game of lawn tennis. It was first played on the croquet courts of the Wealthy, which is were the regulation size of the tennis court came from. It is still roughly the same size.

It was popular enough to be adopted by the croquet clubs where the wealthy people were members. In 1877 the first tennis championship was sponsored at the "All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club", and they have sponsored one, every year since.

Ironically, Lawn Tennis is the fastest surface that tennis is played on, since the ball does not loose much energy when it bounces on Lawn. It actually slides on the surface for a short time before rebounding, then bounces low and straighter then other surfaces. Therefor, Lawn tennis, favors a person with a very quick serve and a very quick reaction time. Called server and volley.

Players who are good baseline players, do very well at Wimbledon. In the past that was Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras. Today it's Roger Federer and the Williams sisters.

Martina was invited by the club, and was in the audience, at the match I watched. Along with many other UK sport's memorable personalities.

Ticket Sales

Wimbledon really cracks down on ticket scalping. They use the premise, that they want to allow fans to purchase tickets at face value, so anybody can attend. Yet they also provide a legal process for ticket resale. The legal resale tickets, called debenture tickets,  include a substantial markup, before the resale. This money is said to be ear-marked by the club for improvements. 

The debenture resale, drives the resale prices, way higher then illegal scalping, because the resale market is limited. I believe that their actions are somewhat conflicting and as a outsider, I find myself a tad bit skeptical.

They also allow a legal avenue where people can return their unused tickets on the day of the event, to be resold, and it is advertised, that all of those proceeds, go to charity. 

The Ballot

Most Wimbledon tickets are distributed via a process know as the ballot. This is a mail in form and is open to UK residents the October before the matches. Subscribers must use the address where they are registered to vote, since it is checked to make sure they are a resident of the UK. The club does not publish how many UK tickets are available, but they do advertise, that sending in a ballot, does not guarantee a seat. Exactly how the ballots are selected, is not published, that I could find.

A while later the club opens up the ballot for overseas purchase (which is basically anyone outside of the UK, since the UK is an island). Any unsold UK tickets, plus the overseas reserved tickets, would be distributed overseas. Again no information about the number of reserved tickets nor the process are published that I could find. 

The Queue

The club reserves a number of ticket for Centre court, Court 1 and Court 2 the day of the event. This is called the Queue. In England, any line, is generically called a queue. It means that the first person in the queue (line) is the first to be served, and so on.

Anyone is allowed to purchase a ticket from the queue and the queue process is very organized.  I had a friend who waited in the queue this year, and this was the process, as he described it to me.

He arrived around 2 PM (1400) the day before, and went to Wimbledon park, across from the complex, to a place that is designated for people who want to get in the queue, for tickets to be sold the next day.

He waited in a queue to get in the queue. The first queue was to receive a tent, sleeping bags, and chairs to sleep in overnight. These are provided for free and are donated to charity after the tournament.

This is tent and other items in hand, he proceeded to a person who was holding a long stick. The camp grounds is set up in a orderly manner that resembles a queue. After setting up his tent and preparing his camp, a person came around and gave him a voucher that had his place in the queue for the next day. His was something like 1200. There were also people who wanted to wait until the next ticket day (This was a Friday, so the next day after Saturday would be Monday's games). Sunday is a scheduled day off for the workers. Apparently the Monday tickets are the best time to go, because everyone play's on Monday. Some there on Friday asked for queue placement on Monday and they were something like 14th in that queue, so they camped out for 3 days.

Also provided by the club, are toilets, shower's, and a designated party area. All at no cost. 

He said that their was some dude, walking around the camp grounds, knocking on tents saying, "No touching allowed.". Apparently that was not an official, because an official eventually caught up with him to tell him to stop doing that.

It happened to thunderstorm for about 4 hours that night. TJ said that his tent was very watertight, but there was a family near him who brought their own tent and supplies. There air mattress was too big to fit in the tent, and it stuck out of one end of it. During the thunderstorm, he looked out and the family tent was sagging under the weight of the water. Apparently the next day, they were still soaking wet. TJ said, he slept well in the tent and gear that was provided by the club.

On the day TJ waited, the first 500 in the queue, got tickets for Center Court, the next 500 to Court 1 and the last 500 to Court 2. The remaining would just get admittance to the grounds until the limit was reached. All of these tickets are soldat face value.

The next morning, at 6 A.M., workers woke up the camp. I am not sure when the queue open's, but I am guessing around 8 or 9 A.M. This gives them time to shower, eat and break down their camp. The first games are at 1 P.M. on most days, so there is not any rush to get to the complex, unless you just have grounds admittance and you want to wait in line for some of the unreserved seating.

The Grounds

The grounds around the courts are very pleasant. Selfie-sticks are not allowed, and they discourage stroller's, so walking around is relatively obstacle free. It appeared to me, that they deliberately limit the number of people on the grounds, as it was only crowed during the hour of so before the first events started. After that, I found, just walking around to be very pleasant and uncrowded.

Most of the courts have unreserved seating around them. They are first come, first serve, so queue's start at them, as soon as the grounds open. 

A Jazz band that plays outside near Centre Court, and can be heard for a short distance, giving that area a nice atmosphere. The outdoor courts are easy to view up close and walking around them was kind of like walking in a garden.

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis club also has a few paved and a few clay courts, but you will not see those during the tournament. During the tournament the paved courts are used for bus drop off, pickup, and bus parking, and the clay courts are under some of the additional vendor stands that are put up.

One end of the park is on a hill that cannot be used for tennis courts nor vendor hut's. That is where many people hang out, since it is a nice lawn, with a good angle for sitting on. A very large TV screen was put up there a few years ago, that broadcast's the main event's for the people camping out on the hill. It is kind of like a small outdoor amphitheater and a favorite of many, since they can hang out in large groups.

Matches

I had tickets at Centre Court. At Centre Court most of the ushers are military people in their dress uniforms and without weapons. The look is really nice and pleasing, and they are very friendly. It has been this way since just after World War II. The club really enjoys the patriotic feel of having them on board, and I'll bet they enjoy the free labor, even more then the look. Then there are a bunch of elderly people wearing uniforms with arm bands that read "honorary usher". I am guessing these are people who have usher there for many years, and now are given the plush job of managing the military ushers. They don't seem to do much, other then stand near the military personnel and be nice to patrons. Some of them just appear to stand near the court and watch the action up close.

I was lucky enough to see Roger Federer play Sam Groth. Roger, a Swiss, is the reigning king of Wimbledon and Sam, an Australian, is the current world record holder in the fastest serve category, at 163 mph (263 kph). He hit one at 147 mph (245 kph), in the match I was watching, and Roger didn't even try to return it. The whole crowd just gasped, "Wow, Holly Cow.".

Tennis is supposed to be a cordial sport, where negativity is frowned upon. People are supposed to dress up a little, and are not suppose to clap at double faults, nor fouls. Only clap at good play's for the player who happened to come out on top, even if you don't really like that player.

However, there was one row (of I believe Aussie's) dressed in the same yellow top, on the other side of the court from me that seemed to be heckling Roger Federer. Roger, the consummate and cool Wimbledon Star didn't seem to be too frustrated over that, as he just continued to do well, but it was certainly was wearing on the crowd. The crowd started shushing and booing them, and a few times, one of the military ushers would go to that row and have a short conference with them. I am surprised they didn't get kicked out.

On my side, there were was a row of young gentlemen wearing the same British gear, with small British flags in their sun visors, but in contrast, they were quiet, acted appropriately,  and were liked by the crowd.

Supposedly people, get the whole row, by waiting in the queue. I think they should have to show passports. Oh you're an Aussie, then we are going to have to separate you by a few rows. Sorry, that's the Aussie rule, that went into effect, after the trouble we have experienced.

Roger ended up with the win and is now playing in the Final's as I write this up.

The other match I saw was Petra Kvitova vs Jelena Jenkovik. Petra won Wimbledon last year. This year she was the #2 seed and Jelena was the #30 seed.

The first set, Jelena looked like she was nursing either a thigh or knee injury. She was not playing well at all and was sluggish. By the second set, Jelena started doing much better and eked out a win. The 3rd set, Jelena picked it up and was doing very. 

Jelena won the match. She had a funny way of expressing her joy over the win. She just collapsed on the ground, flat on her back and laid there for a few seconds not moving at all. I guess she was completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. When she got up, that grin could have lit up the dark side of the moon. She even stopped to sign autographs on the way out.

Petra took it like a true professional. No excuses, not much disappointment, just acknowledgement that they best player won that match, on that day.

Overall

This was a much different experience then the French Open. The grounds was more pleasant, but I liked the Court at the French Open much more. Being in the open air is always a nicer and less crowded feeling, then being in a closed in area.

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Enjoy,

Craig

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