Here's his take on how the queue works for the more "mature" tennis fans
Having been a tennis fan for decades (my first pro tournament was the 1948 US Open) I figured the best way to watch tennis was on TV or at the US Open conveniently located in NYC. By this age I would leave the more adventurous tennis travel to my daughter. She had done the Wimbledon queue twice before and rather spontaneously decided to go again in 2014. In the past she tried explaining how the whole queue thing worked, the camping overnight and the organization of thousands of people in a field. Even looking at pictures it was hard for me to fully get what the experience was like.
We talked about my joining her and after going through the pros and cons. For me the list looked like:
Pros- Amazing experience, get to sit be a few rows back on famed Wimbledon Centre Court, get to share the experience with my daughter
Cons- Having to spend hours waiting in line almost every day, very tiring and hectic, always being organized and adapting to changing logistics
I decided to give it a shot. You regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do and this sounded like an incredible experience for a long-time tennis fan as myself!
I was a bit intimidated by camping overnight so for the first week I came to the queue very, very early in the morning (around 4am) and would typically be a few thousand back from the front of the queue. You don’t have to arrive quite this early as most people start showing up around 5-6am but as they say earlier is always better.
There are volunteers, stewards who act as guides and are very knowledgeable and helpful. They will direct you to the end of the queue and give you a card with a sequential number identifying your place in line (the queue card). Hang onto this for dear life. It is like a passport in a foreign country and this designates your place in the queue. If you lose it, you may as well GO HOME!
Now you can sit for a while. Bring a blanket or something to sit on. It is also quite cold before the sun comes up so having a jacket or a sweatshirt is crucial.
By around 6am the queue has grown and snakes around to 3 or 4 lines. There is a non-stop flow of people arriving and it is quite amazing to see thousands of people in line after line in this park. This photo captures the insanity and amount of people.
By now the food vendors open for business. Do not expect haute cuisine – it is more like coffee, rolls and some fried egg dish etc. If you have any sort of diet issues, bringing a protein bar is probably the better way to go.
This part of the queue is probably the easiest. You can sit, go to the restrooms or wander about. About this time, vendors walk along the queues selling newspapers (which most buy to get the schedule of play and court assignments), candy and other assorted stuff. It is now about 7AM and things start happening so do not wander too far or for too long. The people who have camped overnight have stored their stuff and the line tightens and condenses with row after row of fans waiting in line to see the current day’s tennis. You will likely be closer to the front than you originally thought. The stewards begin leading the queue down a rural path in the Wimbledon Park golf course toward the security checkpoint. There they will hand out the wristbands for the show courts (most likely these will be all given out to people that have camped overnight but you may be lucky and end up with a chance at Court 2 tickets like I was). Once the front of the queue has reached security and wristbands are given out they have a chance to sit on the ground and wait for 9:15am when the security checkpoint opens. However, by not camping out you will have it a bit tougher. This is why I would say if you can camp overnight, do it. Read here for my experience camping and my advice to anyone trying it.
The part of the queue that you’re in will begin moving. The stewards once again check your number to make sure you are roughly in order and then start snaking along a path towards the entrance gate. You really cannot sit for too long or at all as you slowly inch along. You may stop for 5 minutes and then inch closer and closer. This goes on for several hours and it is very tiring and tedious. There is really no opportunity to sit or read and it can be physically and mentally demanding.
Finally you reach the security checkpoint where all your belongings are carefully checked, like airport security. This could get a bit chaotic but finally you get through and walk quickly over a bridge and you are trapped in a fenced-in pen right in front of the ticket counter separating the post-security queuers from the rest of Church Road. It can get a little claustrophobic but you are almost there.
Unless you have gotten lucky with a show court wristband, the only option will be to get a groundspass. Make sure you have cash since that is all that is accepted.
You buy your ticket and you ARE AT WIMBLEDON…well part of it. There is a very limited section open before 10:30. Based on what time you arrived in the queue, you will very likely not be there much before that time. So basically you are in line from 4-5am to about 10:30am!
If there is time, you can make it to the gift shop, cafeteria and rest rooms but get ready for the next event! The 100 yard dash! Just kidding (almost)! At 10:30 AM an announcement is made direction the security officers to open the rest of the grounds. Most people have been lined up at the entry points so it becomes a mad dash to get a good seat. This can be a bit overwhelming, thousands of people rushing to get the best seats on the outer courts or Henman Hill. Try to keep up with the flow of human traffic as best you can!
The stewards in charge of the outer courts are very strict and won’t let you leave once you claim a seat. So make sure you stop at the restrooms/get food & water before heading into a side court. Ok, now just a bit more waiting since the matches don’t start until 11:30 but you made it! Try not to fall asleep after this exhausting process.
You have survived the Wimbledon queue! Hope the matches are good! I got to see some great matches on the side courts including Kyrgios vs Gasquet when Kyrgios was a virtual unknown and the match before his shocking upset of Nadal. Read more about how I "discovered" this up and coming talent and some of the other former unknowns I've spotted on the outer courts.
Enjoy your day of tennis that you worked so hard for. Don't forget to get to bed early. You need to be up by 3 AM tomorrow to repeat this madness!
Apart from the rain which screwed up our plans and the Wimbledon schedule meaning we missed out on seeing Federer on Magic Monday on Centre Court, it was a great experience. I saw Federer play on Court 1 from amazing seats as well as some other great matches, spent time with my daughter and met some other interesting people in the queue, and got to do some sightseeing around London. I was probably the oldest person in the queue but I managed and you know what, I will be headed back to Wimbledon 2016 as 75 year old!