“Winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis,” Andy Murray had said shortly after winning his first Wimbledon title, 77 years after the last British man had achieved the same accolade. As a fan, and a UK fan at that, it’s no surprise that Wimbledon is held in the same high esteem by me as it is by my favourite tennis player. I re-watch the 2013 and 2016 finals on a regular basis in a way that I have never done for the 2012 US Open final or either of the Olympic titles that Andy has won. It’s all about Wimbledon. Given my adoration of the tournament, you can imagine my delight when Sara, a long-term friend from university, presented me with an envelope which contained ticket confirmation for a tour of the Wimbledon grounds and museum entrance. My favourite place in London? Today?
Is Andy coming, too?
“It’s funny,” I voiced out loud as we walked towards the Wimbledon grounds, on one of the sunniest days of the year so far, “This is one of my favourite places in the world, yet I only come here once a year.” Until I gain my Wimbledon member status, it’s unlikely that my visit stats will be changing much, though I do plan to double my record by attending the tennis twice this year. With my tour of the grounds now behind me, that brings me up to a projected total of three visits for 2017!
Some have asked if it is worth doing the tour/going to the museum if you’ve been to Wimbledon as a spectator. Or is it just for the tourists who poorly plan their London holidays to fall outside the 2-week window of the tournament? I’d say: if you love Wimbledon, and you love tennis, you’ll love this.
On the 1.5 hour tour you spend time in the broadcasting house where you are taken to the BBC studio, i.e. where Sue Barker chats tennis and interviews players every day of the tournament. You’re taken to the main interview room where players are obliged to be interviewed after their matches, regardless of whether they won or lost, and you have a chance to sit on the interviewee seats and see how it feels. You also get to see where the players enter the grounds, and walk around other VIP parts of the grounds which you wouldn’t have access to as a regular punter. And the final treat? A visit to where all the tears and joy have surfaced: centre court!
There were a lot of fun facts on this tour and I came out of it feeling like quite the Wimbledon expert; I plan to voice them loudly when I’m in the queue in July so people give me tennis respect. If you intend to do the tour in the future, maybe skip forward to my museum spiel so I don’t spoil the learning process for you!
Cat’s fav facts. Did you know…
(1) Wimbledon, as we know it, started in a different location down the road, and as a croquet club. It was only in 1877 that the name changed to include (lawn) tennis, and then only in 1899 that tennis became the primary sport in the name. This is the name it has retained ever since: The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Frightfully posh.
(2) The grass is kinda a big deal. It basically takes all year to cut it back, germinate it, cut it back, let it grow, cut it back. This grass is nothing less than perfect for Andy and friends!
(3) Last year, there were 5 million hacking attempts on the Wimbledon website. Like, why? Guys, you can’t stop Andy Murray from winning Wimbledon by hacking the website.
(4) The BBC studio is one of 18 broadcasting studios in the broadcasting house, and the broadcasting partnership between the BBC and Wimbledon has been running since 1927, making it the longest broadcasting partnership ever. Wowee. Just as well though, I would cry if the BBC lost broadcasting rights; Wimbledon is nothing without Sue Barker.
(5) It only costs £95 to become a member at Wimbledon – bargain! All you need on top of that is three letters of recommendation from current members, or be a Wimbledon champion, or be heir to the throne. So obviously I’m about to become a member any day now.
(6) Tim Henman was asked last year how he’d feel about Henman Hill being renamed Murray Mound. Tim said straight-up, no: “If Andy’s going to win grand slams, I’m going to keep my hill.” Or words to that effect. I end up calling it both so people have no doubt what I’m talking about. “Shall we go to Henman Hill/Murray Mound?” This is definitely a long-term practical answer.
(7) Since 1887, there have only been six Wimbledon tournaments where it hasn’t rained at some point in the tournament. 2010 was the most recent year for this. Let’s hope 2017 follows suit!
(8) Mind that time Andy won Wimbledon in 2013 for the first time and he jumped up into his box to hug his coaches, and Kim, and then he forgot his Mum? Good times. Well turns out that’s a tradition that harks back to 1987 when Australian Pat Cash won Wimbledon and shocked everyone by clambering over seats to celebrate with the people he loves. It’s not obligatory, mind. Last year, Andy was so overcome with emotion that he just sat down to take it in, and even his pal Djokovic decided to eat a blade of grass when he won. I mean, each to their own.
The museum is an incredible historical resource, telling the story not just of Wimbledon but of tennis in general, and how it has evolved over the years. I’d say it’s up there with the Parlamentarium in Brussels as being one of my favourite museums of all time (those of you who were with me in Brussels know this is high praise!). You can pick up a headset from the shop upstairs or you can choose to tour the museum without – I’d suggest you pick one up and then and choose what you’d like to listen to. The museum is very interactive, you can test your tennis knowledge (go to the museum after you’ve done the tour of the grounds if you want to feel smart!) and about halfway round, there is the coolest virtual reality experience ever where you’re transported to various venues within Wimbledon and given 360 degree vision thanks to some snazzy camera work they did last year. The highlight of the museum, for sure!
In conclusion, this is a must for all tennis-loving, Wimbledon-loving fans. And pre: Wimbledon 2017 is the perfect time to visit – because it’s all about Andy!
You can buy individual tickets for admission into the museum, or you can buy a combined ticket for museum admission and a tour of the grounds. There are no tours between mid-June and mid-July. The museum remains open in the lead-up to the tournament and is open to ticket-holders during the tournament. A few days after the tournament has ended the museum opens again. Check out the Wimbledon website for everything you need to know!