A walkabout at Wimbledon

Running straight through the Wimbledon championships, St Mary’s Walk is the artery along which nearly 40 000 tennis fans flow each day; the pulse of the world-renowned tournament.

Roughly 500m long, the main thoroughfare takes visitors from the heights of Henman Hill, past Centre Court and through the middle of the grounds to the posh hospitality suites at the southern apex.

The axis route starts in the circular orchard right atop the hill, where picnickers can escape the hubbub and enjoy the panoramic views over London. The orchard is ringed by an ornamental pond. Beyond is the Aorangi picnic terrace, dubbed Henman Hill or Murray Mount, depending on individual taste, where people with the cheaper grounds passes sit and watch the centre court action on a giant screen.

The pop of champagne corks blends in with the thud of tennis shots as people tuck into strawberries, sandwiches and crisps. “Let’s go! I’m stepping in!” says one man, picking his way through the maze of picnic blankets.

On the west side is the charity resale ticket booth, where regular ticket-holders wait to snap up the centre court seats of early leavers.

Charlotte (30), from the northwest outskirts of London, was first in the resale queue, having already queued outside from 4.30am.

“I’ve been doing this every year for 15 years. I just love queuing!” she says. “I’ve never not got centre court tickets. You have to be patient and prepared: sunscreen, water … and Prosecco. “People think we’re crazy queueing [for] 11 hours, but we love it!” says Charlotte.

Down the slope, at court 18, some peer through the slats to glimpse the action. The plaque on court 18 commemorates the longest-ever tennis match, where John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final set after 11 hours and five minutes in 2010. “It was absolutely foolish. 70-68!” exclaims one picture-snapping passer-by.

Next along is Court 14, where people waiting for a seat crane five-deep for a view of the action — unaware that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, sat just metres away.

Opposite, beneath the broadcasters’ studio windows, rests a grass roller from 1899 that was originally pulled by a horse and remained in use until 1986.

Next down is the media centre terrace. Tennis fans gawp up to see if they can spot players being interviewed on camera, but the back of British tennis champion Dan Evans’s head garners no recognition.

Opposite, in the northwest corner of centre court, is the ball distribution hatch. Ball girls rush off after exchanging old balls for new. More than 50 000 balls are used in the course of the tournament.

Beneath the bridge between centre court and the players’ enclosure atop the main press room, fans wait, hoping to spot Roger Federer. The path then drops and opens out between the umpires’ restaurant and the southwest corner of centre court, from whence the curious smell of fresh laundry emanates after dark.

The overhang of court 3 provides the route’s only shade. In quieter moments, the competitors can hear the teacups clinking in the players’ restaurant opposite. Resplendent in their blazers, a fresh set of eight line judges shelter, waiting to start an hour-long shift on court 4.

The route kinks round the steep court 12 temporary stand before opening on to a new section of pine decking and picnic tables. It features a future sustainability zone, answering the big questions such as, “How will we make plastic circular?” and showing off the electric cars used to transport the players. In a new fan experience zone, tennis fans can don virtual reality headsets and have a go at playing on centre court.

The route ends at the new Rosewater Pavilion, the poshest seats in the house. Entry costs £5 982 per person on men’s final Sunday, but a mere £1 644 on the second Tuesday. Guests have a four-course à la carte menu overseen by Albert and Michel Roux, centre court seats, a free bar and the promise of star visitors.

The luxury is lavish — but way up at the other end of the grounds, on the hill, the punters seemed to be having just as much fun. — AFP

Advertisting

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

We need to ask awkward questions about our schools

Ignore the language used in brochures and on open days and be vigilant about the details

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Ramaphosa enters the fray in fight between Gordhan and Mkhwebane

The president said his court case is “unfortunate” and a “measure of last resort”
Advertising

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.