A Guide to Wimbledon
What You Need to Know
- Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis tournament, having been established back in 1877.
- One of just four Grand Slams, it is also one of the most important for the players and popular with sports fans.
- Wimbledon takes place over two weeks across the end of June and start of July, though the exact dates vary.
- The public ballot for tickets for the following year closes at the end of December.
- British Tennis members are able to enter a private ballot and there is a separate ballot for wheelchair users.
- Alternatively, hundreds of tickets are released each morning the tournament is being held, though expect to queue overnight if you want to see Centre Court action.
- The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon is open all year round, allowing visitors to see behind the scenes of the tournament.
History of the Wimbledon Championships
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, having been held at the All England Club in south-west London since 1877. From humble beginnings, the tournament grew to include women’s tennis (introduced in 1894) and mixed doubles (from 1913).
Other notable dates in Wimbledon’s history include 1968, when it changed from being an all-amateur sports event to becoming part of the professional open tour, and 2009 when the first retractable roof was installed, allowing play to carry on regardless of the weather.
The tournament takes place over two weeks in late June and early July, with first day of play always scheduled for the Monday falling between June 20 and 26.
Each year the tournament lasts for 13 days. The first Sunday is designated as a rest day for all players, with the Ladies’ Singles Final taking place on the second Saturday and the Gentlemen’s Singles Final on the second Sunday.
Other key dates on the Wimbledon calendar include the announcing of the year’s wildcard entries, which takes place in mid-June, as well as April of each year when the prize money for the upcoming tournament is confirmed. Meanwhile, the Queen’s Club Championships, seen as the main warm-up to Wimbledon, always takes place two weeks prior to the Grand Slam event.
Wimbledon includes five main events, as well as four junior events and five invitational events.
Both the Gentlemen’s Singles and Ladies’ Singles see 128 players put into the draw, including both the seeds and the year’s wildcard entries. Meanwhile, 64 pairs are drawn in both the Gentlemen’s Doubles and Ladies’ Doubles events, with 48 pairs competing for the Mixed Doubles title.
Matches in the Gentlemen’s Singles are the best of five sets, with all other events the best of three sets.
The Wimbledon Championships is arguably the most popular tennis tournament in the world, with its record-holders possessing a special place in the history of the game. Notable records (as of 2011) include;
- Most Gentlemen’s Singles Titles: Pete Sampras (eight titles)
- Most Ladies’ Singles Titles: Martina Navratilova (nine titles)
- Most Matches Played: Martina Navratilova (326)
- Youngest Ever Winner (Ladies’ Singles): Lottie Dod (15)
- Youngest Ever Winner (Gentlemen’s Singles): Boris Becker (17)
- Longest Ever Match: John Isner Vs Nicholas Mahut, 2010 (11hrs)
How to Obtain Wimbledon Tickets
The vast majority of the Wimbledon tickets made available to the public are sold in advance via a public ballot. In the case of Wimbledon 2012, to be eligible for the draw, you must submit an official application form by the end of December 2011. Note that you need to order a form from the website, you cannot download your own. To do this, send a self-addressed envelope to AELTC, PO Box 98, London, SW19 5AE and be aware that only one application per household is permitted.
You will be informed of the outcome of your application by post between February and March. If you have been successful, then you will be asked to pay for your tickets through a secure website, with tickets dispatched between May and the end of June.
Members of British Tennis, as well as members of local County Associations are eligible to apply for tickets through a special, closed draw. If this applies to you, then you will need to get in touch with your local club or County Association in order to learn their deadline for ballot, informing them of any special needs if necessary.
Note that in the private ballot, all tickets are given out in pairs and you are barred from changing the name on the tickets or selling them on.
A ‘Last Chance Saloon’ ballot takes place in the weeks leading up to the Championships, giving British Tennis members a final chance to obtain tickets.
On the Day
As well as going through the public or private ballots, it’s also possible to take your chance and queue up for tickets on the day.
Around 500 tickets for both Centre Court and Court No.2 are made available each morning on days one through to nine of the Championships. Additionally, the same amount are made available for all 13 days for Court No.1, while several thousands tickets for general admission to the Championships grounds are also placed on sale at the turnstiles each morning.
Note that there is just one queue for all tickets and it’s generally advised that you get there the night before play if you want to watch some action on the Show Courts. Queuing is generally a fun and safe experience, with stewards on hand through the night to ensure good behaviour. Read the official guide to the Wimbledon queue here.
Visiting Outside of the Championships
Outside of the tournament, the All England Lawn Tennis Club is open to visitors all year round. Attractions include the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and fans are also able to enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of the venue, which include visits to Centre Court.
- Read the official guide to the public ballot for Wimbledon tickets.
- Want to watch the action from the comfort of your own home? Check out the UK Net Guide TV listings to see who’s playing when.
- Hungry for more great sporting events? Read our guide to watching the London Olympics for free.