By Hanya El Ghetany
Players are testing positive for COVID-19 and withdrawing, yet the event is at full capacity and the greatest and most bizarre tradition of Wimbledon is back: The Queue.
I decided that I wanted to get ground passes for the early rounds to meet as many players as possible and watch matches beyond Court 3 in proximity. I woke up at 4 A.M., ordered an Uber (Tubes don’t operate that early), and headed to the Wimbledon queue. I reached the queue area around 6ish and was number 2561. The stewards were telling me that if you got a card, you’re getting in, no matter if it stated otherwise on the card. They were also confirming that it is 100% a ground pass.
The queue is an experience. I recommend trying it at least once in your life. It is very hectic because you often stay in your place for at least six hours before you get in. The younger version of me could have done this a couple of days in a row, but I just can’t now. To everyone’s pleasure, the sun was shining for most of the time we spent in the queue, and it only started to rain heavily the last 30 minutes. Everyone enjoyed this very much because it meant that play was delayed, and we could make it to the first couple of matches. To my delight, it meant I could still make it to Tommy Paul’s match.
The highlight of the queue are the people first and the stewards second. From 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M., people were playing sports, drinking coffee, having breakfast, and enjoying chats about their favorite tennis players with random people in the crowd. The stewards were telling us about their experiences at Wimbledon and why they joined the team. The best way to enjoy the queue is to go with a friend. Otherwise, you need to be an extrovert enough to talk to people. Usually, people are nice and willing to start conversations. Otherwise, bring a book or a movie on your phone to kill the time.
At about 10 A.M., the stewards told us to get ready for the queue to start moving. Everyone went back to their designated place — you will never be able to cut the queue, as there are people checking your number with every checkpoint. People were still getting in the queue at around 10:30. I realized that you could join the queue at any given point, but getting there later resulted in a longer waiting time.
I posted videos on Twitter of the queue and everyone from the Daily Mail to London Live — no kidding — were asking my permission to reshare the video with courtesy to me. Suddenly the videos had 5000+ views, which was cool.
The queue started to move very slowly at around 10. People continued to chat with each other. Free coffee was offered to everyone in the line, which was awesome (though I was already coffeed out, personally). The couple in front of me were Australians, the ones behind me were a group of Brazilians and Italians. We played a game where everyone was guessing where the other groups were from — the Italians were pretty evident, I thought the Australians were Canadians, and everyone thought I was Spanish, which is becoming a trend. We then started talking about our favorite players, who we are excited to see in action. The Australians told us that Nick Kyrgios isn’t that liked in Australia in comparison to Kokkinakis. We reached the end of the queue at about 12:15, got the grounds passes for 27 pounds and got in. Then we all wished each other a great day and went along.
For 27 pounds, you have access to all courts beyond Court 3, on a first come first serve basis. I got to watch Bublik-Fucsovics, Taberner-Opelka, Griekspoor-Fognini, Kokkinakis-Majchrzak, the last set of Ruud-Ramos-Viñolas and started the day with Paul-Verdasco. It was a pretty good deal.
The Tommy Paul match was the first I attended. The first set ended when I was in the queue but because of the rain delay, I was able to watch the last two sets. After the match, I ran into him again. To be honest, I was too embarrassed to go for another picture but as he saw me, he immediately said “hey, it’s you again, good to see you” and I decided fuck it, I’m going for that picture.
As I was walking back, I ran into Kalinina who kindly told me to walk with her for the picture because she was running late. As Ruud’s match was about to end, we left to meet him at the exit for a picture. It’s Ruud, so the crowd around him was crazy and he had security guards. He was nice and waited to take pictures with everyone. He asked us to have our cameras ready so he could go through the pictures quickly.
There were A LOT of Australians at Wimbledon on day 1. You’d think you were in Australia from the amount of support Kokkinakis was getting. The smaller courts are much easier to catch players at, and after the match, I also asked him for a picture. He was smiling, high-fiving everyone and thanking people who came to support him.
As I was walking randomly through the grounds, Isner was speed walking towards me. I ran to him, but the security guard tried to push me out of the way. I asked him for a quick selfie, he said yes but the security guard kept pushing me. Isner had to tell him it was okay three times before I was allowed to take the selfie.
Juan Carlos Ferrero was walking around unrecognized, which was a bit crazy. He was on the phone when he noticed that we recognized him. He stopped talking and posed for selfies. Anett Kontaveit was literally just randomly hanging out talking to someone when we recognized her and asked her for photos. Finally, my dream to meet every Italian in the top 100 was achieved when I met Fognini. I managed to catch him before the match, and he wanted to stop for a quick chat and photo, but the security guard stopped us both and told me maybe after the match. Seriously, Wimbledon — if the players are okay with it, just let them take the damn photo. Fognini turned back to me as he walked and told me sorry, which was nice of him. I watched his match, which he unfortunately lost, but as he left, I was the first person he took a photo with.
Around 9 P.M. (I had been in out since four A.M.), the tiredness of the day started to kick in. There were still a couple of matches still going on, but everything beyond the courts that had sealing were stopped because of lack of light. Basically, everyone who wasn’t already at one of those courts just left because it made no sense to hangout with no matches going on.
It was the longest and most tiring day of tennis I had — I went to Eastbourne from London and back in the same day. Hope you enjoyed reading about it!