Tennis is back on lawn these days – and this also means that professional tennis players and tennis fans are waiting for the likely most prestigious tennis tournament of all, the Wimbledon Championships. Twice in my life, I had the opportunity to watch tennis on the holy grounds. However, it was not the Grand Slam tournament, but the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2007 Davis Cup playoff between Great Britain and Croatia. In January 2023, I visited the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the second time just for visiting their museum and taking a tour through the Wimbledon ground.
All England Lawn Tennis Club – Location & Admission
Getting to “Wimbly” is not the biggest masterpiece of public transport in London. In general, there are two options: from the North, you can exit the District Line at Southfields and have a some 15 minute walk (if you are not lucky to catch a 493 bus). Alternatively, you can take a tram, the District Line or rail to Wimbledon Station, which is located some 20 minutes South of the tennis grounds.
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is open daily from 10:00 to 17:30. There are a couple of tours per day. In contrast to the museum, it is likely sensible to book the tour before your visit already. Museum only admission is 15 GBP, while the longer tour always includes the museum visit (you can visit the museum before or after your tour or interrupt the museum for the tour) and is 27 GBP. To enter the Wimbledon grounds, you need to pass an airport-alike security. Water is allowed, though. During my visit, there was also the opportunity to watch the Centre Court only (13 GBP).
Wimbledon – The Museum
The registration for the tours also happens in the museum lobby, which also hosts the Wimbledon shop. The museum itself is located in the basement of the building. The exhibition starts with the first steps towards the modern sports of “Lawn Tennis” and the close links between croquet and tennis (croquet lead to the situation that you had larger well-maintained lawn grounds). From these roots of the sports in the 19th century, the museum more and more leads you through the history of the Wimbledon Grounds as well, including darker times like the Wimbledon at War section.
A major focus is – of course – on the modern tournament. You don’t just learn about the sports idols, but all the people who are driving the tournament, like ball kids and officials. However, you also learn about the evolution of the playing material like the rackets and how the Wimbledon grounds more and more grew in Southwest London. Compared to what I have in mind about my previous visit to the museum (maybe some 20 years ago), the focus is very much on singles tennis. Doubles tennis of all kind plays a very subordinate role – I even felt that wheelchair tennis is more in focus than my favorite discipline of the sports. Thus, I could just find spots about the heroic 1999 final day by Leander Paes, for example – which is to me one of the most remarkable Wimbledon moments of all times.
Wimbledon – The Tour
The holy grounds of Wimbledon – I was really curious about the tour (in fact, this was the first time I did it), which is timed to last 90 minutes. The first spot we visited was one of the outer courts, where the guide told us about how the grass is maintained and the whole ground is driven. Especially if you compare Wimbledon to the US Open, the place is super-narrow. Thus, leaving for the toilet during a match on outer courts is practically impossible (not too romantic during summer, where you have to hydrate yourself). Overall, I felt that the guide was really proud of her job and also rather knowledgeable. Deeper questions beyond her expectation could not be answered, though.
The first major court on the tour was Court No. 1, where I also saw the 2007 Davis Cup tie. Overall there was a lot of detail at that time of the tour, which became critical later. We also leaned a lot about technical details before we passed Henman Hill to famous Court No. 18, where the longest professional tennis place of all times took place – US-American Isner beat French Mahut in 2010 by 70-68 in the fifth set after more than eleven hours.
Press Room and Centre Court
From there, the tour headed on to the press room. There was a lot of renovation and maintenance ongoing, so that the we could not enter the whole press center. Comapred to my experience as a journalist at the US Open in the mid-2000’s, again, Wimbledon is tiny and feels by far too small for a global event like that. A wall with professional players’ autographs and a press conference desks were nice items in the area. The tour felt rather lengthy until that point. However, places like locker rooms are not available to public. Wimbledon is still member driven and the tourists hordes (who just supported their club with 27 GBP per person) might disturb them too much. I am split about that policy.
After some views on outer courts and business lounges, we finally headed into the heart of Wimbledon, the Center Court. We more or less stayed at one corner of the venue, overlooking the court and the royal box, which was quite interesting. Again, the guide told us a lot of stories about Wimbledon, which was somehow nice, but took too much time. When the tour was almost over, we passed the Walls of Fame with all the Wimbledon Winners. I would have loved to praise Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and all my other favorites properly, but we were chased though that area so that I had to take the last pictures during walking. As this part of Wimbledon is locked and just accessible by tour, I felt that the whole tour is a bit of unbalanced.
Wimbledon – Services
There are some cafes and restaurants on premise, which are really popular. Of course, you can also grab a souvenir from the Wimbledon shop. Overall, apart from the limitations of the tour itself, the staff was really friendly.
Wimbledon – My View
Wimbledon is full of tradition and this place just has a lot of magic. Nonetheless, I feel that my visit did not fully reflect that. The museum is rather small – you can easily do it within 30 to 45 minutes. The tour was not balanced, even though the tour guide was nice. The value for money for the combined tour and museum is still fine, even though I feel you could do a better tour in less time.
Flyctory.com on Sports Museums
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