Fans welcomed at Wimbledon on first day of tennis championships

Fans welcomed at Wimbledon on first day of tennis championships
Tennis fans in the Wimbledon queue on day one of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships (Steven Paston/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Steven Paston

Thousands of fans have started shuffling towards the Wimbledon gates after Love Island star Kem Cetinay opened the first checkpoint for day one of the championships.

The show’s 2017 winner started a short countdown before yelling: “Let’s go” and running through an arch in Wimbledon Park.

First in the queue, Julia Barker, 47, followed the celebrity with her green queue ticket, stamped number one, alongside her husband Nicky, 54, and son Dan, 23.

Wimbledon fansMany fans had camped out overnight ahead of the gates opening (Victoria Jones/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Victoria Jones

The family, who have lived in Ireland for more than 20 years but are originally from Latvia, have been camping out since 7.30am on Saturday.

Dan told the PA news agency: “We didn’t expect to be first.”

He said they had hoped to secure tickets for Centre Court or Court One.

“Then we realised there was nobody here,” he added.

Sarah Hedley, a civil servant from Hull, has been to Wimbledon every year since 1995, with the exception of 2020 when the tournament was cancelled because of the pandemic.

She celebrated her 53rd birthday in the queue on Sunday and told PA: “My friend and I came in 1995.

“We were watching the six o’clock news in Birmingham and saw an article about the queue. I said: ‘I would really love to do that.’

Wimbledon queueTennis fans who camped out overnight join the Wimbledon queue (Victoria Jones/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Victoria Jones

“We were actually in the pub. We finished our second drink, went to mine, got a sleeping bag and got here at one o’clock in the morning.”

Karen Mardon, from Surrey, said the Wimbledon queue is “very democratic”.

Standing in line with her three friends, all in their 60s, she told PA: “It’s very democratic as well.

“It doesn’t mean that you only get to go because you have got lots of money.”

She added that it stops tickets only going to the “fantastically rich”.

Nicky, Dan and Julia Barker in the queueThe Barker family at the front of the queue on Monday (Ellie Ng/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Ellie Ng

Lawyer Katrin Causch flew from Berlin to join the queue for Wimbledon for the fourth time.

She arrived at Wimbledon Park at 11pm on Sunday night equipped only with a sleeping bag and no tent.

Asked what the draw of Wimbledon is, she said: “It’s just Wimbledon. It’s just unbelievable, it’s great.

“It’s the famous tournament and they make it possible for people to queue getting tickets, instead of paying very high prices.

Deterrent owlA deterrent owl device on the turf (Steven Paston/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Steven Paston

“It is amazing in the queue to meet people from all over the world.”

Spectators had been warned to pack rain jackets and umbrellas to brace for scattered showers but there was sunshine and blue skies in south-west London on Monday morning.

Warnings had also been issued around potential disruption to travel as Aslef announced last month that its members will withdraw non-contractual overtime with 16 of the country’s 35 rail operators for six days from Monday.

Home fans will have six British players to cheer for on the first day of the tournament – Dan Evans, Jodie Burrage, Katie Swan, Jan Choinski, Harriet Dart and Liam Broady.

Wimbledon turfGround staff make final court preparations with play starting today (Steven Paston/PAPA Wire/PA Images - Steven Paston

Evans has over the past couple of months criticised other British players for not playing enough tournaments, hit out at the elitist nature of the sport and claimed Emma Raducanu’s US Open win papered over the domestic cracks.

The 33-year-old will take on France’s Quentin Halys on Monday.

“I’m obviously looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s Wimbledon, it’s an amazing experience to play here and win matches here, so … my goal is to get through the first round.”

Burrage is yet to win a singles match at the All England Club but she was involved in one of the most popular stories of the tournament last year when she offered a Marks and Spencer treat to a ball boy who was feeling unwell.

The Percy Pig incident meant a disappointing first-round loss for Burrage was rather forgotten, and she is hoping it can be third time lucky on Monday when she takes on American Caty McNally.

“I played her at the US Open last year,” said Burrage. “I’ll be watching that match back. She’s a tough opponent and actually on the grass she’s going to be really dangerous. I’ll enjoy the challenge.”

Wimbledon fansFans queued early in the morning for the start of the championships at SW19 (Steven Paston/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Steven Paston

Swan expressed hopes that a strong performance at Wimbledon might encourage Elton John to visit SW19 to support her after she signed with Rocket Entertainment – the management company co-founded by the music superstar.

She will take on 14th seed Belinda Bencic on Monday.

“Everyone here is tough but obviously she’s an Olympic gold medallist and she’s achieved so much in her career,” said Swan.

“I was excited when I saw the draw. Court Two is the biggest court I’ve played on here so I’m really pumped for it. I back myself and I think having the home support will be a lot of fun out there.”

Wimbledon queueLove Island star Kem Cetinay welcomed fans on Monday morning (Steven Paston/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Steven Paston

Novak Djokovic will also play his first match on Monday as he starts his bid for his 24th Grand Slam singles title and eighth Wimbledon win, the latter of which would equal Roger Federer’s record.

Clare Balding will this year succeed Sue Barker to become the BBC’s face of Wimbledon after the latter called time on 30 years of presenting national coverage from the All England Club last summer.

Former England cricketer Isa Guha will share presenting duties and has backed Balding as an “ultimate professional”.

The competition will run from Monday July 3 to Sunday July 16.

The Conversation (0)