Wimbledon fortnight is almost upon us — it runs July 1-14 this year — but there's still plenty of time for you to line up a magnificent day out at The Championships, whether you're coming as a couple or bringing a few guests.
You have to hand it to the All England Lawn Tennis Club: they really do know how to throw a garden party like no other. Wimbledon’s unique atmosphere makes it the most quintessentially English of all sporting events, something quite unlike anything else in the calendar. There are the milling crowds meandering between the ivy-covered buildings while nibbling their strawberries and cream; the endless, pristine courts with everything from household names to wheelchair matches taking place; and, best of all, the gladiatorial battles on the great centrepiece stadiums, Centre Court and No.1 Court.
Enjoying the experience to its fullest, however, isn’t always easy. Getting Show Court tickets is, literally, a lottery via the ballot, and you’ll have needed to apply long ago if you want them for this year. And Wimbledon’s huge crowds, while providing plenty of lively atmosphere, also contribute to the tournament’s famous queues — and while nothing could be more English than joining a queue, it can make for a long day.
Thankfully, there is an answer: getting Wimbledon tickets as part of a hospitality deal. There are all sorts of different options depending on how close to the action you’d like to be, but all of them ensure that Wimbledon is a true VIP experience. You’ll be looked after in fine style, with superb food — including a fine-dining lunch — and refreshments all day, whether you’re after Champagne, Pimm’s, a cooling mocktail or anything else that tickles your fancy.
Instead of queues and finding places to perch, you can relax in beautifully-designed suites which do their utmost to bring an English country garden feel to proceedings. You won’t have to have thought about any of this until now, either, and you definitely won’t need to camp in the local park to buy these particular tickets.
Then there’s the tennis itself, since all the hospitality suites include tickets for the day’s best matches on either Centre Court or No.1 Court. That alone is probably enough to sell this sort of thing to a tennis lover: as impressive as it might be watching the 17th and 23rd best juniors in the world battling it out on Court 15, it’s really not what you had in mind when you first started thinking about coming to The Championships.
Which of the hospitality options to choose very much depends on your preferences. The Lawn, a two-minute stroll from Centre Court (they’ll also whisk you down in a buggy, if you prefer) is a relaxed and relatively informal space, where sport lovers gather for an afternoon of food, wine and tennis on either Centre Court or No.1 Court.
The four-course lunch menu is put together by three of the Roux family — Albert, Michel Jr and Emily — while mixologists whip up tennis-themed cocktails and waiting staff top up your bubbly without you even noticing. A sommelier will help with the wines, while the concierge service can source everything from rare cigars to vintage biographies of Fred Perry.
For the die-hard tennis nut, The Players’ Tables semi-private areas next door offer a similar experience with one enormous added bonus: big names from the world of tennis are in attendance and mingle with the guests. You’ll quite possibly end up discussing backhand technique with a former champion while you both enjoy the Eton Mess.
For those who prefer a spot at the very heart of the Wimbledon atmosphere, there are a couple of very special options within the tournament grounds. First is the newly-created Rosewater Pavilion (named after the Venus Rosewater dish presented to the ladies’ singles champion) where the designers have been briefed to create an English garden party atmosphere par excellence, with everything from the decorations to the staff uniforms aimed at making you feel as if you’ve wandered into a more genteel world before (and after) you take your seats in Centre Court.
There are still all the benefits and facilities of The Lawn, with relaxed, informal lounges, private tables seating between two and 12 and live music playing in the background. And the Rosewater Pavilion also includes the biggest draw of the Players’ Suites experience, in that former stars of the game will be there. Greg Rusedski and Virginia Wade have confirmed their attendance for the first and second weeks of the tournament respectively.
If the weather plays ball, however, one of the great pleasures is simply taking a seat on the balcony for a spot of afternoon tea while overlooking the courts and the crowds, and listening for the cheers and groans from the outside courts before wandering across to take your seats in Centre Court. It’s a very special way to take in one of the world’s great sporting spectacles.
Hospitality tickets at Wimbledon are offered through Keith Prowse, the exclusive supplier. The Lawn from £700; Players’ Tables from £790; Rosewater Pavilion from £1,370. All prices exclude VAT. See more details at www.keithprowse.co.uk/wimbledon.