Tennis: The enduring allure of the pavement artists

Denise Kimble gives a queuer's guide to Wimbledon
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The Independent Online
If you were unsuccessful in your application for Wimbledon tickets, or have obtained a pair for the opening Monday on court two and had set your heart on seeing Andre Agassi, do not despair.

The only way to get tickets for the matches you want, short of taking out a second mortgage and pandering to the touts, is to queue for them. Not your average queueing, not even "opening day of Selfridges sale" queueing. This is The Queue. One of the things that makes this tournament stand out above every other is the number of genuine fans at courtside, in the best seats in the house. It's what makes the atmosphere. These seats are not offered to the fat cats so they can talk through the game and be seen. They go to anyone lucky enough to be allocated them in the ballot, or who is patient enough to wait up to 24 hours to get the seat they want.

The British are great queuers and nowhere is this demonstrated better than at Wimbledon. Where else could you find thousands of people camping on the roadside for days without so much as a harsh word?

My first experience of queueing was three short years ago. I was by myself, had never been to Wimbledon, had never attended a tennis match, and had never spent the night on my own sleeping on a pavement - so I was a little anxious. However, I realised quickly that people are kind and soon spot the "green" queuers and offer advice and help.

Tickets

There are a limited number for sale each day on a "first come, first served" basis from 10.30am. If you get a ground admission ticket, that will not only allow you access to all areas of the grounds except the show courts, but also to courts 3-17 and the standing room on court two.

Inside, there is another queue for "returned" tickets, which have been handed in by people who either do not need them or have already seen the match they wanted. They are resold for charity. Stay in the grounds until 5.30pm or so and you will get plenty of choice.

Ticket allocation: Centre Court 600 (except the last four days); No1 Court 600, and 820 in the standing gallery.

Ground admission: from pounds 8 and goes down to pounds 6 after 5pm. Show court tickets vary. On the first Monday and Tuesday, they range from pounds 20 Centre Court to pounds 10 standing room No1 Court. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday they range from pounds 30-pounds 10. Prices go up throughout the second week.

What to expect

It's a bit of a guess when the queue will start forming - it depends on who is playing and what the weather is like. It will start at some time tomorrow for the first day's play, but remember that you will need to be in the first few hundred people if you want a Centre or No1 Court ticket. The very latest I would leave it is 4pm the day before if you are very keen, or 5am on the day if you are feeling lucky. There are two queues, one in Somerset Road, the other in Church Road.

Once you arrive, find the end of the queue. It sounds simple, but believe me it isn't, so ask. Get to know the people in front and those after you. This is important as you will have to trust them to look after your stuff when you go to get food or to the washrooms. It will also make you aware of any middle-of-the-night queue jumpers. At night the queue is patrolled by police cars and in the day by the stewards, who are a wonderful bunch.

Facilities are basic, but bearable (if you want to see Andre Agassi, anything is bearable). There are Portaloos with washbasins - though never enough for the women, and they get messier as the championships progress.

The queue goes to bed late - people will be buzzing with excitement and it's going to be noisy until at least 2am. And then people will start waking up at about 4am. Things start moving by 7am and from then until the turnstiles open at 9.30am you will be standing in closed ranks. It's your chance to get on television, too, as those at the front are often interviewed.

When you get to the ticket kiosk you won't be able to specify exactly which seat you want, so ask for "as near the front as possible". Beware the Centre Court scoreboard if you are skipping work - these are on television a lot.

Basic essentials

Something to sit on, and, if you are on an overnighter, something to lie down and sleep on.

Something to keep you warm - a sleeping bag is almost essential.

Something to keep you dry - an umbrella is not enough for an overnight stay.

A change of clothes (you will get very, very dirty from the passing traffic)

Loo paper.

And finally ...

Once you have washed and changed (limited facilities, very crowded) you can dump all your extraneous stuff in the left-luggage tents and you may just be ready to watch some tennis.

Denise Kimble is editor of the official magazine of the Andre Agassi international fan club.

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