Late Night Vibes: Wimbledon Queue Edition

“Waiting for Jannik”

Late Night Vibes: Wimbledon Queue Edition
The Wimbledon Queue at sunset.

It’s harder to fall asleep than I imagined. How did people fall asleep on the ground back in the old days? I need a mattress, a pillow. A sleeping bag and a balled-up sweatshirt aren’t cutting it. It’s the dead of night but ambient light leaks into the tent, and there’s still chatter all around us. In just a few hours, the stewards of the Wimbledon Queue will make their 5 a.m. wake-up call, shouting and poking tents, getting us organized and ready for what we’re all here to do: buy tickets.

Wimbledon is one of the rare major sporting events where you can purchase premium tickets day of. All you have to do is wait in line—overnight, if you want a chance at show court tickets. This is, depending on who you ask, either a great tradition unique to The Championships or an insulting indignity.

My wife Chloe and I arrive at the queue—located next door to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon Park—at 3:15 PM on July 4th. (One benefit of working for American companies here in London? American holidays, baby.) Behind the dregs of that day’s line—the people hoping for evening grounds tickets, perhaps a late Centre Court resale—two long columns of tents are already set up and waiting for tomorrow’s tennis. We make our way towards a group of stewards in high-vis vests waving a large green flag emblazoned with a Q—it’s either the end of the line or the start of British QAnon.

We’ve planned everything around a single goal: see Jannik Sinner. Sinner is, hands down, our favorite player on the tour, admired for his skill, consistent improvement, and his cool head. We’re not at Carota Boys levels of obsession with the world number one, just whatever level of obsession it takes to camp out for Wimbledon tickets to see him play. We missed him at the Madrid Open in May—other than a quick glimpse of a practice session on an outer court—and aren’t leaving anything up to chance this time.

The author kneels in front of a small tent. Two camping chairs flank him.
Our campsite for the night.

Wimbledon reserves 500 tickets to each of the three ticketed courts—Centre, No. 1, and No. 2—for queuers. We’ve read the tea leaves and believe Sinner will be playing on No. 1 Court, with the number three seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz playing on Centre. As long as we’re within the first 1000 campers, we should be golden. We set up camp—a rented tent, some cheap camping chairs, and a branded picnic blanket from Retirable. And then we wait. At 5:10, the stewards finally snake their way around the line and hand us our queue cards: 438 and 439. Guaranteed Centre Court tickets, if we wanted them.

Turns out, we’ll want them. Ten minutes after we get our queue cards, I notice that the order of play for tomorrow has been released. Our divination has failed us—Sinner would be on Centre Court, playing after Alcaraz and British star Emma Radacanu. If we’d left it just another twenty minutes, we would’ve risked complete failure. I send my queue number and arrival time to @ViewFromTheQ, a Twitter account dedicated to queue updates and advice that we’ve been checking religiously all week to help determine when we should arrive at the park.

Queue cards in hand, we settle in for the night. As the stragglers from today’s line dissipate, tomorrow’s queue continues to grow. Our fellow queuers are a diverse crowd—locals, travelers, singles, groups of friends, whole families with young kids, old couples with massive tents and blow-up air mattresses, young couples with massive tents and blow-up air mattresses. We have clearly missed the memo on massive tents and blow-up mattresses.

A group of five lads have settled in across from us, building a circle of camping chairs around a cooler full of beer. They immediately start playing The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” I don’t know what they have to be miserable about—they brought cots and will have a proper night’s sleep. I nip to the small Wimbledon shop on site to buy a big umbrella before tomorrow’s forecasted rain, and when I get back, they’ve put on “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and are passing around a large bag of Doritos. It reminds us that we need provisions—Chloe makes a Sainsbury’s run for juicy British strawberries, sea salt crisps, sweets, beer, and two cans of Pimm’s and lemonade for tomorrow.

All that’s left to do now is wait. We’re trying to conserve our phone batteries. We’ve got our Kindles—Chloe’s reading Yellowface, I’m starting Meet Me in the Bathroom. Chloe teaches me how to play gin rummy (Chloe: 3, Adam: 1). We get Thai food delivered to the front gates of the park by a very confused Deliveroo rider. The lads join forces with another group for a massive drinking game. A rogue drone flies overhead. The sun starts to set. Slowly, people get ready to sleep. We brush our teeth in the makeshift restrooms—one step above porta-potties, in my estimation—and shift our belongings inside.

At 10:30, we roll out our sleeping bags. It’s immediately evident that we should’ve brought mats or an air mattress to sleep on. Wind whips around us, and even though I know the tent is secured and the wind isn’t powerful enough to pick it up with us inside it, I still feel like we could all fly away at any moment. Light leaks into the tent, and there’s chatter all around us. In the morning, we will have Wimbledon tickets, just six rows away from Jannik Sinner, and the exhaustion and sore backs and soaking wet clothes will all be worth it. For now, I wish I had a mattress, a pillow. It’s harder to fall asleep than I imagined.

🌝 More Late Night Vibes 🌚

Late Night Vibes: Insomnia Edition
guest post from Grace Byron
Late Night Vibes: Cat Edition
Two restless cats who can’t fall asleep.
Late Night Vibes: Acela Edition
Amtrak after dark.