Tennis fans from across globe join famous Wimbledon queue
Tennis fans from as far away as India and Japan were among the first through the gates on day one of Wimbledon.
Dedicated grand slam enthusiasts spent up to two nights camping outside the All England Club for a chance to grab premium tickets as the tournament begins.
First in line on Monday morning was Stuart Bere, 44, from Lincolnshire, the third time he has managed that feat since 2011.
The civil servant, who arrived at 5.30am on Saturday, praised the “well organised” queuing system and “happy” atmosphere among waiting fans.
“I don’t have to get a plane out of the country, you’ve got to drive, park up and you’ve got the tennis,” he said.
“This is the cheapest way of doing it.”
Mr Bere said he enjoyed meeting new people in the queue each year and praised the “great entertainment” on offer at Wimbledon, particularly on Centre Court.
“In the heat of a good match, it’s like a cauldron of joy or light, it’s really hard to describe, you have to be there,” he added.
Stood next to him, at second and third spot in the queue, were Neil Williams, 56, and his 26-year-old son Shaun, who set off at midnight on Friday from Barry, near Cardiff in Wales.
The pair, who have been visiting Wimbledon for a decade, have made friends from all over the world by being regular overnight campers.
Neil Williams said: “As the years have gone by, because we’ve made some good friends here, we see it as a week’s holiday.
“It’s almost now that a large part of it is catching up with friends.”
He admitted that other friends think he is “mad” to spend two days queuing to watch tennis, but emphasised that Wimbledon was a special place.
“I love tennis and Wimbledon is the most iconic tournament in the world,” he added.
Also near the front of the queue was Abhishek Naik, 35, from Mumbai, who headed straight to Wimbledon after his flight landed at Heathrow Airport on Saturday.
“It’s just such a nice atmosphere,” he said.
“I met some incredible people talking about tennis.
“There was no alone time other than when you’re sleeping.”
Mr Naik said he had been waiting a long time for the opportunity to see Wimbledon’s famous grass courts.
“When they first gave us the queue cards I had goosebumps,” he added.
Twins Sue and Helen Love, 55, originally from Scotland, brought books, cards and even a portable DVD player to keep themselves amused in the queue since Saturday.
“Everybody is in good spirits, I think because of the weather,” said Sue.
The pair, heading to Number 2 Court to watch up-and-coming Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas, are also big Andy Murray fans.
Helen Love said: “I don’t think he will make it back as a singles player, but he’s enjoying himself which is the main thing.”
Hibiki Manai, 25, from Okinawa in Japan, camped for two nights with his friend Sora Arathoon, 25, a British Japanese student in Belgium.
“To be honest, it’s not comfortable for me, but I think it’s a very good experience for me,” Mr Manai admitted.
Mr Arathoon, returning for his fourth year, said Wimbledon represented a “dream place” for tennis fans around the world.
Last year, a total of 473,169 people attended Wimbledon across the 13 days of the tournament.
The competition kicks off on Monday with Novak Djokovic beginning the defence of his men’s singles title on Centre Court from 1pm.