Thousands of tennis fans will cheer on Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray at Wimbledon today as the tournament returns to full capacity for the first time in three years.
The grounds will be packed with up to 42,000 people each day after crowds were slashed by 50% last year due to the Covid pandemic.
Record numbers are expected as the world’s oldest tennis tournament will be running for the full 14 days for the first time.
Fans camped out from 11pm on Friday in a bid to buy on-the-door tickets ahead of a blockbuster first day.
Dave Sullivan, 60, from Derby, and his mother Pam, 85, from Leicester, were excited to join the famous queue again.
Sullivan said: “We’ve camped since 6pm yesterday, it’s my ninth time and mum’s eighth time, she’s 85. We’ve upgraded the tent over the years and the camp beds, air beds, seats.
“We’ve done this for years. This is the furthest forward in the queue we’ve ever been, number 76 and 77. We’ve always loved Wimbledon.”
It comes after the tournament was cancelled in 2020. It went ahead in 2021 but with 50 per cent crowd capacity and no queue.
Sally Bolton, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), told reporters she was “really excited” about the extra day of play. “[This is the] first year of permanent middle Sunday, so we are expecting a record crowd because of that,” she said.
Traditionally, players have taken a break on the middle Sunday to allow the courts to recover. But Bolton said this is no longer necessary due to improvements in “grass court technology, care and attention”.
She added that the cost of living crisis has had an impact on this year’s tournament, which has seen a glass of Pimm’s increase by 15%, from £8.50 to £9.75.
“Like every other business, our costs are increasing across the board, so we’re having to balance that challenge. As much as we can, we’re trying not to pass that on to the consumer,” she said.
“One of the most iconic parts of our food and drink offer, strawberries, are kept at £2.50 and have been now since 2010, so we’ve retained those at an accessible price despite input prices going up.”
Tennis fan Michelle Patrick, from Glasgow, said she was “shocked” by the cost of Pimm’s. “The last time I was here was in 2009 and I think I paid £12 for two drinks – now I have just paid £20. It’s very expensive, even by London standards,” the 33-year-old said.
Bolton said the tournament has avoided food shortages due to its focus on sustainability over recent years.
“We’ve been moving very distinctly towards as much local sourcing as we can – so, very much focused on UK food. But we can’t get all of the things that we serve at the championships from a 10-mile radius,” she said.
“The driver for that wasn’t about supply chain originally, it was actually about supporting UK producers and reducing our environmental footprint, but actually that served us well in a situation where supply chains have been challenging.”
US Open champion Raducanu will make her Centre Court debut against Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, 28, this afternoon as part of a bumper line up of British stars.
The 19-year-old insisted on Saturday that she is “fit” and “ready to go” after suffering a side strain injury at a tournament in Nottingham this month.
Two-time champion Murray, 35, who is battling an abdominal strain injury, faces Australia’s James Duckworth.