As a gift from my good friend Tosha, I had tickets for the Wimbledon tour. As regulars of the blog will know, I am a big tennis fan. I’ve quoted numerous legends like Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert to current stars like Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro and been to the 02 to see the ATP World Tour Finals numerous times. I’ve read Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, Fred Perry’s biography The Last Champion, Levels of the Game by sports writer John McPhee and Break Point by tennis journalist Kevin Mitchell.
After a 15 minute walk from Southfields station, you’ll see Wimbledon. Walking through the gate it might not immediately be obvious how special the place is, but it doesn’t take long for Wimbledon’s magic to start hitting. Part of the reason is the Fred Perry statue, who for so long was the last British champion. There’s also the first mention of Centre Court, the order of play scoreboard (with final day results still up) and Wingfield Cafe, named after Major Walter Wingfield who adapted the game of Real Tennis.
The Wimbledon store really is impeccably neat and spaciously organised. There’s a video for you to look at, showcasing different sides of the museum. But you’re more likely to notice the big variety of merchandise to choose from. That includes the famous green and blue towels, as well as other memorable items such as books, posters, tennis balls and chocolate.
What the museum does excellently on the ground floor, where the museum is, is make full use of the walls. There is loads of striking visuals, including posters, quotes and highlighted information. There is also the very famous If by Rudyard Kipling, that is also printed above the players entrance to Centre Court.
One of the great things about the tour is that you are given audio and headphones which give short dialogues relating to each part of the museum. And it highlights just how much history tennis has, going all the way back to 12th century northern France and its developments in popularity and rules over the centuries.
The BBC has been connected with Wimbledon for 90 years, something that was highlighted at the most recent Wimbledon. Starting in 1927 with a radio broadcast of a Centre Court match, it has passed several milestones since. This includes covering the first televised match in 1937 and being the first broadcaster in Europe to show Wimbledon in colour in 1967.
But for all the insight into how the game grew and information about how much attention to detail is needed to cover the sport to a worldwide audience, the best bit is surely the memorabilia. In total, there are over 20,000 objects. There are outfits and racquets from legendary players, as well as famous trophies. It really is a great experience. I’ll be writing about about the guided tour soon.