Tennis players and fans said it felt “great to be back” as Wimbledon returned today after two years — but strict Covid measures mean the tournament will be like no other in history.
Camping out in the hope of getting a ticket has been ditched this year. Instead fans queued outside the All England Club from 7.30am on Monday having already secured their ticket online.
Other measures included staggered arrival times and extra staff — and fans must wear face coverings when not seated, and have proof of a negative test or hold fully vaccinated status.
Brits set to play on Day One included Andy Murray, Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter, Dan Evans and Jack Draper, who was taking on reigning champion Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.
Boulter and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams were spotted arriving from their Covid-secure accommodation at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in special vehicles. Williams, 39, told the Standard she felt “great”, while Boulter, 24, said: “It’s great to be back at Wimbledon and I’m feeling good.”
Outside the club this morning, fans braved inclement weather to watch some tennis. First in line was Debi Steven, 51, who works in the charity sector, and Bhavita Gill, 47, a GP. The pair, from Richmond, arrived at 7.30am. “It feels incredible to be back,” said Ms Steven. “We have never been first in the line before and we have been coming 10 years.” Ms Gill added: “We have court 12 tickets but we would love to get a glimpse of Serena.”
Steve Nash, 62, from Cirencester, was behind them. “I want to see Katie Swan, I was nearly in tears watching her qualify last week.” Fans will have to abide by a number of other Covid rules — including a ban on selfies with players or asking for an autograph. Overall capacity has been cut by half to 21,000 spectators a day. Full crowds of 15,000 will be at Centre Court for the women’s and men’s finals. The tournament is part of the Government Event Research Programme — test events to help understand how attendances can be increased safely.
Competitors must stay in the hotel and move between there and the Wimbledon site with just three members of their team. British No 1 Johanna Konta withdrew last night after a member of her team tested positive for Covid.
Meanwhile, Harriet Dart has said she is surprised social media companies don’t do more to stop trolling — and that players at all levels suffer from online abuse. Dart, 24, who is a wildcard entry to the ladies singles, said: “No matter what level you play at, you have experience of trolling… I am surprised the social media networks don’t block the comments.” She added: “I try to find it more amusing than anything, otherwise you let it get to you.”