Where the tennis stars eat, drink and sleep at Wimbledon
PUBLISHED: 12:13 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 07:52 05 July 2013
Every June, the bars, restaurants and boutiques of Wimbledon Village buzz with the stars of the sport
Need to know:
What: The Championships Wimbledon
Where: The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon SW19 5AE
When: Monday June 24 to Sunday July 7
How: Each day, approximately 500 Centre, No.1 and No.2 Court tickets are specifically reserved for sale at the turnstiles (with the exception of the last four days) along with ground tickets. Grounds open at 10.30am each day. Ticket re-sales start from 3pm with the money donated to charity. In addition, several hundred Centre and No.3 Court tickets will be sold online on the day before play via Ticketmaster (on sale at 9am).
More info at: www.wimbledon.com
For 50 weeks a year, Wimbledon Village is so charmingly sleepy it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s only 20 minutes from central London.
Sure, the chic shops, quaint cafés and bustling bars are deserving of a trendy corner of the capital, but trundle past those and you’ll soon be enveloped by the sparse countryside of Wimbledon Common, where locals ride horses and Wellington-boot wearing dog walkers launch sticks in all directions. That unique ‘town meets country’ feel is just as strong during the Wimbledon fortnight, even if it does feel like the capital has deposited all its residents there.
Across the two weeks, tens of thousands of people turn the Village into a mini-metropolis during their trip to the world’s greatest tennis tournament, in their search for food, drink and shopping. Naturally, that makes things rather more hectic in this historic Georgian and Victorian conservation area, but it’s a time that local businesses very much look forward to.
“It’s really fantastic,” says Adrian Mills, who owns restaurant Thai Tho with his wife, Nicky. “Having the focus of the world on your particular small area for a tournament that is so revered is phenomenal. But then I’m biased because I love tennis and it’s brilliant for business.”
Even in spite of the volume of fans that descend on the Village either side of play at the All England Club, the players – who are usually accustomed to city-based tournaments – are just as appreciative of the Village community and all it has to offer. Many are restaurant regulars in and around the fortnight, satisfying their enormous appetites after a hard day’s hitting on those famous lawns.
“Venus Williams called Thai Tho her favourite restaurant in Wimbledon Village,” beams Mills, pointing to a small article in the window that verifies his claim before dropping another big name. “Maria Sharapova came here for the first time in 2004,” he continues. “She came every single night with her father (stir fried beef and egg fried rice was the chosen dish), and each time she came she won her next game. She went on to win the tournament that year and as a result she’s got very fond memories. She comes back every year.”
A tennis fan who played the game socially for many years “until age caught up with me”, Mills is adamant that players are treated in exactly the same way as any other customer. He recounts one memory where Serena and Venus Williams were repeatedly turned away because his restaurant was full, only for the pair – who have numerous Wimbledon titles between them – to continue to loiter outside until they finally got their table. “The golden rule is that everybody is treated exactly the same,” insists Mills. “You may well be a megastar tennis player, but you will get the same level of service, the same courtesy, the same quality as every other customer.”
That may well be the case, but Mills does admit to one occasion where he couldn’t help but feel a little star-struck.
“We had one particular day when we had Sharapova, Serena and Venus, Martina Navratilova, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Brad Gilbert all in at the same time, plus probably half a dozen other players that I’ve seen but I can’t name,” he remembers. “I said to my wife, ‘it will never get better than this moment’.
“What’s really nice is that the players don’t get harassed. You don’t have autograph books constantly thrust in front of them. They come out, have a nice meal, say ‘I’ll be back’ – and they are.” Game on For many years, that’s exactly what some of the biggest names in tennis have enjoyed most about the idyllic Village within a mile of their grass battleground. An easy escape from their frantic world, it’s a place that leaves them perfectly-primed to get back to business the next day.
*** With thanks to tennishead for their help with this article (see www.tennishead.net).
Star-spotting in the Village…
“The benefit of being the only four-star boutique hotel so close to the courts is that a number of tennis players and their families have either visited or stayed here in the past – the Williams sisters, the Bryan Brothers, Maria Sharapova, Tim Henman. Boris Becker and his family quite often pop in for drinks too.“
- Isabel Hargreaves, director of sales and marketing, Cannizaro House
“Last year, Roger Federer had an epic five-set match and the player that almost beat him was in here after. We’ve had Jamie Murray visit us too. The players we know best though are the Williams sisters. Last time, Serena was in here a few times having a quiet, healthy green tea. Then, after winning both the singles and the doubles, the sisters celebrated with all their friends, family and tennis team.”
- Mike Mitchell, director and general manager, Hemingways lounge bar
“A lot of the players’ wives, girlfriends and coaches come riding with us during the fortnight. Martina Hinges, who had her own horses at home, would come riding every year during the tournament. It was so exciting the year that she won! Boris Becker’s young daughter has ridden here as well. ”
- Carol Andrews, owner, the Wimbledon Village Stables