Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 14:07 UK

Murray-mania takes over Wimbledon

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

Fans queue at Wimbledon
Almost 5,000 fans had joined the queue at Wimbledon by 0930BST on Wednesday

Queuing seems almost as much a Wimbledon tradition as strawberries and cream - and as Andy Murray prepared for his quarter-final match, there was plenty of it in evidence.

So with Murray offering the prospect of a home-grown player winning Wimbledon for the first time in decades, it was not surprising that the most ardent of fans were prepared to wait two days for a ticket to see him play.

The first person joined the queue early on Monday morning - before he had even played his fourth round match - and hundreds more pitched tents in Wimbledon Park so as not to lose their place.

During the tournament's first week, there were warnings that a long wait in the sort of heat you might expect at the Dubai Open, rather than SW19, might prove fruitless.

Diana Jayasekera and daughter Keshini
Diana Jayasekera and daughter Keshini endured little waiting

But many fans expecting an arduous wait were pleasantly surprised when - on the morning of his quarter-final - they found the line in front considerably shorter than expected.

"We thought the queue would be much longer," said 14-year-old Keshini Jayasekera, from South Norwood, south London.

She arrived with mum, Diana, 52, shortly before 1100 BST to discover they were moved quickly to the baggage search points at the entry gates.

"It's the first time we've come and it's much better than we thought," said Mrs Jayasekera.

"We are so excited about the day. We just can't wait to see Andy Murray."

There was no doubting the source of the excitement.

While people waited patiently for one of 6,000 ground passes, for most, the action on the outside courts was a mere taster for the 22-year-old Scot's match against Spanish wildcard Juan Carlos Ferrero.

'Atmosphere'

"We're going to watch him outside the court from the hill," said Ed Suchy, 15, one of a number of pupils attending from Bristol's Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School.

For those around the country wondering why people bother to get out of bed early and queue, only to watch the game on a giant TV screen, his classmate Owain Park had a simple answer.

"It's the atmosphere," said the 15-year-old.

Ed added: "I haven't been before so I want to see what it's like."

The pupils queued for just over an hour from 0930 BST, after making the journey from Bristol. But the early start had its bonuses for Rowan Pearce, also 15.

Ed Suchy, Rowan Pearce and Owain Park
Bristol's Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School pupils with their queue cards

"Everyone in the queue has been really nice and they've been giving away lots of free snacks and water," he said.

The All England Club said just under 5,000 people had joined the queue by 0930 BST and were guaranteed a ground ticket.

Each observed Wimbledon's impeccable standards of queuing as they were given a card showing their exact position in the line and handed booklets on queue etiquette for the uninitiated.

It is a quintessentially-English system which operates with almost military efficiency.

Lighting and toilets have been installed at Wimbledon Park's makeshift camp site, while stewards wake campers at 0600 BST to allow them to pack up their belongings and take up their allotted place in the queue.

John Davis, 53, of Wembley, north-west London - a veteran of Wimbledon queues - was happy to wait until 1000 BST to arrive.

He said waiting times were traditionally shorter during the second week but that Murray-mania had ensured greater interest than usual.

Mr Davis said he was planning to try his luck at getting a Centre Court ticket from the resale kiosk, in the hope that a corporate guest would leave theirs behind.

"Usually you get one eventually," he said.

"Ideally, [Roger] Federer and [Ivo] Karlovic will go to five sets before Murray comes on. If he starts later, there'll be more tickets available."

Like much of the world, the rest of the country will have to make do with watching the match on TV.



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