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Meet the diehard tennis fans camped out in Wimbledon's epic "queue"

Tennis fans join the epic "Wimbledon queue"
Tennis fans join the epic "Wimbledon queue" 01:36

London — Tennis fans around the world started tuning in Monday to watch the iconic Wimbledon tennis tournament as it got underway in the leafy southern corner of London where it's taken place since 1877. Millions of people will watch two weeks of grass court action on their screens — but far fewer will actually get to take in the sights and sounds in person, and being one of them is no small feat.

Wimbledon tickets are available online, but you have to register by a certain date and there are still no guarantees.  

"They get snapped up so quickly," tennis fan Wendy Bartle told CBS News as she headed for the hallowed ground of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or Wimbledon, as it's better known.

"This is the other way to do it," Bartle said as she joined thousand of others in the epic line — or The Queue, as it's known. "If you queue like this, you get really good seats."

Bartle and her friend Carol O'Hara, along with their sons, reached Wimbledon bright and early on opening day to pitch a tent. They wanted to be among the first 500 people in line for tickets on Tuesday morning. 

Fans camp in "The Queue" on the eve of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, June 30, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty

The tournament sells a total of 1,500 tickets per day for the three main courts, 500 seats for each court. For those who don't nab one of those tickets, there's a chance of securing a general admission grounds pass, but many will simply have to go home empty handed, or just linger outside to try and soak up some atmosphere. 

Barle and O'Hara were among thousands of people who decided to spend the night outside to secure their place in the line. It can mean a lot of time to kill, but it's not unexpected, and most take it in their stride, even finding a welcome opportunity to unwind.

"That's what I quite enjoy," said O'Hara, who's joined the Wimbledon queue with her son every year for a decade. "We put the tents up. At some point we'll go and get some food… We take turns to go walk around the lake. I quite enjoy relaxing, read a book, chat — haven't seen Wendy in a while!" 

Some people even buy local gym memberships so they can go and take a shower, but you have to be quick: You're only allowed to leave the line for 30 minutes at a time.

The camping isn't exactly survival in the great outdoors. It's a wealthy London suburb, after all, and Bartle said there are local restaurants and delivery services that cater to those camped out for tickets.

"You give your queue card number as the address," she explained, and the food comes straight to you. But little luxuries like that aside, it's still camping, and there's no lounging around in your sleeping bag until the late morning hours.

"You get woken up, is it five in the morning? Very early," said O'Hara. "They go [shakes tent] and then you have to go to the toilet, and there'll be a queue."

Yes, another queue.

But for the lucky — or the determined — the reward can be courtside seats and, this year, there's the added bonus of a chance to see one of Britain's own Wimbledon heroes in action for the last time.

Scottish two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray had back surgery just weeks before the tournament started and he's pulled out of the singles competition, but he will be competing in doubles matches.

The tournament runs until July 14. 

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