Crowds are back as Wimbledon returns to capacity

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<span>Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Thousands of tennis fans will cheer on Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray at Wimbledon on Monday as the tournament returns to capacity for the first time in three years.

The grounds will be packed with up to 42,000 people each day after crowds were reduced by 50% last year because of the Covid pandemic.

Record numbers are expected as the world’s oldest tennis tournament will be running for the full 14 days for the first time.

Fans camped out from 11pm on Friday in an attempt to buy on-the-door tickets before a blockbuster first day.

Fans camp in the queue before the first day’s play at Wimbledon.
Fans camp in the queue before the first day’s play at Wimbledon. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Dave Sullivan, 60, from Derby, and his mother Pam, 85, from Leicester, were excited to join the famous queue again.

Sullivan said: “We’ve camped since 6pm yesterday, it’s my ninth time and Mum’s eighth time, she’s 85. We’ve upgraded the tent over the years and the camp beds, air beds, seats.

“We’ve done this for years. This is the furthest forward in the queue we’ve ever been, number 76 and 77. We’ve always loved Wimbledon.”

It comes after the tournament was cancelled in 2020. It went ahead in 2021 but with 50% crowd capacity and no queue.

Related: Wimbledon 2022: Djokovic, Jabeur, Raducanu and Murray in action on day one – live!

Sally Bolton, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, told reporters she was really excited about the extra day of play. “[This is the] first year of permanent middle Sunday, so we are expecting a record crowd because of that,” she said.

Traditionally, players have taken a break on the middle Sunday to allow the courts to recover. But Bolton said this was no longer necessary due to improvements in “grass court technology, care and attention”.

She added that the cost of living crisis had an impact on this year’s tournament, which had caused a glass of Pimm’s to increase by 15%, from £8.50 to £9.75.

“Like every other business, our costs are increasing across the board, so we’re having to balance that challenge. As much as we can, we’re trying not to pass that on to the consumer,” she said.

“One of the most iconic parts of our food and drink offer, strawberries, are kept at £2.50 and have been now since 2010, so we’ve retained those at an accessible price despite input prices going up.”

Spectators fill the grounds on the first day of the championships
Spectators fill the grounds on the first day of the championships. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Michelle Patrick, a tennis fan from Glasgow, said she was shocked by the cost of Pimm’s. “The last time I was here was in 2009 and I think I paid £12 for two drinks – now I have just paid £20. It’s very expensive, even by London standards,” the 33-year-old said.

Bolton said the tournament had avoided food shortages after focusing on sustainability over recent years.

“We’ve been moving very distinctly towards as much local sourcing as we can – so, very much focused on UK food. But we can’t get all of the things that we serve at the championships from a 10-mile radius,” she said.

“The driver for that wasn’t about supply chain originally, it was actually about supporting UK producers and reducing our environmental footprint, but actually that served us well in a situation where supply chains have been challenging.”

The US Open champion Raducanu will make her Centre Court debut against the Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, 28, on Monday afternoon as part of a bumper line-up of British stars.

The 19-year-old said on Saturday that she was fit and ready to go after sustaining a side strain injury at a tournament in Nottingham this month.

The two-time champion Murray, 35, who has an abdominal strain injury, faces Australia’s James Duckworth.

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