Wimbledon is a very different place in the days before the start of The Championships – as Florence Wildblood discovers.
Despite the tournament not actually beginning until Monday 24th June, preparation for the 127th year of The Championships was well under way by the time I arrived this morning. Even in the surrounding neighbourhood, people seem to be anticipating the arrival of the spectators and players (many of whom, I soon came to realise, were already present) by ensuring that their houses looked suitably appealing. It's easy to tell that Wimbledon remains an incredibly important event for those that live nearby.
What immediately struck me however, was how different it is to be a contributor to the running of the event in these days leading up to the first match, where the only glimpse inside the Grounds of the public comes in the form of a solitary tour group. Compared to being one of the many present in the midst of the tournament, as I experienced for myself last year, when the site is heaving with tennis enthusiasts delighting in spectacular play and, of course, the customary strawberries and cream, it's an insightful experience to say the least. So much occurs to ensure that the event runs smoothly, whether it be related to press, security, catering or the organisation of the matches themselves, all taking place in the sprawling complex of offices around the grounds, often overlooked by those focusing on the action on court. Taking a wander around the site is equally fascinating, as the seats that will be entirely occupied in the coming weeks rest empty and unused, and courts that will see unparalleled action are home merely to the occasional practice session.
It's also possible to catch sight of distinguished players, strolling casually around the site or brushing up on certain elements of their game play on court, which in contrast to during The Championships, when they are crowded by fans eagerly requesting photos and autographs, is somewhat surreal. Although people won't begin to arrive until Monday, observing the action at Wimbledon.com, it's clear that those at home are kept fully up to date with all the exciting developments here through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and various other platforms – including the brand new Wimbledon app for iPad which, released only this morning, gives users the chance to view time lapses, lists of defending champions and 360-degree simulations of certain courts – as if they were here in person already!
Find out more about the the first official Wimbledon iPad app.