The Checklist: Sporting Events
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Play along: Tennis fans in America have long enjoyed watching the matches on weekend morning TV—oh happy Breakfast at Wimbledon—but you haven't heard a ball bounce across rye grass till you're actually sitting along Centre Court during the tournament's final fortnight. After all, if you're looking for a taste of British aristocracy outside of Merchant Ivory movies, this is the best chance you'll ever have. That's the royal family just over there, and the who's who of London spooning up strawberries and cream over here. You'll even get to see just how stiff their upper lips really are, as it always rains at Wimbledon—yet in true English spirit, they endure by getting a wee bit tipsy. If you can't swing those rare final-fortnight tickets, it's just as much fun to come during the first week. You can walk the grounds, often getting within a few yards of Top 10 players like Rafael Nadal or Maria Sharapova, who not only play on the outer courts but practice on them almost every day.
How to score tickets: A number of tickets are set aside for first-come, first-served general admission, but overseas travelers are advised to register for an advance public ballot (you have to send in the form via snail mail—the address and instructions are at the Wimbledon site). You can also book both tickets and lodging in a package through the tournament's two licensed tour operators: www.purewimbledon.com or www.wimbledon-experience.com.
When: The tournament always begins six weeks before the first Monday in August (June 22 to July 5, 2009).
For more information: 44-20-8971-2473; www.wimbledon.org