For two weeks each summer, up to 500,000 people descend on Wimbledon for its world-famous tennis tournament.
Locals living near the All England Lawn Tennis Club hear the cheers of the crowds from their homes and say the area ‘comes alive’ during the fortnight.
Residents are quick to share their relatively quiet South West London neighborhood with thousands of tennis fans, some even planting Wimbledon-themed flowers and throwing street parties with their neighbours.
Tennis fans arrived at the Church Road club on Monday June 27 for day one of the grand slam tournament.
It was the first time since 2019 that crowds have returned to full capacity after Covid canceled the 2020 competition and limited crowds in 2021.
The area around the club was buzzing with activity beforehand, with staff working hard to prepare for the competition, which marks the centenary of Center Court and the club’s move to Church Road.
To celebrate, the middle Sunday, which is usually a rest day, will for the first time be an integral part of the tournament.
Free tickets for the day were also distributed to residents.
Local woman Renee Martin, 70, said site assembly work begins two months before competitions.
She said: “It doesn’t bother us because we got used to it. It’s crowded but it’s nice.
And Richard Higgs, 58, said the tournament is one of the best things to experience at Wimbledon.
He said: “It’s one of the main reasons to live at Wimbledon. There is no real disruption and it is only two weeks a year. You see all the people approaching and the village is really buzzing.
He thinks expanding the tennis club onto a nearby golf course would be great for the area, although not everyone agrees.
He said: “I fully support changing the golf course. Wimbledon Tennis is Merton’s biggest taxpayer, if they need to grow I think that’s important for the region.
“We can’t access the pitch at the moment. They’re going to make it available to walk around the grounds. Things need to move forward, it’s a world-class venue.”
If approved, the club would span 67 hectares between Wimbledon and Wandsworth.
But the plans were met with opposition from more than 1,000 public complaints and 30 letters of support.
The AELTC wants to build 39 new grass courts as well as an 8,000-seater “show in a park” and says this would mean tournament qualifying matches could be moved from Roehampton to Wimbledon.
Part of the land would also be converted into a public park.
Aparna Shankar said: “We love the championships, the region comes alive.
“It’s lively, fun and a great atmosphere.
“We’re doing our flowers in Wimbledon colors and we’re planning a street party.”
But the 48-year-old said the only thing she didn’t like in the two weeks was the hijacking of the 493 bus on Church Road, which meant she had to drive to collect her children from school .
While she’s not totally against AELTC’s plans to expand the club, she thinks they should consider parking near the new public park.
She added: “It would be nice to have a park on our doorstep, but what the AELTC doesn’t consider is parking and the impact on the area. People are expected to use public transport but this is unrealistic and without parking they will go to the local area.
A 51-year-old, who recently returned to the area from abroad but did not wish to be named, said: “I grew up in Wimbledon but have never lived so close, last year has was the first since we moved and it was much smaller so it will be quite interesting.
“Growing up it was fun living at Wimbledon, you could get down in your school uniform and be let in, you wouldn’t get that now.”
Wei, 37, who lives opposite the AELTC said: “It’s just two weeks a year so I don’t mind too much.
“It’s a good vibe, I can hear the cheers from my house. Most people here seem to enjoy that.”
In recent years, up to 10,000 people have lined up for ground tickets, including some who have camped out overnight.
“After the two-year break, similar numbers are expected this year.