Behind the scenes at SW19

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When we are in London I always encourage my players to do a bus tour if they have a day off

From the all-white dress code to the practice courts at Aorangi Park, Wimbledon is unlike any tournament

It may be one of the biggest and most famous sporting events in the world, but Wimbledon is also one of the most intimate. Maybe it is because there is less room to spread out; most people stay within walking distance of the All England Club. In the days before the tournament starts, there are lots of parties and barbecues hosted by the management companies.

I’m staying at a house rented by adidas, about 10 minutes’ walk from the club. It’s where we will be distributing all the adidas kit for Wimbledon so all our sponsored athletes will come by to collect their grass court shoes and white clothing for The Championships.

Unlike at the other Grand Slams, where fans can watch their favourite players practise, at Wimbledon the players train away from the public at Aorangi Park. there is a tunnel that goes from the players’ area underneath the grounds to Aorangi, which makes it easier for the players, but I like to walk through the grounds. it’s busy and there’s a bit of pushing at times, but I love to soak up the atmosphere.

Wimbledon is also different to other events because the covers are only taken off the courts shortly before 10am and you can practise until 7pm, depending on the weather. Many players like to have early-morning practice sessions so there is a big fight for the 10am or 11am slots. In my experience, it is better to be flexible. If you book a court at 4pm you can generally stay on the court for two hours and really get some decent work done without being kicked off court or have to share with anyone else.

It pays to have a good relationship with the team who book the practice courts. I've known Peter Finn, who is in charge of the practice courts, since I first went to Wimbledon in 2008. I’ve always had a good relationship with Peter because of the sheer number of court bookings I’ve had to arrange over the years for all the adidas players. If I’m having to attend several practices, say I have a practice at 1pm with caroline Wozniacki then another at 2pm with Dominic Thiem, I will ask for the sessions to be on the same court or near to each other so I don’t have to run around like a maniac.

There are some courts over the road from Aorangi, where most of the doubles players practise. It’s a bit further to walk but it’s very quiet there; there are not many people watching and the media are not allowed there. I use those courts to work on something specific with a player and it’s great because there are no distractions and it’s more private.

The players often hang out at Aorangi Park, where there is a nice restaurant and a gym too. the facilities are great there but it can get quite busy so some of the top seeds will head over to the player restaurant in the Millennium Building next to Centre Court, where there is a nice terrace overlooking the grounds.

From there you can access the locker rooms. The members’ locker rooms on the ground floor are reserved for the top 16 seeds and former champions, then upstairs are the north and south men’s dressing rooms for the rest of the singles players, qualifiers and doubles players. I’ve never been in the ladies’ dressing rooms downstairs – even if you are coaching a female player you are not allowed in there.

The tour is a bit of a bubble. The players travel all over the world, but often all they see is the tennis complex and their hotel room. When we are in London i always encourage my players to do a bus tour if they have a day off. I tell them, go have a nice dinner, go to a museum or see a show and get away from the green of the grass and the players that you might face in the next 14 days. Last year i saw Mamma Mia with Dominic Thiem. I always encourage the players, especially the new ones on tour, to take advantage of the opportunities and soak it all up.

This article originally appeared in tennishead Volume 6 Issue 3.  Mats Merkel writes a regular column for tennishead. To read more from Mats, subscribe to the magazine today.

Posted by: Mats Merkel

Merkel says he encourages his players to enjoy London. He and Thiem watched a musical during Wimbledon last summer

Merkel says he encourages his players to enjoy London. He and Thiem watched a musical during Wimbledon last summer

Mats Merkel has worked with the likes of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Caroline Wozniacki as part of the adidas Player Development Program. Here he offers a regular insight into life on tour

Mats Merkel has worked with the likes of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Caroline Wozniacki as part of the adidas Player Development Program. Here he offers a regular insight into life on tour

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