Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wimbledon!

On Thursday, I dragged myself out of bed at 6am to line up for a ticket to Wimbledon. According to some bloggers, it's often hit and miss with this approach. In any case, I was never going to camp out in Wimbledon Park overnight. As all my friends here in London work on weekdays, I headed out on my own, arriving just after 8am in the queue. The previous evening, I carefully prepared my bag with things to occupy me - fully charged ipod, book, magazine and plenty of snacks and water.

On arrival, I was given a queue card, advising my place number, 485. A steward then advised that 500 court 1 tickets were up for grabs. Whoo hoo! I was then handed a sticker telling me I've queued up for Wimbledon and, get this, a 39-page 'Guide to Queueing for the Championships'. In it is a 'Queue Code of Conduct' as well as information about security and tips for your safety and comfort ("flip-flops and high heels are not recommended").


I'm pleased to say I did not need to pull out my ipod or book once that day. In the queue, I met a couple of lovely ladies from South Africa and a Belgian man also alone, who turned out to be the father of one of the players in the girls' tournament. An-Sophie Mestach is a sixteen-year-old tipped to be the next Kim Clijsters and she was scheduled to play a doubles match that afternoon. Her father was queueing up to get a ground pass for a friend as he already had his pass.

We were allowed in at 9.30am, but the first match did not start until 11am, which Court 1 didn't start play until 1pm. So I got myself a coffee and program and staked out a good seat at one of the outside courts in anticipation of Todd Woodbridge's doubles match with Jonas Bjorkman against Wayne Ferreira and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Throughout the match, I had to pinch myself a few times to appreciate that I was actually at Wimbledon. Sure, I don't have the girls with me, as is usually the case at the Aus Open, but WIMBLEDON!! Sorry girls. Anyway, it was a fun match - being a Legends Invitation - and went to a tie break with Ferreira and Kafelnikov taking the honours.

After a break of strawberries and cream, I moved on to court 1, where I had my reserved seat, to watch the second half of a men's doubles match that I didn't pay much attention to. Next up was Clijsters in a mixed double against our own Rennae Stubbs. I was torn. I did find myself gunning for the Belgian for most of the match, as her energy was so infectious. I think the break from the game did her a lot of good. Her attitude is so much lighter and she had a smile and bounce for most of the time. She and her partner Xavier Malisse lost in two sets from memory, but it was indeed a great match to watch.

I had made a promise to the Belgian man in the queue that I would watch a bit of his daughter's match and so I made a quick detour to court 5 to see her in action. Of the four girls on court, she was certainly the strongest player. So you never know, we may well be seeing more of her in the future.

There's definitely a special feel about Wimbledon, something holy almost. Walking from court one to five, I walked right past Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, then immediately the Willams sisters' mum (but she's everywhere, right?). Looking up, on a balcony, was Lindsay Davenport preparing for an interview.

It was nearly 7pm when, having considered calling it a day, I heard that Martina Hingis and Anna Kournakova were playing together in a Ladies Invitation match on Centre Court. I had also heard whispers that abandoned seats for Centre Court were going for five quid. So back I went for one more match in Centre Court. I have previously seen both women play in person at the Australian Open. I must say, I much prefer watching Hingis to Kournakova cos, you know, she can serve. It was fun seeing Hingis back in action, and, like Clijsters, more relaxed than her usual self. It wasn't the best match to watch though, as the girls completely overpowered their opponents, whose names I can't even remember. They were both greying if that gives any indication. The match was over in about an hour.


I left the All England Lawn Tennis Club at 8.30pm, 12 hours after arriving. Excited, exhausted and sunburnt, I left the Wimbledon grounds behind me and caught the tube back home, carrying with me a bag of souvenirs. Ok, two bags.

So who's coming with me next year? I promise you'll have the time of your life.

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