Monday, June 23

Wimbledon Click for more info

Like all the other things I've yet to do in London, a visit to Wimbledon was always left on the back burner due to its availability the year after. It wasn't going anywhere so why should I rush? But this year was different in that a) I don't have a boss or holiday form to fill out in order to go and b) a friend who I hadn't seen for ages asked if I wanted to go with him to SW19.

A major part of the Wimbledon experience is the queuing for tickets and we had arranged to meet at Southfields at a clearly unreasonable 6:30am. I was late and got there for 7:15am, something still pretty crazy considering how the first match on any outfield court wouldn't have started till 12pm. This was a bigger queue than the one for the Alhambra!

Still, time did fly quite quickly (not least since I took a nap as well as made friends with some fellow people in the queue) and I was in the All England Lawn Tennis Club by around 10:30am. We all bought the most basic ticket, one which allowed us access to every match in the whole day barring those in the Centre and No. 1 Courts. Not bad for 20 quid, even if the queue was major. Having said that it turned out that we didn't have to come that early, although obviously the further into the queue you are the less you have to wait in it once it starts moving.

I met the rest of the group in the free standing area of Court No. 2 where we waited another couple of hours for the first match to be played there, Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)[10] vs Steve Darcis (BEL). After a gruelling two hours forty minutes, Darcis was finally put down in the forth set, gallant yet annoying for the majority of the audience (and most of us were, perhaps unfairly, muttering under our breath on each point he lengthened the game by!). Standing for that amount of time in the hot sun wasn't pleasant, especially after the mammoth queue that same morning and the fact that we had killed a good part of the afternoon with it made it all the more frustrating.

After lunch (including strawberries but with no cream) and prayer on the hill (the one with the big telly) we decided to take a more free approach to picking what matches to watch, and so we wandered around the courts looking for excitement. Just to stem my curiosity I just had to watch a women's match close up - unlike with Court No. 2 we were allowed to sit right up to the net with the other outfield courts.

At what felt like a very late 4:45pm we stumbled across Court No. 3 where Anna Chakvetadze (RUS)[8] was playing Stephanie Dubois (CAN). Dubois was leading in the second set after losing the first - a perfect set up for a good match. I enjoyed my second match much more than the first - we were seated (which helped massively), we had an awesome first-hand view of the baseline and players and last but (perhaps obviously) not least the players were much better looking than the guys in Court No. 2.

I actually got into the match and quickly swore my allegiance to the beautiful Dubois, possibly becoming that annoying guy in the audience who shouts the first name of their chosen goddess before each point. Still, I'm sure that I didn't put her off too much - she may have even appreciated the support.

Despite her leading the final set 3-5 at one point, she eventually, and quite disappointingly for me, lost it 8-6. Despite the outcome I had thoroughly enjoyed the match and at last understood the appeal of Wimbledon.

We hung around the same court for the next match, Mario Ancic (CRO) vs Michael Llodra (FRA)[32]. I lasted a whole set before getting bored, and I began to suspect that perhaps the men's game just wasn't for me. I felt that my reasons were more legitimate than those of a general ogler - it just seemed to be a bunch of aces, double-faults failed returns with the guys I saw, whereas the women at least had some excellent rallies and drama.

Leaving Court No. 3, we once again took a peek at the other matches being played and took some time to check out the rest of the facilities on offer. After a while we decided to return to the tennis and headed back to Court No. 2 only to see Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) retire in his match against David Ferrer (ESP)[5].

Going back to what I knew I'd enjoy, I decided to watch a match being played on the adjoining Court No. 6 where Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) beat Zi Yan (CHN) in straight sets, another match that was enjoyable to watch. Still it was good that it was short lived since it allowed us to catch one more match before heading off home.

Our final destination was Court No. 19 where Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) was playing Camille Pin (FRA). Despite there being no seeded players in this match it was again good to watch and full of emotion (sometimes vocalised!) as the direction of play kept swinging between the players. Strycova managed to beat Pin just as the sun was going down, and I was glad we got to see it through.

All in all my day out to Wimbledon was pretty awesome. I watched some good tennis, was drenched in atmosphere and had some good clean fun. My biggest surprise was at how accessible the whole experience was, from the queuing and low cost of entry, to how friendly all the other attendees were and even the little things like the price of food and the availability of free water all pointed to the fact that the organisers wanted us to enjoy the tennis rather than make as much money as they could.

Well worth the day out, and if you've yet to experience Wimbledon I urgently suggest that you make the effort to go. I don't think you'll regret it. Heck, I may even make it a yearly tradition to go on each time on Day One myself!

Pictures from my day out can be found here.