A Wimble-day

Friday was an exceedingly excellent day, yesterday was possibly even more so. But before I write about the joy of Sunday July 7th, let’s go back to Friday July 5th…

I’ve been to Wimbledon five times now and each time my experience is different – always special, always a highlight of the year (apart from the year it rained all day) and always unique. It’s a little bit like going to the same festival each year – some of it changes year on year, but otherwise, it’s almost as if time had stood still since you were last there. It exists in that place, in that way, for just a brief period of time every year. It’s its own little world of green lawns, yellow balls and players clad in white.

Wimbledon Awaits

This time was different because I went alone. [What I’ve recently discovered my sister terms ‘doing a Liz’ – mostly in reference to various solo overseas adventures.] I had one slot available to go, and no one was free to join me – something called ‘work’ that most other people do on a Friday. This had its advantages and disadvantages…

  • I had no one to amuse me in the queue. I had a book and a bag packed with breakfast/lunch/tea, but I was trying to conserve phone battery – so needed to keep usage to a minimum. [Be impressed, I unplugged my phone at 7.15am and when I left Wimbledon at 10.30pm, my battery was at 35% – that took a huge amount of self-control!] Of course, I landed right next to a group of teenagers that I’d actively moved away from on the platform of Earl’s Court station – the kind who use “like” in between every word and have absolutely no concept of reality. Within minutes of reaching the queue, I heard one girl bemoan their lack of food (seriously?? I’d packed my bag with military precision!). Later, one exclaimed “Oh! Murray’s playing today!” (No kidding! Why do you think most of the queue was there??) I tried to bury myself in my book, but it was tricky.
  • On the other hand, I got to be an extrovert for a while and ingratiate myself with those around me. The couple ahead of me had lots of Wimbledon questions that I was able to answer. (Ok, so they weren’t necessarily looking for the answers or asking me directly, but they were grateful of my help – in fact, one of them suggested I should work at Wimbledon. Note to self: find out if the AELTC has a chaplain…) Then, while waiting for the gates to open, a stranger accidentally banged my elbow and in the ensuing apology, we discovered we were both on our own – she was impressed with my plan for the morning and ended up joining me on Court No. 3. We bonded over tennis stats and celeb spotting, sharing food and mind each other’s bags during loo breaks. A victory for a confirmed introvert!
  • My introvert nature was fed by several hours solitary semi-final watching during the afternoon. However, I had no one with me to drown out the noise of wannabe tennis commentators making ridiculous statement – “Now Andy’s lost the first set there’s no chance he’s going to win…” As if!!
  • After the working day is done, there’s a second influx of people into Wimbledon and amongst them was a friend unseen for several years. Thanks to Facebook, we found each other on Court No.3 and watched the rest of the semi-final together.

I maintain that you’re never actually alone at Wimbledon. Last time I went – with a friend from school – we discovered when we got home that another friend of ours had been sat just metres away from us. One, you’re among like-minded people who (as a rule) all love tennis. Two, there’s almost certainly someone you know somewhere in the crowd – such is the way the world works.

Obviously, it was a great day in part owing to the Murray victory right at the end of it. My view of which was rather splendid, as by the final set, we had a spot on the hill:

The view from The Hill

But, before the semis had even begun, I’d had a marvellous morning. Yes, I’d seen future British hope, Kyle Edmund, lose his Boys’ semi-final – but during the course of the match had been in a prime spot for tennis celebrity spotting, catching sight of Tracy Austin and Greg Rusedski just a few rows away from us.

Rusedski applies sunscreenThere’s the lovely Greg, applying sunscreen like a pro. Words can barely express just how hot it was there!! 

Following the boys’ semi, a match followed that enabled me to fulfil an ambition held since childhood – which at times it seemed as though I’d never see fulfilled – watching Martina Navratilova play right before my eyes. On our washed-out Wimbledon day in 2004, we’d sat in hope on a court where the first scheduled match was a veterans’ doubles featuring Navratilova & Novotna. Three years ago, we caught a glimpse of the same pair practising. But this year, I saw a whole match, with my 12 year old self’s tennis hero just metres away from me. (In 1992, Agassi introduced me to the wonder of tennis. In 1994, I was fascinated by Navratilova as she approached retirement – though my loyalties shifted to Graf as soon as she retired). And it wasn’t just Martina that appeared before me – her partner Pam Shriver (previously only known via her BBC punditry) was there, plus their opponents – Jana Novotna & Barbara Schett. Legends.

Navratilova/Shriver V Novotna/SchettThe match lasted little more than an hour & Navratilova/Shriver lost, but it was a joy to watch.

Oh, and it was hot. I mean HOT! Possibly the hottest I’ve ever felt in England – I’m not exaggerating. There were moments during Djokovic’s match when I pondered whether or not I could bear to continue, or whether I should just go home. On the courts, there was very little shade. I had my cowgirl hat in tow (the most useful it’s been, this side of the Atlantic), but other spectators had to resort to more interesting methods…

Head coverings The Guide to Queuing was probably the most ineffective head covering I saw – the classiest being the genteel Wimbledon umbrella…

If you have any desire to experience Wimbledon yourself, go! Book a day off next year. Organise an excellent picnic. Acquire a cooler and several cans of Pimm’s/G&T. Buy yourself a decent hat and a gallon of sunscreen (in faith, obviously). And get yourself into that queue. You won’t regret it, I promise.

There are more photos of the day (and subsequent tennis fun) on Flickr.


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