It pays to be persistent…

I’m generally a pretty persistent person. When I come up with an idea or a plan, I will intentionally go about my business until I’ve achieved it. I like to think of this as one of my better character traits.

Every so often, this persistence really pays off. And I mean REALLY…

Long-term readers/Twitter followers/Facebook friends will be well-aware of my passion for Wimbledon. [Incidentally, I finally caved to downloading TimeHop last week and predictably, there hasn’t yet been a day that hasn’t mentioned the tournament.] This year, owing to some unforeseen free time during the tournament, I was determined to make the most of it – so last week, a plan was hatched with a couple of friends to pay a visit on the first Friday. However, the MET Office app declared much heavy rain and thunderstorms for that day when checked the night before, so we called it off. Not a drop of rain fell on SW19 that Friday. Sod’s Law.

In the queue The finest queue in all of England. 

We rescheduled for Monday, when one of the friends landed a ticket. The plan was that I’d queue and then meet her inside (we had some celebratory Pimm’s drinking to do) – which was fine by me, as I usually enjoy the queueing element of the experience. (Honestly, it has to be done!) This time though, I made a couple of errors (missed the first tube, got the wrong station – don’t ask!) and combined with it being the earliest in the tournament I’ve attended, the queue was VERY long. Every other time, I’d purchased my ticket before the gates opened at 10.30. This time it was gone midday before I’d even got to the turnstiles. Add to the mix the frustrating families queuing near me, and it wasn’t as joyous as in previous years – although thankfully, it was super hot and I had an excellent book.

However, I managed less than an hour of sunny tennis watching because then, irony of ironies given Friday’s debacle, the heavens opened and I found myself on The Hill [I cannot call it the mount/mound] in what the MET Office app described as a ‘light shower’ but instead felt like a mini monsoon. I had been sitting on a pac-a-mac and had used my newer waterproof as some form of water resistant blanket. At one point I mused that there ought to be a waterproof equivalent of the Slanket, so I could cocoon myself in waterproof-ness, avoiding the puddles that were collecting in the folds of my mat. Then I realised that there was, in the form of the much older poncho, and felt like a twit.

Wet souls on the hillI was very envious of the souls who had acquired the picnic benches! 

Anyway, within half an hour the storm had passed. I’d acquired both a cup of tea (purchased from a surprisingly short queue) and my Wimbledon companion, and we set off to see some live tennis while the sun shone. One British victory later (in the 1st round of the Girls’ Singles) and it was time to climb the hill for Murray’s fourth round match with the until now unknown South African, Anderson. All went well – Murray took the lead and was playing well – until the rain came down again.

Boulter beats HomUnseeded Brit Boulter beats the Girls 13th seed Hom. (It’s great what you happen to witness while taking a stroll around the grounds.)

A lesser mortal might have departed for warmer climes at this point. Or, at the very least, a pub showing the match on a big screen, rather than a patch of grass becoming soggier by the minute. But, after another stop for tea during the break to bring the roof over Centre Court, we returned to the hill (standing on steps rather than grass) and stood it out for the final set. The hill is THE place to watch a Murray victory (if you can’t get into the court itself) and we Brits stood firm. Clad in cagools, bearing umbrellas, and silently judging fashionistas tip-toeing over the mud in their fancy shoes, we made the best of a damp situation. I was not alone in rejoicing that Murray wrapped things up in 3 sets. [Things were so bad that I don’t even have a photo of this!]

Departing after Murray’s victory at nearly 7pm would have been quite acceptable, but I had a plan that had been brewing ever since I missed out on a Centre Court ticket for the final set of Murray’s 2013 semi-final. [There was a pause to put the roof over, during which we queued for returns – we were asked if any of us were ‘on our own’, had we gone for the single tickets, we’d have got in – and we only realised this just too late!] This year, I was determined to get onto Centre, so as Murray’s fans departed, I sought out the end of the Centre Court returns queue…

Wimbledon is special, there’s no underestimating that. Each of my trips there have been special in their own way, and I have great memories. [2002 – No1 Court tickets in the queue; 2003 – Ladies’ QF’s on No1; 2004 – rain stopped all play; 2013 – immense sun & Murray’s 2nd victorious semi…] But, in five trips (this was number 6) there had been something missing – a seat on that hallowed court that I’d watched on TV countless times. In 2012, I’d hoped for Olympic tickets there, but no. I was never going to be the kind of person to queue for them (you have to be a hard-core camper) and I’ve never joined the ballot in the hoping of getting some myself. But Centre? That was always going to be the icing on the cake.

…when I arrived at the queue, I was warned that there was ‘several hours wait’. I decided that this was rubbish. I’ve been to Wimbledon (and watched enough of it on TV) to know the following:

  • Murray matches are the big draw. When his game ended so late in the day, a lot of people will have left.
  • Many people coming to Wimbledon travel a long way. They’ll have booked tickets or have long journeys to get home that evening. On a ‘normal’ day, one might expect matches to be done by 7.30pm (it’s why Today at Wimbledon’s scheduled for 8pm).
  • Play had just re-started on the other courts, so other wet tennis fans would try their chances there, rather than the queue.

Women's DoublesThe returns queue overlooked this court, so at least we got to watch tennis while we waited. 

I was so confident that I wouldn’t have a long wait (despite approximately 400 people ahead of me) that I shared these opinions with a British guy behind me, who was trying to persuade his Mum that queuing was a good idea. (We did a lot of chatting, we were highly un-British.) For half an hour the queue moved at a steady pace and my theories were proved correct. When I was still around 70 people away from the front, a steward came along calling out to those on their own. It was my moment to redeem last year’s fool-hardiness. “I’m on my own!” I cried, and eagerly handed over my £10 in exchange for a ticket. One high-five from the lovely British guy later, and I was jogging through the club down to Centre Court. Mission accomplished. 

[At this point, I’d like to give a massive shout-out for Wimbledon’s fabulous returns system. This year it celebrates its 60th anniversary, raising £1.75million since 1954. When leaving the grounds, show court ticket holders are invited to have their tickets scanned, and the info is then relayed to the returns office by the hill who resell them for £10 a ticket. It’s yet another reason why I believe the Championships to be amongst the most egalitarian in the sporting world.]

Centre Court

Centre Court. Flipping Centre Court!! And what a seat! It took watching the match back on iPlayer later (because the parents insist that they spotted me, but I couldn’t find evidence of this) to realise that I was above the scoreboard on the Royal Box side of the court. The view was fabulous. The seat was comfy and dry. Thanks to the roof, it was warm and rather humid. It was weird to watch a match on grass with all the echoes of being indoors – I can see why some players might not like it, but we must be thankful for the roof ultimately!

I may have only got 2 sets of Djokovic V Tsonga, but it was an awesome match (Tsonga’s straight sets defeat did not reflect the quality of his playing). My insane grin of joy at being on tennis’ hallowed court did not escape me for the entire 90 minutes. And, most importantly, I am now a bona fide British tennis fan because I have slow-clapped a line call challenge on Centre Court.

The verdant green of SW19Djokovic & Tsonga on the verdant green of SW19.

In case you’re wondering, I do now have a new Wimbledon ambition (well, several). I’d love a full day on Centre – perhaps complete with a hospitality package?!? Then there’s a final, or finals. With a Brit winning? Am I pushing it? A girl can dream…

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