I have been going to Wimbledon for more years than I can remember. I’ve not made every year since I first went, but it would be more years going than not. I know the place well and have seen some incredible changes over the years as expectations from visitors have risen. I remember a time when the food courts were white marquees on a muddy patch of land. Those days are long gone!
However whenever I take a friend along (ballot tickets are normally in pairs) I enjoy explaining how the place has changed over the years and specific things that have been done to try to keep some of the recognised character and features from years previous. Additionally I have collated a number of nice personal stories that I can relay while walking around the outside courts.
Normally I will get to go through either a tennis club ballot or the public ballot. This year I was lucky in the public ballot. Very lucky. In all the years I’ve been doing the public ballot I have never had tickets to the final weekend. Whenever I’ve been on those days it has been through a tennis club. I was astonished this year when I opened the SAE to find that I had an allocation for the last day and on centre court. My initial reaction on seeing just the date was that it would be No1 court and the junior matches. Obviously I was glad I gave it a closer inspection. I doubt very much that I will get such tickets through the ballot again. Even more amazing was that they were tickets for the second row. (There was a downside I that the umpires chair blocked out a good portion of one end of the court, but it was still the closer by several sections let alone rows, that I had been to the court itself).
Being so close to the court really brought home just how hard the ball is hit on the ground strokes. Federer has always had a backhand that I have felt looks remarkably graceful in its execution. What doesn’t come across on the television is that despite it looking so elegant, it is still being hit incredibly hard. A lesson if ever that was one that it is timing that makes a shot rather than anything else.
Being so close also meant that I was able to notice and pick up on things that, despite over 20 years of attendance, I had never noticed before. Often the small things that happen on the edges of the game, such as the umpires interactions with the players off mic that help with smooth flow of the game, anticipating what may be about to happen.
The event brings out a host of ‘famous’ faces in terms of celebrity. I was able so spot and recognise some, but not being a big fan of celebrity culture I probably missed out on a few. I was able to recognise Samuel L Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, William Hurt, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hoy, David and Victoria Beckham and of course Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. Some, I am aware actually have a keen interest in tennis and had been more or less present all week. Others, well I don’t know them well enough! Needless to say it kept the press photographers nice and busy between points and games.
As anyone who watched the actual final on the television, they will know what a wonderful battle it was and to get five sets of great back and forth tennis made for a wonderful experience. For me it will rate up there with the semi-final I managed to get to see a number of years ago that featured John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.
I only hope that I am lucky again next year, but won’t be expecting to be as lucky as I was this year.