Wimbledon was one of top events on my list of things to do while in London, so I knew I had to make it there this year. As I have probably said before, attending new sporting events is one of my favorite things to do. The only tennis match I had ever seen was Freeport, so I knew this would be quite the experience.
On Monday, I got work cleared for Tuesday so I was able to attend the full day event. After work on Monday, I went home, ate, and got my stuff packed to camp out at Wimbledon Park. Wimbledon is one of the very few events in the world where you can actually get tickets the the premier courts the day of the event, but you have to queue overnight. This is a tradition for people who want to see Wimbledon every year since buying tickets in advance is very difficult. I packed my book bag with my sheet from my bed, snacks, contacts, toothbrush, camera, umbrella, and phone and got on the tube. I got to Wimbledon Park at about 8:30 p.m. On my way there, I was having doubts about whether this was the best idea, since I knew I could probably line up at 5 a.m. the next day and get general tickets to just watch all the side courts. But I wanted to see some of the better players and decided to keep going on my way. I got off the tube station and started walking towards Wimbledon Park, having no idea where exactly the queue started or how many people would be there.
When I got there, there were already hundreds of people in line. Tents were lined up down the park. I walked over to where the stewards were and asked where I need to go. They pointed to the end of the queue and gave me my queue card. I was number 422 there and they assured me that I could get tickets to any court I wanted. I put down my blanket and sat down to watch the competitive rugby being played in the park. I knew this would be worth the wait.
A little bit later a family came and set up their campsite for the night. There was a dad, his brother, 4 boys, and 2 girls, and all of the kids were between the ages of 16 and 20. I began talking to Mike, the 16 year old and a friend of the family who he came with. He told me they were all from Bristol, which is funny since I had just gotten back from Bristol the night before. A little while later, they asked if I would like to join them to play some soccer. Of course I accepted, even though I am hesitant with my soccer skills. They were much better than me, but I still managed a few goals. I have no control kicking the ball compared to them, so it was interesting. And I just happened to put a header right into our own goal. But Mike had given me a little nudge in the back to get me out of position. After this, they set up all of their air mattresses while I sat on my sheet. We stayed up until about 11:30 and then went to bed.
Just a tip, make sure you bring plenty of blankets when you sleep outside. I had a sweatshirt and jeans, and woke up at 3 a.m. shivering. My sheet was wet from the dew and my body was so cold. It was already getting light out too. I managed to get back to sleep until about 5:15, and woke up to see that there was a new line of people lined up just outside of the tents. These people starting lining up after 3 a.m. to try to get a decent ticket into the grounds.
We walked over to grab a cup of tea and started to pack up everything. Obviously, my packing was quick since I just shoved my sheet in my bag. The line started moving and we walked around Wimbledon park and through the golf course and closer to the grounds. We started moving at 6 a.m., and we were constantly moving and sitting until about 9:30. We saw in the paper the lineups for the show courts: Centre Court had Venus Williams, Nadal, and Andy Murray, while Court No. 1 had Sharapova, Roddick, and Jankovic. I decided on Court No. 1 since I had wanted to see Sharapova and Roddick for sure. I said goodbye to the family since they were going to Centre Court and they were to be in a different line.
I stood in line a bit longer, going through security, and then lining up to actually puchase the ticket. I wasn’t feeling the best after a bad night of sleep and the sun was actually somewhat hot for once. But I sat down and waited for the gates to open. I got the chills as I walked into the gate and saw the order of play board showing who all was going to be there today. I had made it to Wimbledon and would be seeing some of the best tennis players in the world.
I saw that Tommy Haas was playing first and decided to go check that match out. I didn’t know we would be this close at the side courts. The fans on the sides were literally 20 feet from the outside lines on the court. So many people were there to see Haas that it was hard to see, so I continued on to watch some of the less popular matches.
At 1 p.m, the matches were to start on Court No. 1, so I grabbed a burger and fries and went to catch my seat. To my surprise, the usher pointed me all the way down to the bottom and only 3 rows up. I was actually sitting 3 rows up, courtside at one of the best tennis tournaments of all time. I watched some of the first match featuring Gasquet but was literally falling asleep because of the lack of sleep the night before. So I went out and laid down on Henman Hill, a nice grassy area with a big screen showing the Centre Court match. I took about a 20 minute nap on the hill since I wanted to be awake to see Sharapova play the next match. After the nap, I headed back to my seat. It was great seeing Sharapova so close. I’ve probably watched her more on TV than anyone else in the last few years. She’s only about 20 and one of the top players in the world from Russia. She played a great match and beat her opponent in 2 straight sets. She is known for her grunts and many fist pumps, and it was great to see that close.
Andy Roddick was up next, one of America’s top players. His serve was unbelievable, usually around 130 mph and even got up to 141 mph. I’m not sure how Schwank could return most of those since it was hard to follow just watching. Roddick was funny to watch because he’s very vocal. He argued a couple times with the umpire about different calls. One time the umpire called game after Roddick’s point, but then Schwank challenged the call. Roddick was upset because the umpire had already said that Roddick had won that particular game. Roddick screamed “If you calling the game isn’t official, then what is?!” Another time, Roddick didn’t think one was out so he asked the line judge which way it was out. When the line judge didn’t respond Roddick came back with “So when you don’t answer, does that mean you didn’t see it?!” Roddick won in three straight sets, but Schwank challenged him often. Schwank also had a temper and often cursed at himself in Spanish. Schwank and Roddick both had different times of tossing the racket.
I was surprised how laid back the crowd was. The crowd always clapped after a nice point, and no one seemed to really care who won as long as there was good tennis being played. I was surprised how the crowd laughed occasionally at little dumb things that may happen like the ball boy fumbling a ball or the ball going into the crowd. Seemed like the whole crowd would laugh at the same little things like that. It was amazing being as close as I was since I could hear Roddick breathing hard during long points and I could even hear Sharapova say “sorry” after she let the toss go on her serve and didn’t hit it.
During the Roddick match, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me didn’t have an accent. I asked where he was from and he said he’s from LA but he just graduated from Georgetown. He knew more about tennis than I did so that was nice to learn some different strategies.
After Roddick, I went and walked around and found where James Blake was playing, another top American player. He was playing at Court No. 2 and I could get in but just standing room only. I watched him for a few games but then headed back to my seat at Court No. 1 to watch Jankovic, the number 2 seeded female from Serbia. She won her match in two straight sets also. During this match I went and bought the traditional strawberries and cream. Wimbledon is known for its strawberries and cream, so I had to make sure I had it while I was there. I next went to the order of play board because I saw before that Venus and Serena Williams were going to be playing doubles on Court 3. I was disappointed to see that they changed it to Centre Court and I wouldn’t be able to see that match at all. It was already 8 p.m. by now and I was exhausted from lack of sleep and being in the sun all day, so I headed back home.
All in all, Wimbledon was another great experience that I’m glad I had the opportunity to take while I am here. However, next time I would bring more bedding to sleep on the night before. Sleeping on a sheet in the middle of a park with a shirt as a pillow just didn’t do it for me. Needless to say, I enjoy my cozy bed last night and got ready for another day of work.
I’ll post some pictures later tonight since I can’t get to my pictures right now. 10 of us Iowa students reserved a table at a German pub tonight to watch the semifinal soccer game between Germany and Turkey. I am sure it’ll be crazy in there and should be a good time. Let’s just hope that Germany wins.