Sunday, July 6, 2014

Breakfast at Wimbledon

Reposted in honor of Petra's second win at Wimbledon. The first was three years ago when we visited and I took this photo of her in one of the earlier rounds.

"I've been queuing all day. I just want to watch some tennis," the young English boy said. We knew just how he was feeling. You can get into the All England Club by buying tickets ahead of time. That is, if you're quite lucky, well-connected or very wealthy. Being none of the above, we had to join the queue.

The first afternoon, day four of the tourney, was fairly simple. We had taken the tube from London that morning and checked into our Bed and Breakfast in Wimbledon Village. From there it was a pleasant fifteen minute stroll to the grounds through a quiet, upscale neighborhood. We went around a bend, looked down and there it all was - one hundred twenty-five years of history, and for Eric, the fulfillment of a dream. Wimbledon was just as majestic and aesthetically pleasing as we had hoped. It was absolutely breathtaking to look down and see the buildings and signs we've seen so many times on television. We were pinching ourselves.

It was another walk, at least ten minutes, to get to Car Park 10 where you can get into the queue for afternoon matches. We got into the queue at 3:15 and had gone through the metal detector, paid twenty pounds a piece and entered the grounds by 4:00 p.m. The weather was iffy, and the biggest names weren't playing, so it worked out well for us. After a late lunch of fish and chips, we were off to the matches which continued until dark - about 9:30. Grounds passes allowed us access to all the matches except for Center Court or Courts One and Two, which left sixteen courts to choose from. Such heaven. Our vantage point for most matches was the front row, where you could actually smell the grass.

We saw some inspiring women's doubles. I pretended they were my partner and me when we're really on. One match featured a tall lefty and a shorter righty on each team.  Trish can be the tall one for now, but next lifetime, I'm going to be the tall one. One of the players we saw, Petra Kvitova beat Venus on Monday. Obviously, she's excellent. Speaking of Venus, what about that ridiculous outfit? Eric said it looked like something she made herself out of dish towels. Awful.

Late in the afternoon we had our first rain delay, which was very impressive. It is so much more involved than what you see on television. An early warning system for rain, broadcast by Wimbledon central control, triggers the alarm. When the number changes, and hits code red, court crews go into action. Even the chair umpire has no say and is wheeled off the court backwards whilst still in her chair. Then the fun part starts. First the court is undressed and the net posts and net are removed. With incredible urgency and frantic strength, the crew pulls the cover across. The team leader shouts orders like a drill sergeant and it's finished in a couple minutes. When the rain stops, it's all reversed.

We watched matches until dark and finished the evening watching John Isner play on the same court on which he had the epic, three day match against Mahut last year. There is a plaque commemorating the event. Sadly, this year, he lost in four against Almagro who has a wonderful game. John has a huge serve, but is so tall that he doesn't move as well side to side as he could. Wearily, we headed back to the B & B. We were planning to join the queue bright and early.  Day five was a gorgeous morning and we were in the queue by seven a.m. My number was 3,992. There were two thousand people who lined up behind us.

The Brits are very orderly, broken to the queue from early childhood. I kept imagining what this would be like in New York - fights breaking out all over the place and lots of swearing. Instead, there were acres of nicely dressed, well-behaved, extremely pleasant people. We were in the grounds before eleven a.m. and treated ourselves to the traditional strawberries and cream which we ate on Henman Hill. Play doesn't start until one on Center Court and noon on the outer matches. The crowds were huge because it was a big day for Great Britain. Laura Robson played Sharapova (whose shrieks we could hear even outside the stadium) and Murray was also in the draw.

We saw Berdych play a wonderful match against East Bay player, Alex Bogomolov, who although scrappy didn't have enough game. We also watched Mirza and her partner, Vesnina, play some fun doubles against Voracova and Voskoboeva, whoever they are. We also really enjoyed seeing Llagostera-Vives and her partner, Parras-Santiago. We were waiting to see my buddy, Ryan Harrison, play doubles with his partner, Travis when there was a rain delay. It was evening and we'd had a long day so we went back to our hotel for a " lie down", as the English would say.          

A while later we walked up the street to get some dinner at an Italian place called "La Strada". The joint was jumping - locals mixed in with players and their entourages. The waiters did an excellent job trying to keep everyone satisfied. In fact, they bumped us from our table when a party of six from the tourney arrived. We didn't mind. They put us right next to Gasquet. That was our Wimbledon - breakfast, lunch AND dinner.      

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I'm there with you. Glad you are having such a great time. Carry on, old chap.