My first visit to Wimbledon was in 2008, back then I lack $$ but had stamina to queue for more than 4 hours to get into the AELTC. It was a nice experience talking to strangers in queue and discussing about their favourite players. I was in awe of the entire atmosphere, beautiful green grass and big crowd at almost every outside court. I could only get ground pass for that day, so decided to walk around getting myself some Pimms with strawberries and cream. I ended up sitting at Henman Hill watching giant screen of Roger’s match against Hewitt. Little did I know that year’s final was one of the greatest of all match, gutted it wasn’t Roger who won but the entire match is out of this world.
Eight years later, I decided to fork out some money to pay for 2 days ‘Wimbledon Experience’ via Keith Prowse. At least I have guaranteed seating at Center Court. The package covers hotel, morning tea and lunch, 1 day travel card with free entrance to Tennis Museum and lastly GBP25 voucher. Can’t really complain since 8 years prior and it’s either you get married to a rich spouse who might have debentures tickets or pray every day that your name get picked from ballot. Honestly both options don’t really work for me. So digging into my piggy bank it is.
I have always loved visiting first 2 days of a GS, everyone’s there and buzz is all over. I arrived at Southfield with Bob and Anita, 2 American friends that I meet at hotel. It seem 3 of us bought our tickets via Keith Prowse. It was their first visit to Wimbledon, naturally super excited coming to SW19. Bob and Anita both are almost in their late 60s. In the beginning I thought they were a couple, later I discovered that they used to be high school sweethearts but went to marry different people somehow reconnected at one of their high school reunions. They correspond via email, I think their love for tennis that made them made this trip to Wimbledon together. They both love to watch Roger play however not a fan of Serena Williams, they find her too arrogant for their liking. Bob used to work with USTA as an official while Anita is a homemaker. I must say almost a love story from a movie.
The moment we arrived at Southfield station, I was pleasantly surprised what they made just for Wimbledon. Definite a nice touch compared to my first visit back in 2008. Then it’s a 20 minutes long walk to AELTC to collect our tickets and lunch at one of the sites. There was a temporary building set up for lunch and tea, quite posh to the fact Keith Prowse actually printed smart casual dress code. Some guests took it literally with ladies and their flowing dress and men in their jackets. Mind you ladies handbags shouldn’t be too big, there is a signage specify measurements and thank god they ban selfie stick.
Jumped for joy learning that Roger was 3rd on CC, which I had ticket. Seating position isn’t too bad, behind umpire but who cares, so long I get to watch Roger. While waiting for 1pm start time at CC, I went on short tour of Tennis Museum. A good history how tennis started and scoring system, also displays of previous Champion’s Wimbledon kit. Yes, as biased Fed-fan, naturally I will only take pic of his kit, rest sorry not bothered to waste disk space in my phone.
At 1pm I took my seat just to watch opening of CC by defending champion ie Djokovic. Nothing to shout about that match, played enough to win. As if he is desperate for tennis fan to love him, goes about his usual heart hug similar fashion at RG. Personally I cringe at this stunt to win affections from British crowd. Then came WTA ladies ie Giorgi vs Muruguza. In typical fashion, it went 3 sets and ever long rallies, I went for my afternoon tea of scones, strawberries with cream and a big cup of Pimms. Queue to buy Pimms are ridiculously long, crowd sure do love them and I do to. Finally almost at 6pm, the main event – King of Grass makes his appearance on CC. Mind you crowd cheering ever so loudly, packed stadium. Roger in his typical fashion, walked to court like a Vogue model on a fashion runway. Clothes are immaculate and clean white, major drool factor for me. Charlene and Myla were briefly present at player’s box, they are so adorable that I want to pinch their cheeks. They wore matching clothes with matching red sweaters, so cute.
My view allows me to enjoy trajectory of both player’s shot, Roger has a lot of spin and variations while Guido tends to be more flat. Both players are striking their ball very well. One thing that I admire most about Roger that day was his serve. It helped him when he was not at his most confident level but got him through. He moves quietly around the court, great footwork and shots selection improved greatly since Halle. I also have the pleasure watching Roger at RG last year against Monfils, the way they play that day doesn’t seem like on clay even with the slides. Roger likes to play fast and quick around the courts, unlike others they take their time with their shots and tons of cross court rallies. He doesn’t waste time between points which I welcome it a lot. I manage to take a nice picture of his serve motion, very relax and nice technique.
The rest of report of his 1st match, you can read it from Jonathan’s post. He does a great job analyzing the match and good commentary. I did not take a lot of photos as one has to focus on Roger, he won’t be playing forever. Every shot needs to be embedded into my mind before he retires. Side note, I don’t understand why the Middleton siblings get privilege to be in Royal box, I guess does help to have Duchess of Cambridge as your sister. They only become regulars after the famous wedding, hmm….
Honestly it’s a bit blur 2nd day for me, no Roger so no buzz or excitement. Again I was on CC, watching Serena to open her campaign as defending champion. Regardless, I love her dress and she actually looks good in it. 2nd match was Murray, Brits crowd adored him as usual. Under Amour gear for Andy looks horrible. His shirt looked off-white and old as if it through many washes. Match-wise, it’s Andy Murray – a lot cross court shots and grunts. A boring match to be honest, so I took a stroll to famous Court 18, epic Mahut/Isner match. Then to Henman Hill do some crowd watching, taking a scenic route to practice court. Unlike USO app, they do broadcast who will be practice court each day. Sadly I can’t find such info in Wimbledon app. It would be nice if I get my hands on players practice session. I wonder how Scarlett Li does it. I need to get some tips from her. I got back to CC just in time to watch Murray win his first match. Didn’t stay back for Kutzy vs Woz match as it started to rain, I decide to visit overcrowded Wimbledon shop get myself famous green purple players’ towel. Then leave to meet up a friend for dinner.
I would say Wimbledon is my favourite GS venue not because of its tradition but how well they maintain the place. There are a lot nice gardens and each court include Ct1 and CC are well kept. With 2nd roof by 2019, it’s going to get even better. My only wish is for them to make grass a faster surface, not that I don’t like rallies but true grass tennis should not have extended rallies. Only thing that baffles me at SW19 are Service Men/Women taking care of managing crowd entry to their respective seats. Is it by design to use Service person from Navy, Airforce etc, hope Jonathan can help answer this question.
Australian Open is 2nd best with their facilities and easy access from Melbourne CBD. USO and RG – they could have done a better job but at least one is trying to improve. It’s a pity they rank 3/4 in my books, I guess each GS is unique to their respective culture and tradition that they have.
Would I visit Wimbledon again next year? Yes I would visit again. The question is, would Roger will be still be playing at SW19 in 2017, I really hope so. Otherwise I would be crying buckets.