For Lyle’s birthday treat this year, he and I spent a day at what we consider to be the greatest tennis tournament in the world – The Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
You probably know it better as Wimbledon.
We hadn’t planned to visit Wimbledon this year, because we were hoping to go to the World Tour Finals at the O2 again. But when Lyle was lucky enough to be offered a pair of Centre Court tickets through the LTA members’ ballot, he asked to have the tickets as a birthday present. Of course, I was more than happy to accompany him!
Normally when we visit a tournament in London, I drive there and back in one day, but this time we spent the night in a hotel on the outskirts of London. This meant that we could get up at a more decent time, and we still arrived at the club just as the gates were being opened.
We spent a while wandering around the grounds, taking in the very special atmosphere that Wimbledon has. For a tennis mad boy like Lyle, this really is hallowed ground – every tennis player dreams of playing there one day.
Play on Centre Court doesn’t usually start until 1pm, so we had time to watch a bit of play on the outside courts. These courts have a few seats courtside, or you can stand and watch from the walkways. We found a bench right by the baseline on Court 6, which was due to have a mens’ doubles match on first. This is one of the things I love most about visiting Wimbledon, the fact that you can get right up close to the action on the outside courts, which really lets you see how hard and fast the balls are being hit.
In fact, Lyle got a very good look at one of Dominic Thiem’s serves, as the ball went flying straight past his ear!
We grabbed a quick lunch, and of course a bowl of strawberries and cream, before heading over to Centre Court. No matter how many times I visit Wimbledon, I don’t think I will ever tire of the atmosphere on Centre Court. The buzz of conversation before play begins, the applause when the players make their entrance, the smartly dressed lines judges and of course the traditional Wimbledon whites.
Second Monday at Wimbledon always has a packed schedule and we were lucky enough to see some top level players – Genie Bouchard v Alize Cornet, Andy Murray v Kevin Anderson, and Novak Djokovic v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Unfortunately the mens’ matches were both very one-sided, which was a bit of a disappointment as we had hoped to see some long five-setters with lots of twists and turns. Genie Bouchard, however, gave us a master class in how to grit your teeth and grind out a win when you are determined not to lose!
And although Lyle and I are not fans of Andy Murray, we could not help but be swept up in the wave of emotion when he won against Kevin Anderson – the sound of the cheers and applause amplified by the Centre Court roof, closed because of rain.
Actually, seeing the roof close added an extra element to our day out, as it wasn’t even completed last time we visited. It certainly changes the atmosphereas well as the tennis, and I think it is fantastic. I even wonder whether they should consider closing the roof and adding an extra match to the schedule each day, but I guess that would change it from an outdoors tournament. I’d have happily done without the rain, but at least we were dry and comfortable under the roof. My heart went out to all the people with ground passes, who had their day washed out by the weather.
Although we had hoped for a late finish, Lyle and I were back in the car just after 9pm, ready to fight our way through the London traffic. Not an experience I would be looking to repeat any time soon, I was incredibly nervous until we were back on the motorway.
But a day at Wimbledon is such an immense treat that it was worth all the stress of the drive. The ballot system means that we don’t know when we’ll get to go back but whenever it is, I know that we’ll have a wonderful time again.