Image: Wikimedia Commons / Brian Minkoff-London Pixels
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Brian Minkoff-London Pixels

Reliving the magic of Wimbledon and the All England Club

When I heard the news that Wimbledon 2020 was cancelled, I was devastated. Last Summer I braved the infamous queue outside the All England Club in SW19, sitting on the grass in a snaking queue for five hours and 30-degree heat on day six of The Championships. I gripped the queue card tightly when I arrived at 8am, knowing I was not going to be moving for a while. I had my picnic at hand and eagerly awaited my fate to see if a Grounds Pass was available for me.

My queue card number was well over 10,000 and I was extremely uncertain as to whether I would get in at all. I had travelled to South London and woke up at 5am for the occasion. After 1pm, when the majority of the matches on Centre Court and Court No.1 had begun, more queuers were allowed into the grounds.

The grounds of the All England Club were absolutely amazing and I could not believe I had finally made it to Wimbledon. As soon as you enter the grounds, the courts surround you, with tennis being played everywhere you looked and crowds of spectators packing every single seat of the eighteen courts used during The Championships.

The first match I saw took place on Court 16, one of the smallest courts in terms of spectator capacity used in The Championships. It was a Gentlemen’s Doubles match where Austria’s Oliver Marach and Jürgen Melzer were defeated by Roman Jebavý and Philipp Oswald in the second round by three sets to one.

The very serious ball boys and ball girls were right in front of me and the collection and delivery of tennis balls was just like clockwork, with a change of tennis balls every seven and nine games alternately.

I even got a sneak peek of Serena Williams in the flesh, the greatest female tennis player of all time

Even the smaller courts had an atmosphere that allowed spectators to be so engaged in matches, with heads typically moving from left to right. After the first match of the day, I sat on Henman Hill, eating overpriced strawberries and cream and watched Serena Williams beat Julia Görges 6-3, 6-4 on the big screen. I even got a sneak peek of Serena Williams in the flesh, as I watched from outside the gangways of Court No. 1. She really is the greatest female player, someone who I’m always in awe of when I watch play.

Serena Williams was not the only star I caught sight of. The legendary Roger Federer walked past and signed autographs at the Aorangi Pavilion. Despite Federer’s best efforts, on the final Sunday, Novak Djokovic sealed another victory against him in a five-set match.

Wimbledon 2019 also saw the rise of Cori Gauff, nicknamed Coco. The youngest player to reach the main Wimbledon draw at just fifteen years old, Coco defeated Venus Williams in straight sets in the first round of the tournament.

Another match I saw took place on Court No. 3, which was also a Gentlemen’s Doubles match between the USA’s Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan and Marcelo Arévalo and Miguel Ángel Reyes-Varela. The Bryans won the match three sets to one.

The smaller courts allowed me to enjoy the tennis I was watching and truly appreciate the ability and technique of the professional players

Despite the sun burning my skin and tiredness hitting, I endured watching a final match on Court 12, between the number one seeds in the Ladies Doubles’ rankings Tímea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic and the USA’s Jennifer Brady and Alison Riske. The number one seeds went on to win in straight sets, and got to the semi-final of The Championships.

I may not have had the chance to see huge stars play tennis on the major courts of the tournament, but the smaller courts allowed me to enjoy the tennis I was watching and truly appreciate the ability and technique of the professional players.

Wimbledon is a tournament I have watched on television year-after-year and I could not believe I got to experience such a prestigious international tournament first hand. Despite not being a tennis expert myself, the experience was one I will never forget. I hope to attend the next Championships and make another trip to SW19.


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