For the past two weeks, the 2017 Wimbledon Championships have been underway, and they’ve provided lots of ups and downs, highlights and disappointments, the usual Grand Slam tournament soap opera. This year was different for me, though, because I was there on day one. I was one of those attendees in the grounds of the All-England Club. I never really thought I’d get to Wimbledon in person. It was a vague desire, but the complexity of getting tickets alongside the fact that coverage at home only ever gets more comprehensive and engaging meant I thought I’d be an armchair fan for the foreseeable future.
However, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for Court 1, Day 1, (thanks Helen!) and thus I was there to see the opening matches kick off. I could talk you step by step through my day, how I saw Kim Clijsters on the press balcony, how I saw James Ward taking a picture with a fan whilst simultaneously continuing his conversation with his friend, how I marvelled at Venus Williams from a seat with an incredible view, how I opted not to indulge in the over-priced strawberries.
I could do all that but why bother? You know how cool Wimbledon is.
Instead, here are five things I noticed that you probably don’t get in your average Wimbo review.
- The gate staff were exceptionally vigilant.
Everyone I encountered that day that was helping out, either as volunteer, or paid staff, was supremely kind and courteous, helpful, knowledgable. It left me with a really good impression of the organisation of the event. The gate staff were checking bags, naturally, and it was a thorough but very polite search. I thought it interesting that they were on high alert for guerrilla marketing – on the walk up to the grounds, some had been handed freebie bags, these were taken off them at the gate so as not to provide excessive marketing to the companies behind it. Intriguing.
- The Aorangi hill is really uncomfortable.
I’m sure there are a few prime spots, on the curve of the ridge with the screen straight ahead, but I perched on a steep incline to enjoy a snack and gained nothing but a bad back and a cricked neck. The people that sit there in the rain, or stick out five set thrillers are to be applauded indeed.
- The difference in power and speed that is so much clearer in reality than on TV.
I experienced this briefly when I was at Eastbourne a few years ago, but it was never more obvious than at Wimbledon. Obviously, these tennis players are tremendously fit and hitting the balls very hard, but on TV that can almost seem glossy and less impressive. In reality, you can see the effort going into every single point, and the reactions are so much more intense when you’re looking directly at someone rather than through a TV screen. That being said, I did miss the commentary, the different angles, and the reminders of break point/set point/match point.
- The ball boys and girls are incredibly earnest.
I’ve always loved the ball kids at Wimbledon, they’re very good at their work and you can see the hours of training that have gone into making the fortnight’s games run smoothly. Up close and personal, you can see how much it means to them. Their arms are ramrod straight, they dash this way and that and never leave a stray ball behind. Straight backs, barely blinking, ever-ready, it’s really a proud sight to see. As a quick aside – has anyone seen any ball girls doing the kneel-at-the-net role? Is that boys only?
- I know this is silly, but it’s really annoying that Centre Court is in the middle.
You just have to walk around it to get anywhere, and it’s huge.
I found the Wimbledon experience a brilliant one, slightly overwhelming in places, but for the most part a fantastic day out. I can’t say I feel it justifies queuing from 5am in the morning in the hopes of getting a ticket but it’s certainly worth a punt on the ballot. I saw some great players, excellent matches, and wore myself out walking round and round the grounds. It only rained for a brief moment, the covers only came on for a few minutes, and the rest of the day was gorgeous – as it has been for the most of the two weeks.
Thanks Wimbledon 2017, for a fab day, an exciting tournament, and another item ticked off the bucket list.