With a trip to Brighton already on the cards, a need to add another sport to my Life List endeavour, and a timely reminder from the fabulous Lou, I found myself clutching tickets to the penultimate day of the Aegon International competition in Eastbourne. I made a slight error in entering the Devonshire Park grounds round the back, rather than the main entrance, which means when I was later in search of the ticket booths, I was too late to snap up any Centre Court tickets.
That was the only downside to the day, and I’ll start with that now to get it out the way. With all the cheers and clapping and noises coming from Centre Court, and the fact that all the semi-final matches for the singles competition were taking place there, I think I missed out.
I had tickets for Court 1, and the action there didn’t start until 1pm, so I spent the first portion of the day touring the outer courts and seeing what was going on there. I got caught up in a match that was part of the Maureen Connelly Challenge Trophy, featuring some junior girls - GBR versus USA. The first match I saw featured Brit Katy Dunne against Taylor Townsend.
It was really interesting seeing the sport played live compared to watching it on TV. This particular match being on a smaller outside court, the first thing I realised was you can’t blink because there are no replays. When you watch on TV, the players make it look effortless, swooshing about the court this way and that and crafting together a great game to win the point.
In real life, you can see the effort that is being put in - particularly these juniors when just trying to return a serve! You can see up close how much every point means to the player, even those that don’t really… well, matter is the wrong word, but you know, losing a point returning serve, that’s quite normal. There was a moment where one of Katy’s shots went long and she swore really loudly. It was surprising, because we’re mostly shielded from that via the medium of TV.
Anyway, Katy won that match, and it was about time for the action on Court 1 to begin, so I made my way to my seat. It was a ladies’ doubles match, and doubles isn’t really my thing but it was still more interesting for seeing it played live. The wind was causing havoc with the serves, and a plastic bag blew on court at one point, but otherwise the match was without incident.
A few things I thought were interesting in this tournament - the doubles partners could request their coach to come jogging out on court and chat to them. There was also a “deciding point - receiver’s choice” thing instead of deuce that I didn’t quite understand. When the pair took one set each, they went straight to a ten-point tiebreak. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have played a third set, but I wasn’t too bothered. The people behind me were very annoyed though, complaining vehemently through the entire tiebreak.
I was quite glad when the doubles was over though. There’s far too much pausing between points to discuss tactics.
There was an hour to kill before the mens’ doubles final so I went back out to peruse the outer courts and watched another Maureen Connelly match. This time, the GBR girl was being coached by Judy Murray - who I was ashamed to admit:
Overall, it was a good day out, but I think I made all the rookie errors under the sun. (Actually, I made an error with the sun too. Planned for cold and rain and boredom. Did not plan for sunshine, and ended up with a burnt nose.) I abandoned my good seat by the first Maureen Connelly match to go in search of Centre Court tickets, found they were sold out and returned to find the match suddenly very popular and all the good seats taken. I should have thought about the order of play a bit more carefully, I hadn’t realised this was so near the end of the tournament so that all the best matches would be on Centre rather than any other courts.
I definitely want to go again, the nature of the tournament is that there are famous enough people there, without there being the epic crowds and pressure that comes from Wimbledon. It’s right up my street! I really enjoyed my day, but next year I will have to plan things better - perhaps even try a couple of days to get the most out of it. I also need to rethink the camera situation. I was more than cautious about running out of battery on my iPhone, and whilst I had the Lumix, tennis appears to be more of a “big zoom lens” kind of sport. Once you’ve got the atmosphere, you need the close-ups otherwise all the pictures end up looking very similar.
I have to go to some more tennis anyway, there’s an outstanding “see a top ten player” item on the Life List still to complete.