Joining the All England Club

On Friday, I had the distinct pleasure (sarcasm) of waking up at the crack of 3:50 a.m. to spend the rest of the day rejoicing in all things tennis at Wimbledon (not sarcasm).

Even though the only exposure I’ve had to tennis is being the sister of a tennis player/enthusiast, I had never really sat through an entire match knowing what was going on. I visited Ben’s matches every now and then when he played in high school.  Sometimes I would be awake with him at odd hours of the morning catching whatever grand slam was going on in another corner of the world at that time. I could name drop Federer, Nadal, Murray, Sharapova and the Williams sisters, and in general get the idea that they are tennis stars and people love them. I even know a bit about Agassi, McEnroe and Billie Jean King, if only for their legendary hair. Oh yeah, and they were tennis people, too.

But apart from my brother’s world of tennis, I’ve never been one to get into the match all too much. Not that I haven’t wanted to get into it. There’s a certain prestige and history about it that’s always interested me. That said, I knew that not taking the chance to go to Wimbledon while living here in London would just be plain foolish. So when my study abroad program offered the opportunity to attend the historic championship, I knew that early waking hours, some harmless rain and the fact that Wimbledon has been a whirlwind this year wouldn’t be enough to pass it up. Maybe, just maybe, if I tried hard enough, I would be able to join the touted All England Club.

It’s true that with all the early outs, injuries and retirements, Wimbledon 2013 has been straight up weird. But in all, it was an amazing experience. Here were some of the things that went through my head during my 14-hour day with some of the biggest tennis fanatics this side of the pond.

3:50 a.m. — Holy moly, is it morning already? Where’s the snooze button?

3:51 a.m. — All right, I still have the option to ignore the alarm going off right next to my ear and just stay in bed for the rest of the day. Who needs Wimbledon? It’s only, like, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Okay, snap out of it!

4:25 a.m. — First ones down to the coach bus.

4:35 a.m. — Locked and loaded. Off to Wimbledon!

4:45 a.m. — Snack. Snack. Zzzz. Repeat.

5:45 a.m. — Houses are getting bigger and yards lush-er. This is definitely Wimbledon-status housing, right here. Stadium in the distance, must be getting close.

6:10 a.m. — Time to unload. The skies are grey but clear. Fingers crossed it keeps up!

6:30 a.m. — If the walk to the queue is this long, I can’t even imagine how long the whole line is up until the gates. Four hours to go.

7:00 a.m. — Finally have a spot in the queue, and a gift tote from complete with Cadbury and a picnic blanket to chill in the grass for the next few hours. What else can a girl ask for? Totally getting some shut-eye.

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7:01-9:59 a.m. — Shut-eye over. Wimbledon-goers who camped out in the queue over night are now rustling out of their tents and packing things away. In goes the camping materials, out come the plastic cups and alcohol of choice. Apparently, each person can bring in one unopened bottle of wine or champagne, or two unopened cans of beer. The Europeans really know how to party, and not only that, but party early. It’s like tailgating, but classier and six hours earlier in the day. It certainly makes for going through the queue a more eventful couple of hours. That, and the stands at the side of the queue giving out free coffee. Espresso shot down and moving toward the security checkpoint.

10:00 a.m. — Is there actually just an airport at the other side of this security post? Got through just in time for the rain to start. Onward to the stadium!

10:30 a.m. — Gates are officially opening, but messages over the intercom are announcing rain delays. Hilary and I scope out some of the grounds, including the all-exclusive Centre Court where all the big names play. One day, Wimbledon. One day.

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11:00 a.m.— Finally made it to Court 16 to Catch the Bryan Brothers doubles match. Don’t know much about them, but Brian insists they’re really good. Plus, ‘MURRICA!

11:30 a.m. — Rain. Rain. And a little bit more rain.

11:55 a.m. — It’s almost noon, time to break out the champagne. Others are already six hours ahead of us. Can’t be left behind.

12:35 p.m. — Fish n’ chip cravings. Time to hit the food stands. Even though it was stadium food, that honestly might have been the best fish n’ chips I’ve had thus far. Who wouldda thunk?

1:30 p.m. — Finally time for some game play! Bryan Brothers vs. Marcelo Demoliner and Andre Sa from Brazil.

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1:45 p.m. — I think I actually get what’s happening. Games, sets and matches. It’s all fitting together now. That, and we have perfect seats to see all of the action.

2:25 p.m. — As energetic as this game is going, I might need to shut my eyes, if only for a second …

3:30 p.m. — Game, set, match! Bryan Brothers advance! And I kept up with it the whole time.

3:31 p.m. — Now that we’ve caught the one match we’re actually able to see with our ground tickets, time for more exploring. First, the legendary Court 18, the site of the longest match in history with Isner-Mahut in 2010. The duel lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes of play over three days, with a final score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68 for a total of 183 games. Whew. Next up, Henman Hill to catch a bit of Ferrer’s match on the big screen.

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4:45 p.m. — Wandered over to Court 7 to catch Andy Ram and Abigail Spears vs. Daniele Bracciali and Galina Voskoboeva. In comparison to mens doubles which is mostly about power, the women’s double is more about movement and strategy (by that I mean LOTS of spin).

5:30 p.m. — Can’t leave the stadium without picking up a few things from the gift shop for my favorite tennis enthusiasts. And, ok, might as well treat myself to some strawberries and cream before taking off. It is tradition, after all. Also, it has to be healthy — strawberries are fruit, y’know. Probably one of the best decisions I made that day, and definitely the most delicious.

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6:00 p.m. — Time to hit the Tube and head on home to Waterloo. After 14 hours, I am pooped! Time to revel in all the glory that we witnessed and experienced today. Did we really? Like, really? Yeah, we just Wimbledon-ed and lived to tell the tale. Maybe one day we’ll be back and enjoying the view from the All England Club members areas. A girl can dream, right? Speaking of, time for a nap …

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