Have you been to Wimbledon? If, like me, your only experience of Wimbledon is watching it on that rectangular-looking thing they call a TV, then your exposure must be limited to Sue Barker and John McEnroe’s instructive commentary.
I had never been despite going to school in Wimbledon for six years, every summer seeing the town prepare for the tournament but never making much of an effort to see it.
…go at least once…
In short: you should go at least once, but on a sunny day.
It’s like a little village that for some reason reminds me of Hobbiton from the Lord of the Rings; with lots of greenery, big courts, small courts, restaurants, shops and of course Henman Hill/Murray Mount that’s become so iconic for the last decade. Most people congregate outside the big screen that you’ve seen countless times on TV and the place itself feels quite large, like a shopping mall, selling tennis instead of consumer goods.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
…make your mouth droop…
Wimbledon does sell its own goods and the prices will make your mouth drop and your hands tremble once you’ve looked at the them. It really does seem to play into the thinking that you may only come to Wimbledon once and that you’ll be willing to pay quite a lot for any trinket. Still, £8 for a mug or £22 for a fashion bag seems a lot.
Exploring the grounds is fun, if familiar after a while, it’s the same shops selling the same products and at the same prices and really the only thing to do after exploring for a little while is to see the sport you came to see – in that respect it didn’t disappoint too much. Court 3 was the one printed on the tickets and the schedule was Kvitova/Schiavone, Clijsters/Kerber and Gasquet/Mayer (the last match was stopped by the rain). By now you’ll know who progressed; the immediate takeaway from watching tennis live instead of on TV is just how small the court is and how fast the players hit the ball.
…sheer ferocity of the shots…
I said to my friend that unless the shot is buried into the corners then these players should be making every shot: that’s how small the court felt once you had been liberated from camera lenses/angles and seen it with your own eyes. The sheer ferocity of the shots and accuracy of the play brings a new perspective to how these players react. The first serve comes at them at 100mph and then they post it back to sender at 80mph, dragging the players this way and that. That feeling of speed is conveyed on TV as well as the emotions of the players but cutting from camera to camera could only wish to give you the overall perspective, the elation one player feels compared to the dejection another feels after a tight set. It’s a feeling you can only truly experience when you’re there.
It’s that close proximity to the play and players that permeates throughout Wimbledon. Leaving the first match, my friend and I found ourselves walking behind Kvitova for a brief moment, slightly taken aback by it. Less than thirty seconds later, we walked past some schoolgirls with pens and papers at the ready and Kim Clijsters pops through a door and walks by. I don’t know of many tournaments/sporting events where that could happen but it happens here. The weather may have served up some disappointing conditions but you have to be happy with something that provided a glimpse into a world you don’t get to see too often.