June 28, 2008


WARNING: EPIC POST AHEAD. The following post may contain excessive sentences. Readers are advised to proceed with patience, endurance and a snack of their choice.

We did it! From Henman Hill to Centre Court, we lived out our Wimbledon dream. Here's how it all went down...

Getting in line

On Wednesday June 25, 2008, we packed up all our gear (tents, sleeping bags, camera, clothes etc), jumped in Punts and, with printed internet directions in hand, headed towards the hallowed All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London.

A speedy trip up the M3 and a quick stop at KFC later, we found ourselves driving up Wimbledon Park Road, right past the The Championship grounds ('Oh my God, there it is!') and through to nearby Southfields. We quickly parked our car at some random guy's house (we'd organised it over the internet) and started marching briskly toward 'The Queue'.

There are three ways to secure tickets to Wimbledon — 1. You work for, with, or know someone who works for, or with, a corporate organisation involved with The Championships. 2. You enter the public ballot which closes in December of the previous year. 3. You queue. With options one and two out of the running, we were left with no choice but to join thousands of other punters in the painfully-long queue.

When I say thousands, I mean thousands. Queuing for tickets is a sport in itself, and if you want to be one of the true winners and secure a seat on Centre Court, you have to tough it out and queue overnight.

So there we were, it was around 3pm and we were marching straight towards a yellow-vest-wearing steward. Keen to secure our place as quickly as possible, we were directed towards the camping field. We got our tent up quick smart (well, as the pictures show, Craig got it up quick smart), and then we were faced with the problem of, 'Now what?'.

There was 14 hours until our 5.30am wake-up call and there wasn't much to do except sit and watch other people come and set up their tents, which was surprisingly entertaining. About an hour had passed when the moment we had been waiting for came around — we were given our Queue Cards.

Each person in the queue receives a numbered Queue Card, which secures their position in the queue. At this point the Card is everything. It can make the difference between what court you get on, how good your seats are, it gives you the right to push in front of anyone with a higher number than you at any point of the queuing process, and if you lose your card you lose your spot. Like I said, it's everything.

We waited with bated breath as a yellow-vest-wearing, Queue-Card-holding steward made his way along the line of tents. Cards 0065 and 0066 were placed in our hands, and with 500 tickets available for both Centre and Number One Court, it meant that we were guaranteed a choice of any court we wanted, and great seats to boot! If our Cheshire-Cat grins were anything to go by, you'd have thought we'd won the lottery!

After we had finished staring lovingly at our cards and taking photos of ourselvess with them, we settled in for our first ever night in our £20 Argos tent. We had a pizza delivered to our tent, which we ate as we eagerly listened to the official Wimbledon radio station, waiting for the next day's Order of Play.

Elation quickly turned to frustration when the Order of Play was announced, as we were now faced with an impossible decision. On Centre Court it was Venus Williams v Anne Keothavong, Andy Murray v Xavier Malisse and Andy Roddick v Janko Tipsarevic, while on Number One Court, it was Rafael Nadal v Ernests Gulbis, Maria Sharapova v Alla Kudryavtseva and Chris Eaton v Dmitry Tursunov.

Trying to decide between the prestige of Centre Court and the awesomeness of Nadal and Sharapova proved to be an impossible decision. Back and forwards we went, discussing the pros and cons of each court. While I was keen to make a decision and stick with it, Craig was keen to maintain his title as the King of Indecisiveness (seriously, you should see him trying to choose a parking spot!), and kept asking for 'five more minutes'.

Those five minutes ended up being 10 hours. It wasn't until we had spent a long, cold night in the tent, packed up our gear, spent about two hours in line and a steward was standing in front of us with coloured wristbands asking which court we wanted that Craig quickly blurted out, 'Court One'. Finally, a decision was made! Nadal and Sharapova, here we come!

Day One

Staying up into the wee hours watching Channel Nine and turning up to work tired is an Aussie tradition over the Wimbledon fortnight, so to actually be there, in the middle of day, is actually quite surreal.

After being in various Queue stages over 19-and-a-half hours, we were finally let loose into the grounds at 10.30am. While people with Ground Passes nearly knocked each other over trying to get seats on their chosen outside court for a 12 noon start, the elite (that'd be those with Centre and Number One Court tickets. In other words, us) were able to check out the grounds at a more leisurely pace — perusing the food and drink options (the traditional strawberries and cream alongside the heart-attack-inducing fried food options), trekking to the top of the way-smaller-than-it-looks-on-TV Henman Hill, and taking photos of all things Wimbledon.

Show court matches start at 1am, so at 12.45 Craig got himself a beer, I got myself a Pimms (at £6 for a half pint, it ended up being my only one of the tournament), we slathered on some extra sunscreen and we took our seats on Number One Court.

Now, I don't mean any old nosebleed seats. Get this: We were opposite the umpire, three rows back from the court! We were so close Maria Sharapova's blonde ponytail was in danger of flicking us in the face. Have I mentioned our seats were awesome yet?

First up was the number-two-ranked, headband-sporting Rafael Nadal. The Rafa fans were out in force, their faces painted with Spanish flags. One such fan was two rows in front of us and was yelling out encouragement in Spanish, the only problem was, she was a ginge from Wales that basically stalks him around the world — yes, Wimbledon brings out all sorts, from the high-society snobs ('Jolly good') to the drunken Aussies ('Oi, oi, oi').

Nadal cleaned up Gulbis in four sets (much to the ginge Welsh chick's delight) and it was time tennis's resident glamour girl, Maria Sharapova, to take to the court. Sporting her controversial 'tuxedo' get-up, complete with designer handbag and diamond Tiffany earrings, you can't deny Sharapova is quite the stunner (it comes as no surprise that of the billion photos Craig took over the two days, a large portion of them are of the leggy Russian).

Perhaps if Maria concentrated more on her tennis and less on her appearance (meeoow), she may not have been beaten in straight sets by Alla Kudryavtseva. It seemed that no matter how hard the world number two grunted, the 154-ranked player was just too good on the day.

With Chris Eaton (who?) on court next, we did something naughty but necessary. We decided to skip seeing the 661-ranked Englishman get beaten and go set up our tent in The Queue for the next day's play. Nothing naughty about that, right? No, the naughty bit comes when we get our Queue Cards (0259 and 0260) and then bolt back to the tennis (you technically aren't supposed to leave the campsite, but they really can't police it). We spent the rest of the evening watching the Williams sisters in doubles, and the end of Daniela Hantuchova's match, before walking back to our tent, jumping straight into our sleeping bags, and settling in for a good night's sleep. Or so we'd hoped...

Remember those drunken Aussies I mentioned earlier? Well we had the queen of them in the tent next to us. She'd taken herself off to the pub and stumbled back at about 2am, before loudly telling the people in her tent the entire story of the night over and over, before announcing to anyone within earshot that she was an Aussie, before proceeding to vomit next to our tent. Yep, she's sure doing the country proud.

Day Two

The next morning played out pretty much the same as the previous one. We were woken early, put our tents away and lined up for hours on end. The only difference was our court decision wasn't anywhere near as agonising. While we would have loved to watch Aussie Lleyton Hewitt on Court One, there was no way we could pass on the chance of watching the great Roger Federer carve up on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Our fluoro orange wristbands were in place, our tickets had been bought and stashed safely in our bags, we had filled up on the most revolting burgers we'd ever tasted — Wimbledon people, if you are reading this: Seriously, the food sucks. We're happy to pay through-the-roof prices for food (it's kinda expected), but please make it edible — and we had taken our seats (a mere five rows back this time) on Wimbledon Centre Court.

Of course it wouldn't be a true Wimbledon experience without a rain delay (so many times I'd stay up to watch, only to be met with Ken Sutcliffe and a bunch of covered-up courts), and ours was no exception. We got to watch the ground staff run on the court, cover it, uncover it, then cover it again, all in the space of an hour.

Finally, the sun started shining a Roger Federer stepped out onto the court. Being able to watch the five-time Wimbledon champ clean up Marc Gicquel in straight sets was truly a pinch-ourselves moment. You know how some people have lists of things they want to do before they die? Well if I could actually be arsed to put one together, going to Wimbledon would be one of the top things on my list. And there we were, five rows back, cheering on a true tennis legend. C'mon people, you know you're jealous! Go on, admit it...

Next up was Serena Williams v Amelie Mauresmo. First up, Serena is one massive unit, her legs are like tree trunks! Secondly, I have always been a bit of a closet Mauresmo fan (pun intended) so I was quite looking forward to this match. The first set was brilliant, some great rallies, shots with flair and a close score (Serena won in a tie-break). By the second, Mauresmo was struggling with an injury and Serena ended up winning easily, which is a shame, 'cause I'm kinda bored with the Williams sisters dominating this event. Yawn!

The last match of the day, and for us at Wimbledon, was Mario Ancic v David Ferrer. The Welsh ginge was back in force to support Spaniard Ferrer, while not knowing a whole lot about either player, I opted to support Ancic. The match proved to be the most exciting one we saw. There were some awesome shots, and both players had to dig deep. With the light fading quickly, we were worried they would postpone the game due to bad light, but they soldiered on. The crowd was pumped, making for a great atmosphere. The drama went on until 9.30pm went Ancic finally secured victory in the fourth.

We soaked it all in as the crowd cheered Ancic off the court. This was it, our Wimbledon dream was over! We were happy, sad and downright buggered as we said our final goodbyes to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Queuing was tough work (it was cold and the ground was as hard as Centre Court), and the two days had cost us a small fortune (we spent over $AUD400 in tickets alone). So was it worth it?

Hell yes.