2016 represented my tenth year visiting Wimbledon encompassing approximately 25 days in total. It has become a second home in the summer and I have dragged friends and family along for the ride over the past decade. It hasn’t been to everyone’s taste – still, their loss.
What follows is a little reminisce year-by-year, covering the company, highlights and unashamedly – the purchases from the gift shop which have become a running joke.
Year 1 – 2007(Roger Federer & Venus Williams)
The first year stands alone in many ways, obviously it held the magic of experiencing this mythical event for the first time. In the final year of university in Farnham, Surrey it had dawned on me just close I was to Wimbledon, and how relatively easy it was to get there early.
And so it proved; the maiden voyage on the iconic special bus service (open-top of course) led to what was the old Queue. I remember this part particularly fondly. SW19, free of Murraymania was a different animal, still perhaps shrouded in an unattainable mystery for the masses.
A Tim Henman wire statue filled with tennis balls was the only ‘attraction’ en route to the grounds themselves. Perversely, I remember being given the choice of No.1 tickets or the humble ground pass (back then allowing courts 2-18), choosing the latter thanks to funds.
What followed was a lot of firsts; strawberries and cream, Pimms, sitting on Henman Hill, cut-price show-court resales and watching Hantuchova win easily.
All of these would become regular occurrences in the years to come. Alas finding an abandoned official programme on a southwest train seat hasn’t happened since.
Players seen: Tommy Robredo, Daniela Hantuchova, David Nalbandian, Ivo Karlovic, Maria Sharapova
Souvenir: Rubber racquet keyring
Year 2 – 2008 (Rafa Nadal & Venus Williams)
With a new girlfriend reluctant to go I convinced my family this year to tag along, with promises of an all-too-easy queuing process and promise of show-court tickets on arrival. Alas it was a rude wake-up call. The first year of the New Queue system meant a longer wait to get in, and an indication of things to come. Still the ‘attractions’ now included caricatures of the game’s stars and – despite an early finish due to increasingly stormy skies, another good roster of names, food and company, particularly my Dad who had never been before and due to ill-health would never get to go again.
Players seen: Janko Tipsarevic, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian, Fernando Gonzalez, Juan-Carlos Ferrero, Anna Chakvetadze, Fabio Fognini
Year 3 – 2009(Roger Federer & Serena Williams)
The first year with the more tennis-inclined of my friends (and so much more rewarding with it!) although two now living Down Under were sorely missed. The pattern of earlier starts combined with longer queues continued here. Court-hopping, champagne on the Hill and many drinks and hilariously inappropriate comments shouted from the stands. Wouldn’t change some of the gang for the world.
Other highlights included a close encounter with an idol, some late-evening bonus matches on the show-courts and some doubles drama late-on. First mention too of 7.30am Strongbow and cous-cous frenzy!
Players seen: Dominika Cibulkova, Daniela Hantuchova, Vera Zvonareva, Flavia Pennetta, Maria Kirilenko, Tommy Haas, Laura Robson, Bob and Mike Bryan, Sania Mirza, Nadia Petrova
Year 4 – 2010(Rafa Nadal & Serena Williams)
Just myself for one day and then a day with my sister for this visit. Notable this time for probably the biggest roster of names in such a short space of time and a first proper foray to the practice courts. As visits increased, the structure of each day was allowed to vary and focus on different aspects of the tournament. This visit was also notable for my first visit to Centre Court and then – on No.1 watching a certain Slovak instead of the historics over on court 18.
Players seen: Marion Bartoli, Julia Goerges, Vera Zvonareva, Karolina Sprem, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko, Nicolas Massu, Igor Andreev, Ivan Ljubicic, Jurgen Melzer, Dustin Brown, Feliciano Lopez, Stan Wawrinka, Taylor Dent, Juan Ignacio Chela, Arnaud Clement, Janko Tipsarevic, Justine Henin, Lleyton Hewitt, Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo, Mikhail Youzhny, Agnieska Radwanska, James Blake, Marcus Baghdatis, Robin Soderling, Daniela Hantuchova
Year 5 – 2011 (Novak Djokovic & Petra Kvitova)
Just the single day visit again this year if memory serves and one which proved difficult logistically given the varied company with different agendas. With everyone unfortunately split all day, it was a case of the usual suspects in who we saw on-court. Notable for a decent finale with the incredibly unlikely rematch between Mahut and Isner. The Frenchman would become a regular in future visits and a real favourite of Sophie’s after this – her visit.
Players seen: Mardy Fish, Marcel Granollers, Tommy Haas, Donald Young, Richard Gasquet, Juan-Martin Del-Potro, Alize Cornet, Gilles Simon, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Daniela Hantuchova, Mikhail Youzhny, Robin Soderling, John Isner, Nicolas Mahut
Year 6 – 2012 (Roger Federer & Serena Williams)
Two days again this year in what was a rain-interrupted visit (a reminder of how lucky overall I’d been with the weather), and still a healthy amount of names to be seen live. The first day was the hotter of the two, me and Sophie, fresh from a cheeky jaunt to Roland Garros had the tennis bug well and truly. The second day with some extra company bought about the downpour’s but hardly a write-off. A-listers including Roddick on No.1 court and a Mahut double bill were the highlights.
Players seen: Nicolas Mahut, Jeremy Chardy, Juan Monaco, Andy Roddick, Lucie Safarova, Kiki Bertens, Paolo Lorenzi, Feliciano Lopez, Jarkko Nieminen, Elena Baltacha, Karen Knapp,
Year 7 – 2013(Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli)
A three-day marathon for me this year, recent events had made me adopt a ‘screw it’ attitude to life and indulge in what makes me happy. It was three very different days too with the weather, company and mixture of familiar faces on court and some new experiences all offering a very full visit. Memorable too for witnessing a Hewitt victory over Wawrinka and that Federer loss to Stakhovsky on Henman Hill to the delight of my fellow visitors and the chagrin of myself.
Players seen:Alize Cornet, Vania King, Yanina Wickmayer, Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, John Isner, Lleyton Hewitt, Stanislas Wawrinka, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Ivan Dodig, Michel Llodra, Jarkko Nieminen, Angelique Kerber, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Gilles Simon, Feliciano Lopez, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Mahut, Daniela Hantuchova, Maria Kirilenko,
Year 8 – 2014 (Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova)
Thanks to Andy’s heroics the year previous, the clueless one-dayer masses had woken up to Wimbledon and the event has from that year onwards become increasingly difficult for the die-hard fans to enjoy the spoils. Instead the privileged locals swan down and grab the places in the queue, only sit on the Hill and swill their champers.
Rant over – just the single day here this time and by far the busiest yet, queuing met with more queuing and frustrating pockets of matches and a dire schedule. Still – it’s Wimbledon.
Players seen:Sloane Stephens, Maria Kirilenko, Ernests Gulbis, David Ferrer, Caroline Wozniacki,
Year 9 – 2015(Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams)
Hot! The hottest year of The Championships and over the two days I certainly felt it. The aforementioned popularity meant another stupidly early start and – tellingly – the failure of some beloved company to make it inside, despite their own customary early start. It was a bitter blow to what would’ve been a swansong for some before pastures new. Still myself, Sophie and my mum enjoyed the first day with the favourites well and truly prioritised. This, before regular Rob braved the temperatures for a fun second day with some doubles masterclasses.
Players seen: Yaroslava Shvedova, Sam Stosur, Daniela Hantuchova, Nicolas Mahut, Caroline Wozniacki, Viktor Troicki, Daniel Nestor, Leander Paes, Radek Stepanek, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicolas Mahut, Pierre-Hughes Herbert,
Year 10 – 2016(Andy Murray and Serena Williams)
Ah how fitting would it have been for the 10thyear to see Roger crowned with Serena instead! Still can’t have everything and it is the very epitome of a first world problem!
Apart from that final outcome, my landmark tenth year was a triumph, and it needed to be so much had I hyped it. Friends were absent, but that was expected given recent years and has to be dealt with.
Instead, me and my long-suffering fiancé pitched a tent for two nights to score some Centre Court tickets for the first Friday of the 130thChampionships. The prize was well-worth the rain, cramped tent, whiney Amercians, less than savoury toilets and some all-too communal showers. For our efforts? A guaranteed day’s play and some tennis royalty in the flesh. Wawrinka and Del-Potro and then the two Greats of our era in Serena and Roger. The latter was marred of course by the shouts for the plucky Brit opponent from the new tennis populous who see Wimbledon as celebrity spotting and getting pissed whilst cheering for any Great British player, “everyone else are foreigners aren’t they!” (shudder). The perfect schedule would’ve been even better if only the wildcard-gifted Hantuchova (now fully in semi-retirement) could’ve reached the second round and thus been Serena’s opponent. A cheeky glimpse of Nicolas Mahut on court 16 soothed the heartbreak there though.
It is the ballot from now on for us I feel. And if I miss a few years well then I’ll always have my very special SW19 decade, and all of the memories herein.
Players seen:Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Martin-Del Potro, Serena Williams, Christina McHale, Roger Federer, Dan Evans, Nicolas Mahut
Players seen most: Mahut (6), Hantuchova (6), Wawrinka (4), Kirilenko (4), Lopez (4), Wozniacki (4).