It’s been a while since my last post and understandably so. It’s the off-season and no tennis tends to mean no posts. But I was going through my London pictures and realized there are a lot of tennis-y things I did beyond seeing the Maestro live. So I thought I’d write a post on the rest of my trip. Apologies in advance for the formatting of some of the photos within the post; sometimes they don’t load properly. Please click on them for larger versions.
First, I went to the Nike store and almost squealed out loud. We don’t even have a Nike store in my country so I was pleased just to be able to shop for some RF gear finally. What I didn’t expect was to see the massive statue of Roger as soon as I came up the stairs! 😀 I finally bought my first RF hat and shirts and for that half an hour I felt I was in tennis heaven surrounded by all things RF!
Next, I did the Wimbledon Tour. I know I’ll never be able to get tickets partly due to their archaic, cumbersome ticketing process so I thought this was my one chance to visit the most hallowed grounds in the history of the sport. If you are a die-hard tennis fan I would definitely recommend it.
Before the Tour started I saw the list of the Boys’ Singles Championship Roll and let out my first of many squeals of the day. The Tour starts with Court 1 where you get to sit in the seats as the tour guide gives you a rundown of the history of the tournament and the court itself. I got goosebumps sitting there looking out onto the green grass. The court isn’t laid out however so it looks like a beautifully manicured lawn. For some reason it seemed cozier than how I had imagined it after seeing it on TV. Next we came out to an open area directly in front of the famous Henman Hill. I will always call it Henman Hill, Murray got the trophy, the least Tim should get is the hill so Henman Hill it is as far as I’m concerned. We walked up and around Henman Hill and the view from the top was spectacular. It was a beautiful clear (though crazy chilly!) day so we could see the London skyline in the distance.
Then we walked past Court 18, the court that is entwined in Wimbledon lore forever. This was where Isner and Mahut played their marathon 3 day match. Apparently there are no reserved seats on this court; first come first serve. So some people stayed in their seats without going out for food or bathroom breaks till each day ended! Next we were led back indoors where we passed the different media rooms till we came upon quite unexpectedly into the main press room. We were allowed to take turns sitting in the hot-seat for photos. It felt surreal, sitting at the desk, knowing that’s where Roger sat too.
I should mention here that Roger’s presence was all over the grounds. Every few seconds there was a poster or photograph of him much to my glee!
Then we came to the final stop of the Tour, Centre Court. I immediately did a sharp intake as some of my best tennis memories came flooding back. When I became a tennis fan, it was by watching Wimbledon matches on TV as a child. It was hard to focus on the present with all that nostalgia but I made myself look around nonetheless. The fabulous roof was open of course. We could see the Royal Box at the other end and the final score of the last match still displayed. It will remain there till the following year. I felt a surge of jealously for all the people who had gotten a chance to see Roger play in the court he values above all others. But then I realized, I never would have imagined being able to stand in front of the AELTC gates so while I’m not as lucky as those people, I’m still luckier than many others and immediately felt grateful and blessed instead.
As the Tour came to an end we were led out through a corridor which was lined with a list of past champions. I snapped photos as quickly as I could for the Maestro’s wins.
And then the Tour was done. After that we went down to the underground Wimbledon museum which I really liked because I am a geek at heart and love all museums so for me it was the best of both worlds, museum + tennis! It starts with the history of the sport over a hundred years ago and then moves chronologically forward. My favorite parts of the museum included the 10 minute short 3D film they had of the 2012 final. I had no idea what to expect when I went in and then suddenly there was Roger in 3D! I am convinced this film will not be there for long since it will surely be replaced by the 2013 final so if you want to see a 3D version of Roger’s 7th Wimbledon win, go immediately before it’s too late! There is a section where a McEnroe hologram talks about the opponents he faced which was pretty cool. There were clips of championship points you could watch over and over; a little boy who was clearly a Federer fan kept watching only Roger’s 7 wins on repeat 🙂 There is a display case for the kits of the most recent champions and obviously I got all excited with Roger’s 2012 outfit, it really is my most favorite Wimbledon outfit ever.
Lastly, you can see the two trophies of the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Championships in a display case in the museum. I also added the only photo I could take of the list of Gentlemen’s Singles Champions earlier. That building was not a part of the Tour so I took it through a window from the opposite building. Feels good to see all those ‘Federers’ in the winners list right?
Oh before I forget, there is a Wimbledon shop where you can buy souvenirs. I bought a key chain and a fantastic coffee-table book (I’m a nerd remember?). I was sorely tempted to buy the coffee machine because I just couldn’t believe someone had made a Wimbledon coffee machine. But I settled for a photo instead 🙂
Well that’s my Wimbledon Tour report. I’ve outlined the highlights but it was quite a detailed and informative tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is well worth it for every tennis fan and also for every Federer fan as well. Though it was the off-season, I immediately felt a sense of history as I stepped onto the grounds and I am really, really, happy I was able to visit this most magnificent place.
Other than the Nike store and Wimbledon, the obvious high-point of my London trip was the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena. I have already written about the Roger match earlier but I still want to mention a few words about this fantastic tournament because to me it was perfect. I had only one major complaint which I will mention below. But other than that, I highly recommend you going if you ever get the chance. Here’s my quick list of reasons why:
- Best 8 singles AND doubles players in the world. Meaning every match is awesome.
- The fans were great. They were from all over the world and quite well-behaved.
- It’s indoors, so you are guaranteed 1 singles and 1 doubles match per session. No rain delay!
- The O2 arena is very easy to get to via tube. The stop is a 20 second walk to the main door of the Arena.
- The O2 has plenty of food options. Overpriced perhaps and not of the highest Michelin Star quality but still a good variety of restaurants and again, all indoors, no need to go out in the rain or cold.
- Even if you have no tickets, you can get a free pass to the event at the door which lets you enter the ‘Fanzone’. This Fanzone is still indoors – inside the building but outside the court arena.
- You can use that pass to watch the practice sessions in the Fanzone for free! There are 3 practice courts accessible with the Fanzone pass where you can watch the players practice close up. At 2 of these you can actually sit and watch provided you get there early enough to grab seats.
- You can watch Holding Court Live right in front of you in the middle of the Fanzone area – I believe this was a new addition this year and hopefully they will continue it in the future.
- You can buy ATP items in the ATP stalls at the Fanzone as well, like the ATP World No. 1 book I bought, plus flags of the players’ nations – I bought a Swiss flag of course. But please note, you cannot buy any player gear like RF hats, etc.
- For someone like me who knows no other European languages except for English, the fact that this tourney is in London made things extra easy.
- The whole tourney has a very rock star feel starting from the lights, the music, the dry ice and the player’s introductions. Actually it’s the opposite of the most traditional tournament of all, Wimbledon. Kudos to London for pulling off both with equal aplomb.
My one major complaint is the ATP Awards presentations. No one knows when they will take place (we asked around and got blank looks) and if they present an award after a match they sometimes don’t announce it immediately after the match is over so half the crowd leaves, not realizing that an award ceremony is about to happen.
I’ll leave you with some tips that might be helpful especially if you have tickets to more than one session.
- Prioritization is key. For instance, you might be watching a match that is going deep into the 3rd set. But at the same time, Federer is due on a practice court in 5 minutes. Decide in advance what you will do in this situation because once you get out of the arena you can’t get back in. Plus if you want to watch practices, you will need to get there in advance to get seats. At the same time, be prepared to wait. Just because a practice session is supposed to be at 3pm doesn’t mean it’ll happen then. Worse, be prepared for it to get cancelled altogether.
- Make sure you schedule your food intake according to your priorities. If you get out at the end of a match along with everybody else, you’re in for a long wait standing in queues. The end of the day session is particularly crazy because people are starving for lunch.
- The seats are not very spacious so try to travel as light as possible because there isn’t a lot of leg space to keep your things.
- If you watching the night session and are traveling by tube, be aware of the time in case the match runs long. Keep in mind when last Jubilee train leaves the station, but also, if you have connections, know what time you can catch the last connecting train as well.
- The lighting inside, while creating a great atmosphere, is not the easiest for photographers. If you are really keen on taking good photos, suck it up and take your bigger fancier camera rather than relying on your old point-and-shoot or your phone.
- If you are going for multiple days, buy the program the first day and then use the coupons inside to get daily programs for the each subsequent day for free.
Well that’s it! My London trip was more amazing that I could’ve possibly dreamed. I got to see Roger up-close, I got to see the top 8 in action, I did the Wimbledon Tour and bought RF gear from the Nike store. The trip not only made 2013 a standout year for me but is also clearly the highlight of my life as a tennis fan. The year hasn’t been great for me many reasons, personal and tennis-wise but London made me feel optimistic about both. Now I can’t wait for 2014 to start so bring it on!