Can't get much closer than this.
  • Can't get much closer than this.
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The most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon also has the richest tradition. The unique grass courts add a certain mystique. Having watched it on TV for years, I always wondered what a visit there would be like.

We arrived at the queue a few blocks from the tube stop at 7 a.m. – without tickets – for the opening round matches. There were an impressive number of people ahead of us in line, but the estimate was that we should be able to get into Centre Court.

It was a drizzly morning, and the next question arose: Would the weather allow for any matches? Wimbeldon is renowned for its frequent cancellations due to erratic weather.

During the lengthy wait, our fellow queuers were in a festive mood, despite the uncertain weather. It was like a tailgate party before a football game, without the food and lawn chairs. So we have a few drops to deal with. We can’t do anything about it, so let’s have a good time and enjoy ourselves whether we get in or not. That was the atmosphere, convivial and good-natured (if in guarded British fashion).

Once upon the grounds, we still had a few hours before the matches. We took in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and sampled the legendary strawberries and cream. The schedule on the Gentlemen’s Singles board looked promising. Roger Federer and Venus Williams were on the schedule for Centre Court, an impressive lineup.

Once we finally made it onto Centre Court, covered by a huge plastic tarp, a voice over the PA system informed us every half hour or so that the matches might begin shortly. The weather drizzled on and off all day and, just when it seemed as if the sun was coming out, it retreated behind another sheet of drizzle. Eventually, time ran out. Just as the rain came to an end, darkness was upon us. We left disappointed, without seeing any matches. At least I had a Wimbledon t-shirt and my “I queued at Wimbledon” sticker.

Undeterred, I rearranged my travel schedule and was back the next morning in the familiar queue. The weather seemed more promising. This time I didn’t make it onto Centre Court, but it was, nevertheless, a treat to watch some of the unsung players slug it out on the outside courts that are rarely shown on TV.

The grass was fresh after the rain and shone bright green under the June sun. The grounds were beautifully landscaped. This was the Wimbledon I always dreamed about. I didn’t see the best players, but I saw some very tight matches that were as interesting to me as anything that I would have seen on Centre Court. I could better appreciate the skill of the players with unobstructed views from just a few feet away.

Later in the day there were some brief stoppages of play due to fleeting showers – but my Wimbledon memories were secure. Like so many of my travel experiences, things did not go quite as planned, but nevertheless, turned out wonderfully enough.

Keep in mind that Wimbledon Centre Court now has a retractable roof so, despite the rich tradition, rainouts there may be a thing of the past.

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