Last Sunday, the famous Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club opened its new £70 million, five-years-in-the-making retractable roof over No. 1 Court (and also closed it, due to rain), and threw a big do to celebrate, which was broadcast live on BBC1.
Since I have as yet been unlucky in the Wimbledon Championships ticket lottery every year we’ve lived here, and we won’t be here forever, I figured this might be the closest I ever get to attending the Championships. These tickets were easier to get, and I still got to eat strawberries and cream and drink Pimm’s while watching the pros play on the famous lawn court. And we had great seats, too! (Plus, some of the proceeds went to charity.)
We actually didn’t even know who all would be playing when we bought tickets—John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, and Jamie Murray were confirmed at that point—and then still didn’t know the final lineup until we arrived. I’m pretty sure I squealed when I looked at the order of play and saw Venus Williams on it.
We arrived a couple hours before the entertainment was scheduled to begin, to explore the grounds and get some lunch.
Our tickets also got us into the Wimbledon museum, so we went there first.
Then we went to take a peek and a pic at Centre Court.
The entertainment began, which featured British singer Paloma Faith—and her skirt, which took about six people to carry.
The other featured performer was opera singer Joseph Calleja, joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Grange Park Opera Chorus.
Then it was tennis time.
It ended up being a really fun experience. Usually tennis matches are so tense and serious, but these were just exhibition games; there was nothing at stake for the players, so they just played together. And clearly were having the best time doing it. The score barely mattered; sometimes a point was awarded to the wrong team just for laughs.
The first set was gentlemen’s doubles, and it was like a tennis comedy show. I’ve never laughed so hard while watching tennis. Or any sport, for that matter.
Goran Ivanisevic was a total comedian: climbing over the net and playing three on one side; adding a second ball into play; making completely absurd challenges, like when he hit a ball into the seats, or when it would actually benefit the other team if the ruling was overturned.
At one point Ivanisevic handed his racquet to a ball boy and made him change places with him. It was totally hilarious. Way to go, ball boy!
After another musical performance between sets, Venus and Kim Clijsters played singles next, and that doubles set was a hard act to follow. But it was just so amazing to see one of the best American female tennis players of my generation in person.
Mixed doubles was the last set to play, featuring some Wimbledon tennis legends.
John McEnroe gave the crowd some jokey-exasperated “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!” lines early on. Then at one point, after he had lost a point, he turned towards us and said, “One day the U.S. will win the World Cup,” and a woman in my row quickly responded, “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!” He, and the crowd, loved it.
Johnny Mack is nearly 60 and was still consistently slamming 110 mph serves. Pretty amazing.
It was a really fun day, and if I never get to the Wimbledon Championships, well, I’ve still had a fantastic, unique Wimbledon experience.
Should I have spent £22 on a tiny bottle of Champagne, just for the souvenir koozie, which is not for sale in the shop? Who’s to say, really?
From now on, I only drink tiny bottles of Champagne, so I can reuse it.
UPDATE: On the very evening of the day I posted this, I received an email informing me I’d been successful in the 2019 Wimbledon tickets ballot. And our tickets are for the No. 1 Court. Pure coincidence?? Or did someone at Wimbledon see this post?
Either way, we’re going to the Wimbledon Championships in July! I’ll be sure to pack my Champagne koozie…