Ashes 2015 Diary – Day 2: Wimbledon

New Malden, July 2.

My original plan upon landing in London was to head to Essex County Ground at Chelmsford for Day 2 of Australia’s 2nd tour game before the real shabang begins on July 8th in Cardiff. By the time I sorted my SIM card and the three train + one bus trip to my friend’s place in New Malden to drop off my luggage, I was exhausted, and would have missed the start of Day 2 anyway since the ground was another 2 hour commute away. Jet lag was setting in, and so I chose to stay back and explore Day 4 of the Wimbledon Championships with my friend and his 6-year old son, instead. We decided to head to Wimbledon to watch play after 5 PM, so that we could walk around the various outside courts, get a flavor of Henman Hill atmosphere, and still not spend too much. The fee for late entry was only £18 (reasonable).

As you make your way towards the courts, there is a promotional sign with a hashtag #theQueue. Boy, do they mean it?!


Even at that hour of the day, with the prospect of just 2 hours of tennis, people stood in long lines snaking all around. By the time we joined the queue and to the point where we paid for the tickets, we probably walked three quarters of a mile. However, as with almost anything in England, everything turns in to a picnic. People wasted no time opening their bottles of wine, champagne and beer and it was one jolly crowd. While this line made its way in, there were thousands of others setting up tents to start another queue at 8 AM to gain entrance for day’s play. That is some serious dedication. In my time as a student at Penn State, I have seen students put up tents and camp out to get the best seats for a Football game but that’s usually only 100-200 but here it was in thousands!

As you join the queue, they hand you a “queue card” with instructions on behavior (how delightfully British!) and a number on it that allows the stewards to make sure no one is cutting across the queue.

queue-card queue-line

After standing in line for nearly 90 minutes and crawling/strolling for almost a mile, finally the gates with the familiar AELTC sign was in view. A security check and ticket purchase later, we were at last on the most hallowed grounds in Tennis. We sorted through the order of play (RFed was already done and Rafa was in Center Court – and struggling) and so we chose to head to Court 18 to watch Alexandr Dolgopolov and Ivo Karlovic. At least we were guaranteed of some power service games! 

The line judges of Wimbledon

The line judges of Wimbledon

There were queues (again) to get to the unreserved seats and you had access to them only during change overs (obviously) when some patrons left. I tried to walk around the court to see if there would be a vantage point from where I could watch the match clearly without needing a seat. The only place available was behind the man in the picture below.

sombrero-dickSeriously, who wears a sombrero to a Tennis match? A thoughtless, self-centered dickhead, that’s who.

I walked around to check on Nadal, from the Henman Hill and the crowd was in full flow, moaning and groaning with every one of Nadal’s misses that put him closer to the exit. The Hill was jam-packed with not much space available and so i went back to the court 18 queue. By the time I was in a seat, Nadal was out but this court 18 match was deliciously heading to possible fifth set.


Dolgo-Karlo match on Court 18

After all, the longest Grand Slam match in history (Mahut v Isner in 2012 happened in Court 18 (and there is a plaque indicating that as well)) and so I was secretly hoping something very memorable happened here. Luckily, the match went to five sets (All hail no tie breaker in the fifth!) and 24 games in the final set. Worth every single pound of the 18 we spent to get in.

It was nearly 9 PM when the match ended but people were still hanging around because English people love to make a picnic out of everything. The Henman Hill was still reasonably populated with folks finishing their food and drinks, and having a good time long after Nadal’s match was over.

Henman Hill, post Nadal

Henman Hill, post Nadal

We found our way back to the parking area, dawdling around, with the ever polite and courteous stewards reminding us that the gates close at 10 PM. As we climbed in to the car, the bright moon was rising over the horizon, providing the light for the thousands who will form the queue in a matter of hours, as another day at Wimbledon rolls on.


As for me, I am headed to Chelmsford first thing in the morning. Starc and Hazlewood bowling. Drool.

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