*Advance warning: This post contains inordinate amounts of Roger Federer adoration and some rather unashamed ‘fangirling’ *
It has been a bit of a break between posts, yes. I’d like to say the reason behind it was the hours of long work on the dissertation, but in all honesty, it feels like the summer is melting away just like snowflakes! What will not melt away as quickly, however, are the memories I have of earlier this month, when I realised one of my lifelong dreams in getting to watch Roger Federer (and much more tennis) at Wimbledon.
For tennis aficionados, Wimbledon is the tennis tournament, and has attained pilgrimage status amidst fans and players alike. Since the age of nine, I’ve been watching tennis and have come to love the game despite having never picked up a racquet in my life. And, oh, yes: I. AM. A. FAN. OF. ROGER. FEDERER. The chance to watch my childhood (and adolescence and adulthood) idol glide around Centre Court, floating across the hallowed lawns where he has reigned supreme was quite simply, the chance to tick an item off the very top of my bucket list.
Like most good things, tickets to Wimbledon are practically impossible to come by, especially if you don’t plan months in advance. The cheapest way for students like me to get tickets, is to join “The Queue” (please note capitals). The Queue is…well…the mother of all Queues. I visited Wimbledon Park two days before the tournament began and was greeted by an enormous empty field, serene and lush. When I got to Wimbledon during the Championships, the field was filled with tents and stalls and had turned into something of a campsite with an atmosphere not unlike J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch World Cup scenes. I joined The Queue at about 6am, only to discover that there were 4,700 people ahead of me! Yes, and within minutes, there were another 4,000 after me. Some people had been camping overnight for two days!
The Queue is not just a “queue” – it is an experience. A chance for people to chat excitedly about the day’s matches, hedge bets and make predictions, laugh and joke and spend time together in the early morning amidst sun-drenched grass. As coffee is poured into Styrofoam cups and sleepy smiles are exchanged, as people shuffle excitedly as they inch forward, you realise that the Queue is not a four/five-hour wait, but a sort of build-up where you get to soak in the excitement. While I was surprised by the general enthusiasm and bonhomie that filled the air, I was really impressed by the amazing order and efficiency that defined the process. A crowds of thousands of excited people queueing up for long hours has the propensity to turn ugly. But the pleasant stewards were in complete control and the process totally streamlined.
And once you’ve made it in (at which point you might experience the feeling you get when you find a seat in the LSE library), there is the tennis. The world’s best players, within touching distance. Watching them run and play and lunge, straining every muscle, their limbs taut as they push themselves to attain excellence and glory, both of which are encapsulated in every swing of the racquet, and every toss of the ball. Truly, watching sport live is incomparable to watching it on television or on live stream, and to get the opportunity to do so is to be highly fortunate.
Wimbledon is beautiful, make no mistake about it. The grass, as green as could be, each blade trimmed as if with a precision razor, forming a luxuriant carpet. The colours are bright and bold, with the theme colours of purple and green evident in every spot. Even the flowers all across the complex are various hues of purple. A rich, regal purple and a pristine green reflected throughout.
What is most exciting, especially for starry-eyed fangirls like me, is the proximity to legends, fresh talents and crowd favourites alike. It reminded me a little bit of the time we used to travel on safaris in Kenya. Whenever we would spot a “minor sighting”, like zebra or a wildebeest, there would be mild excitement in our kombi (minivan). A brief pause, a quick snap and a lazy nod, before we proceeded. But when we chanced to sight a lion or a leopard, a sudden hush fell upon the line of vehicles, preceding the excited flurry of cameras and stifled whispers. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to Wimbledon, where the sighting of a “big player” meant the phones and cameras were whipped out in a fan frenzy, whilst other players enjoyed a more serene reception.
The highlight for me was wangling a ticket to watch Roger Federer’s second-round match on Centre Court. I could write dissertations on Roger Federer, but suffice it to say that this was an experience I will never, ever forget. A masterclass. An exposition of brilliance. It had a dreamlike quality to it; the childish fantasies of a nine-year old, unfolding before her eyes. The hastily clicked photographs proof that indeed, dreams do come true, even after a decade.
Tennis notwithstanding, the Wimbledon experience is one to savour because of the lore and tradition that surrounds it. The players wear only white, and there are no big sponsor hoardings (except for those from sponsors long associated with the event). From the overnight queue to the Pimms and champagne, from the ice-creams to the Robinson’s Barley Water slushies, everything is built into the legend in such a way that your experience would be incomplete without sampling them all. And then of course, there are the strawberries and cream. Of the many celebrated Wimbledon traditions, this one is probably the winner. There is just something about plump red strawberries slathered in Kentish cream and dusted over with powdered sugar that makes it irresistible. At this point, I feel compelled to point out that red strawberries and (off)-white cream are a perfect match for Roger Federer’s Swiss-themed colours – a mere coincidence, no doubt!
You do not have to be a tennis fan to enjoy the many aspects of this wonderful celebration of talent, skill and character. There is so much more to appreciate. The quest for perfection, the respect for tradition, the attention to detail. Each little element feels like it has been there for years, and will remain there for years. Constant, enduring and a hallmark of this great sporting event.
In short, if you are a tennis fan, do go and see Wimbledon. If you’re not…well, still, do go see Wimbledon.