Last Tuesday my friend Carrie and I went to Wimbledon. She goes almost every year and queues for tickets but it was the first time I had been. I wasn’t sure about queuing so I entered the ballot and I heard about two weeks before that some tickets had been returned and redrawn and I had them. The tickets were for the Ladies Quarter Finals and were for Centre Court.
To be completely honest I’m not really interested in tennis. I am, however, interested in disability sport and really had wanted to go to Wimbledon to see the wheelchair tournament. But when you enter the ballot you can’t specify what you want to see, when you can do or what your budget is. You get what you get. I think that’s a brilliant idea because a lot of people probably wouldn’t book wheelchair tennis but would enjoy it if they saw it. I’m the opposite. I wouldn’t have specifically booked the tickets we got but I did really enjoy it. Even if a lot of people did laugh at me when they heard that.
The wheelchair space I had was on level 5 which was right at the top of Centre Court so we were completely under cover and it was quite hot in there! It was really high and quite far from the action but we were side on to the court so we could see everything that was happening at both ends which was brilliant.
It was a long day and I was exhausted for several days afterwards but it was well worth it. By the end of the day I had been through 5 train stations and on 6 trains – 12 assisted travel interactions – and it all worked really well. The outward was a bit better than the return but at no point were we left wondering where a ramp was or panicking about ending up in the next station because at the points (on the return) that there was no sign of station staff there was on board train staff who knew we were travelling and came to check we were met. At Clapham Junction on the way out our 10 min transfer turned into 3 or 4 due to delays but even though the second train was on the platform when we were waiting for the lift down to it they were still like “you’re going on this.” It’s brilliant when it works well but at the same time there’s a little part of me that’s saying “this shouldn’t be notable. this should be what always happens. I should expect this level of service.”
We saw all of two matches and part of a third. We also had a good wander around the site. I particularly enjoyed the chance to wander and explore the site and all of the little things that were going on like the ladders to adjust the order of play and ranking boards and the grounds staff sweeping courts where play had finished for the day,
Between walking between the station and AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club, the official name of Wimbledon) and back and all the wandering around, travel etc I did 7+ miles on my chair that day. A fair amount of it was on a big hill so no wonder my batteries were getting a bit too low for my liking by the time I was home!
The first match we saw was Serena Williams v Alison Riske. They were very evenly matched and it was hard to tell from minute to minute who was going to win. I was very surprised how quick each of the games was though, I had expected more rallying.
The second match was Johanna Konta v Barbora Strycova. That was a much more decisive match although not in the way I originally thought it would be. To start with it seemed like Johanna Konta was killing it and was definitely going to take the match. But after a while she started to make mistakes and it soon became clear (even to a tennis novice like me) that Strycova was actually going to win. It sort of felt like it was so obvious they should just give her the win and put everyone out of their misery.
We went for a drink and a wander after that so missed the beginning of the next match. That was mixed doubles, Andy Murray and Serena Williams v Fabrice Martin and Raquel Atawo. It was fun to watch and I was thrilled to see it but we left after the first set because we would have needed to leave part way through the second and preferred to go before it started.
I would go again but probably not every year. I think if I did go again I would investigate queuing for a grounds pass rather than going for specific tickets. I think the dip in dip out nature of that might suit me more (plus it would be about a 10th of the price of the Centre Court tickets).
All in all, (and despite how tiring it was) it was a brilliant day that was really accessible and very enjoyable. And really was a bit of a once in a lifetime experience – I mean how often do you get to watch such famous people play tennis on Centre Court at Wimbledon?!