Monday, June 28, 2010

The experience that is WIMBLEDON

In any sport, players are periodical but what remains forever is the arena where the characters earn their reputation and the longevity of these venues gives them the status of pilgrimage. Being played since 1877, Wimbledon qualifies to be one of those heritage destinations that bring the romance of sport to the forefront and the legacy continues to grow with every passing year as the event makes it return for ‘the fortnight’. Thanks to satellite television, the global population is a part of the legacy of the sporting arenas and events however to be at the venue to witness live action from the middle gives unparalleled joy to anyone for whom sports is a religion. The impression and the memories (s) he carries from those few hours become a part of the folklore and there is never any hint of tiredness while reliving those moments even after decades, hence making it longer than any series of soap opera. There is a twist or a turn every time the story is repeated at the dining table or over a cup of coffee. Being a student of sports, it was important to tick this box off before finishing the course so that the experience gained could qualify to be my learning from the degree. It turned out to be my best international sporting experience so far.

Ever since I have followed lawn tennis from 1995, Wimbledon has been the world cup of this sport for me and to be watching the first live tennis match at the venue brought back the memories of June-July 2009 when I was working on Nike India’s annual offsite project. The client wanted the 2nd night of the offsite (5th July 2009) on the finals of Wimbledon so that the whole of Nike India contingent could come together in front of the giant screen to cheer for one of their Nike athletes. In the epic final between Andy Roddick and Roger Fedrer, the elegance of the later fetched him the title much to the delight of Nike’s camp. Not even a year has passed by and I was watching the last year runner up play live at court 1.

Getting an entry to the mega event was always going to be a challenge as 90% of the tickets were sold out either through the ballot scheme or online or through debenture much in advance of the event. To fetch one of the limited 500 tickets that were being issued the night prior to the event for each of centre court, court 1 and court 2, the best option was to camp overnight like 1500 others however unlike others we were unprepared. The moment we got out of the Southfields tube station, the world looked so green and purple (the official colour of Wimbledon). Right from the decor to the signage leading to the village, every element was synchronised as per a particular pattern showcasing the immaculate organising skills and attention to details of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and International Management Group (IMG). Every single human face running the show spoke the same language and wore the same uniform i.e. smiles. The facilities at the overnight queuing camp filled all basic needs however since we were late enough to fetch a centre court queue card by 200 numbers the camp tent shop had shut down. As the night temperature declined, the situation demanded a two hour to and fro walk to Asda on the motorway to fetch a camping tent. The celebration of Avinash’s birthday in the camp in our own little way made the camping experience much more memorable. As the sun rose, we packed the tents and proceeded towards the ticket counters. It was not before 9.30am that we finally lay our hand on the prized possession.

The atmosphere inside Wimbledon was festive and the excitement and anticipation of the crowd made the place bubbling with energy. A quiet wait observing the sea of humanity who had assembled from all across the globe ensured that the minute hand ticked faster than ever before and in no time the chair umpire had called play. The conduct of the matches, the display of professionalism by the ball boys/girls and their synchronised movement along the court, the intelligence of the crowd and the celebration of match points and set wins by the players made the 7 hours look like a glossy cover sheet.

Being a student of sports, I will hopefully visit Wimbledon more often than not in the years to come but the virgin feeling of 24th June 2010 will remain irreplaceable forever. It is indeed a must visit destination for anyone who is in England during ‘the fortnight’ because truly it is the experience that is Wimbledon.

Those of us who made it to the day 5 of the championship: Wimbledon 2010:
Court 1
• Binay Agarwal (London)
• Nishant Kumar Sethi (Leeds)
• Leo Liu (Sheffield)
• Sidhanta Patnaik (Sheffield)

Court 2
• Avinash Pinto (Sheffield)

Matches witnessed
Court 1
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3- Novak Djokovic(3) bt Albert Montanes (6-1, 6-4, 6-4)
• Ladies’ Singles-Rd 3-Venus Williams bt Alisa Kleybanova (6-4, 6-2)
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3-Andy Roddick(7) bt Phillp Kohlschreiberr(35) (7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3)

Court 2
• Ladies Singles-Rd 3-Kim Clijsters bt Maria Kirilenko (6-3,6-3)
• Ladies Singles-Rd 3-Jelena Jankovic bt Alona Bondarenko (6-0, 6-3)
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3-Jurgen Melzer(16) bt Feliciano Lopez(30) (4-6,6-3,6-2,6-4)
• Ladies’ Dobules – Serena/Venus Williams bt Timea Bacsinszky/Tathiana Garbin (6-1, 7-6(2))


Sidhanta Patnaik
28th June 2010 (Monday)

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