Back for more - Wimbledon Wednesday 22 June

Drink a Pimms - for seven quid
I stayed away from Wimbledon on Day 2 to recover from the 4:30am start time at The Queue on Day 1 and still felt shaky on Wednesday morning. Knowing the weather wasn't meant to be fab (shock!) my mate and I didn't get up so early for Day 3 but once we saw the weather looked good we hit the fast forward button to get to Wimbledon as quickly as we could to get a grounds pass.

We arrived in The Queue around 10am and were there in plenty of time to get the pass and we got in the gates around 12 or so. Of course, it rained and start times were delayed for hours! Play didn't start until around 3:30 on the outer courts so plenty of time to stuff our faces and sit inside Court 1 while the rains passed. Finally, play began and I started with Flavia! So good to see her back playing pretty well after her injuries this year. Watched her win a tight first set then time to wander! 

I love getting a grounds pass - best value for money during the first week of a slam. I walked and saw Bethanie in all her odd attire playing a Japanese qualifier for awhile, then watched Feliciano Lopez warm up then Sabine Lisicki in her first round match.
Melanie Oudin seen watching BMS serve
Ha ha ha ha ha
Wild card Sabine, now in the semis!
About to unleash one of her service bombs
One match I was really keen to see was Mirjana Lucic vs Dominika Cibulkova. I wandered up to this one at 6-6 in the third set and managed to be able to see while standing on the steps. This one went to little Domi 8-6 in the third. I was right by her coach Zelkjo Krajan who used to coach Dinara Safina. Was pretty wicked to be right by a player's team and watch their responses.
Domi Cibulkova

Zelkjo Krajan
The last few hours of my second day at Wimbledon were pure magic. Fish and chips while watching Andy Murray from Henman Hill/Murray Mound. Discovered the best viewing area at Wimbledon above Court 18 (watched a crazy tiebreaker between Ernie Gulbis and Dmitry Tursunov which went to 14-12) and enjoyed looking around beautiful Wimbledon.
Great seat!
Watching Murray play on Murray Mound.
View from top of Court 18
Energetic Murray Mound

As we made our way down from the top of Court 18, my mate noticed the queue for After Five tickets. We decided to go for it and see if we could get onto Centre Court to watch Roddick's match with Victor Hanescu. I was not  in any way getting my hopes up as previously blogged Roddick has always had a knack for avoiding me. But we got to the front of the queue and paid our 5 quid each and literally giggled and sprinted our way to Centre Court!

Our seats were mint, a few rows behind the Royal Box. And Roddick was there! And playing! Without rain! Bliss. #bucketlist

Scary security dude stood up every change of ends to protect Royal Box
Serving master

What a beautiful sight
Roddick wins

It's funny what you notice in person while watching tennis that you don't notice on TV - Roddick wiggled his bum an awful lot, and well, boy does he rearrange a lot! It was really distracting. We also weren't sitting too far from Roddick's box so kept an eye on Brooklyn. She kept her sunnies on the entire match even tho it was getting dark. And yeah, well they played tennis and of course it was compelling. Roddick's serve is damn impressive and he won in three tight sets.
Being on a total high, my friend and I decided to walk to Wimbledon Village for a drink. We managed to choose a bar Serena and Venus go to a lot - we talked to the manager for ages and he said they often come there at the end of the tourney and have a private gathering there.
So there ends my first Wimbledon - such an amazing tournament and what a dream come true.

Wimbledon ramblings - Monday 20 June

It's fitting that the final grand slam I attended of the four was Wimbledon. Having watched professional tennis for 20+ years, well that's many an hour I've spent watching Wimbledon. I first recall watching it in my teens when the coverage in the US was on HBO. We didn't have HBO growing up so I was forced to watch Wimbledon illegally, with a fuzzy picture, grey lines and odd noises to accompany the tennis.

Seriously, people who started watching sports after creation of the internet have no idea how hard it used to be.

So the final hurrah of my five-week tennis dream trip just had to be Wimbledon. I was too disorganised to get tickets beforehand so I knew 'the queue' awaited. I have some strong opinions about the ridiculousness of the queue but my mate and I got up at 3am to join the queue and hopefully secure a showcourt ticket for day 1. All I can say is that there is little else on this planet that will get me up at such an hour to stand/sit/freeze/melt on a rainy Monday 'summer' morning in England. Ah, tennis.

All these feelings mostly evaporated the closer we got to the security line and the first seconds of Radio Wimbledon as background sounds put the biggest, proudest smile on my face.

That smile remained as we got near security, and the anticipation was palpable. I was nearly at Wimbledon! Once we finally were able to get into the gates it was just awesomeness. The beautiful green and purple colours everywhere, that amazing green was all just as stunning in person as it is on TV.

Henman Hill/Murray Mound, signs for Pimms and strawberries and cream - it's all there and it's all wonderful. As soon as we arrived I walked around to see what was going on and just happened to get front and centre to watch Rafa practicing with Feli Lopez. I got such a great position that when he left the court I could have easily gotten an autograph...but I already got one in Melbourne this year and thought getting a close up pic was more important.
 I also watched Francesca Schiavone warm up, a bit of Vera Zvonereva and then plopped on Henman Hill to watch a bit of Venus Williams before play started on Court 1.

When we went to be seated on Court 1 my eyes bugged out when we were ushered to the sixth row! The usher saw my face and asked me if the seats were close enough for my liking. I know I must have been grinning like an idiot. So that's what you get when you queue!

We saw Vera Zvonereva beat young American Alison Riske in three sets, then I ran off to do a lap around the grounds. I wanted to see the end of Rafa's match from Henman Hill and then was back to see Tomas Berdych...that match was over in a flash and then it was finally time for me to see Andy Roddick. ARod has always managed to avoid me, either losing early or me not being able to get a ticket when he played. So yeah, finally I get to see him.
Except a few minutes into his warm up, it rained. So I got to see him for about 5 minutes.

Sorry, but rain delays suck. So disappointing and it's hard to know whether to stay or go...I held out about 45 minutes before it all was too wet to remain and we huddled under the stadium waiting for good news...but it kept bucketing down. So we decided to try and get to a place on Court 1 that allowed us to see the big screen, where they were showing Centre Court action. We watched the last 10 minutes of Fran vs Jelena Dokic and then threw the towel in and left for the day.
Wasn't the end of tennis though, and we went to a pub to watch Murray's first match. 
What a day, and though I felt seriously ill for a good part of the afternoon (thanks 3am start!) it was amazing  to be there for the opening day of Wimbledon. I had hoped to go back the next day but I am not hard core enough for that, so took Tuesday off and returned on Wednesday. More on that day soon....

Heading back to NZ....

And so here I sit in Seoul airport on my way back to New Zealand following a magical five weeks in UK/Europe.

I won't be able to gain real perspective on my trip until the jet lag has worn off, but here's a run down of what I did and some initial thoughts:

French Open - two days
Queens Club - two days
Eastbourne - three days
Wimbledon - two days

Some highlights:
1) Saw Serena's comeback match at Eastbourne and her match with Vera
2) Finally got to see Andy Roddick, on Centre Court no less!
3) Spoke to Vera, JJ, Vika, Bojana, Petra K, Zheng Jie, Richard Williams and others I forget now (some responded, others didn't)
4) Was within hugging distance to Rafa and Serena (coming and going into practice sessions in Wimby/Eastbourne)
5) Queued for Wimbledon (albeit not overnight but I got up at 3am)
6) 'Enjoyed' a rain delay (okay, four) at Wimbledon
7) Ate strawberries and cream at Wimbledon
8) Drank a 7 quid Pimms on Henman Hill/Murray Mound
9) Did the wave in Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open and at Centre Court at Wimbledon
10) Completed my career fan slam! (Aussie 2000, 2008, 2010, 2011), French (2011), Wimbledon (2011), US Open (2002).

I was wowed by Wimbledon and unimpressed by the French Open. I fell in love with Eastbourne and the intimacy of the tournament. I loved the grand Queens Club but the tourney itself wasn't as fun.

I took thousands of pics and look forward to sorting through them and writing up a lot more about my amazing trip. Fire away any questions about the tourneys, etc and I'm happy to respond!

Eastbourne through photos - Thursday 16 June

Back from another fab day at Eastbourne - so much to say but will let the pics show the story until I have time to recap.

Petra, Vika and Bethanie

The bad asses of tennis

Vika practicing in the rain

Bepa with Petra in the background

Practices over...just pretty green grass
Dani Venus
Dani wins

Mo in charge on Court 1
Agie and Petra

Petra wins in third set TB

Beth and Megs

Vika stretching prematch

Vika trying to explain the pain...of losing to Marion

Sam battling past Vera

Team Oz dubs - cold Jarka

Oh Sam, grey?

Eastbourne - Wednesday 15 June

I see you!
It's hard to have a bad day when it begins watching Sam Stosur, Serena Williams and Vera Zvonereva practicing side by side in Eastbourne. Sam was on the nearest practice court and when I arrived I saw Richard Williams and his wife so knew Serena would be coming soon. She walked right past me and I completely clammed up tho wanted to say 'welcome back' or something. Fail!

I've seen Serena play a lot - Melbourne, US Open and Olympics but had never been so close to her as I was today as hadn't seen her in any practice. It's hard for me to explain how amazing it is to be so close to these athletes we love so much. Watching player practices at slams is such chaos but here the players are so accessible so you almost feel like you're intruding. Yesterday Venus had a bit of a rest after her practice and she stood there watching everyone watching her, no one speaking. I was tempted to say something, ask for a pic or something but it was an odd experience (see pic- think she really wanted me to speak!).

The famous booty

Serena and Sascha
I watched Serena practice for awhile and then it was time to watch Venus take on Ana Ivanovic. I saw these two play each other in 2008 at the Aussie Open, and Ana won that QF. This time, Venus was in total control. Her serve was spot on, her groundies fab and she moved well. Ana started off serving really well and then her toss just seemed so errant and to me she showed no patience and really tried to go for too much. Easy win for Venus!

Then on Centre Court it was little sis taking on Vera. What a fantastic, tense match - seriously have no fingernails left. Serena's start was fab - nothing like yesterday. Although she was called for a foot fault during her first serve of the match (really?), her serve was solid and her groundies so much sharper than yesterday. I'll say the quality of this match was miles ahead of Venus/ Ana and there were some fantastic points all throughout. Serena had the match on her racket but today she didn't quite get the aces cracking BP down and before you knew it Vera won the set in a tiebreak - there were some great points toward the end and Serena was puffing quite a lot. 
You could tell Serena was getting a bit fatigued at the end of that set and she went down a double break in the third really quickly. At this stage of course I was worried and was quite sad to see her shots lack any bite or just not clear the net and she was down 2-5. The comeback queen tho would break Vera twice while she served for the match to tie things at 5-5. Could she do it again, after only playing one match in the past year? The fighter tried to make it happen but couldn't do it and Serena meekly got broken to lose 3-6 6-7, 5-7. 

I read Serena hit 58 winners in the match. Yeah baby!

I'll have more perspective on this match later but sitting through this 3+ hour match surrounded by 'go Vera' repeatedly really made it an unpleasant match. I know people can cheer for anyone they want, but I'd like to know how many of these vocal fans were actually Vera fans (had they even heard of her?) - the crowd got really frustrating. They cheered Serena's errors particularly even a double fault late in the match. At one stage in set three I called out "come on Serena" and had dozens of people turn around to look at me. I watched little old ladies all around me clap fervently whenever Vera won a point particularly on a Serena error. Frustrating. I don't buy that all these people just wanted an underdog to win and I'd have thought the crowd might still have some concern left for Serena's health considering her issues and long break. But no, the woman in front of me made fun of Serena's grunt, the man behind me called her a drama queen when she briefly knelt on the court after a long rally that Vera won. Sigh.

 Anyway, this is getting long but there is so much to say about a day at the tennis. Outside Centre Court, there were only two other slam winners competing (this draw is amazeballs) - Fran lost again to Agie and Li Na lost to Dani. I watched Dani/Na for about 20 minutes and what a battle!

One of today's highlights was meeting Mo (Mohamed Lahyani). He had just finished a match on an outer court and I approached him and told him how much he's loved by us tennis junkies and he was so lovely and appreciative. He posed for a pic with me and I walked away, looked at it and saw my eyes were closed (doh!) so went back and he was happy to pose again and checked it with me to ensure all eyes were open. Such a fantastic man and what a smile!

I'm back for one more day and it's again a Williams on Centre Court as Venus takes on Dani and then it's Stosur/Bepa.