For me, the summer of 2019 will always be extraordinary for one main event: camping and a super Saturday experience at the much-acclaimed Wimbledon grounds along with Coco Gauff and other tennis superstars. During our time there, my partner and I created wonderful memories to cherish forever. By Shalini Gowrisankar
The two of us have been living in London for three years now, and my partner – being a passionate tennis player and fan of the sport – has always wished to watch some good matches at the Wimbledon ground. That year, in 2019 – like the previous years – we wished to fulfil this bucket list experience.
There were three possible ways for the general public to buy tickets: through the yearly ballots (which we missed since we were late to the ballot drawing); buying exorbitantly priced tickets (an option we were considering); or queuing and camping at the Wimbledon grounds a day or two prior to the games. We settled for option three, despite no camping gear or prior experience of camping for tickets. Instead, we had a whole deal of hope and adventure in mind.
After a busy day of work on Thursday, July 4, 2019, and not giving in to our laziness, we packed our bags with three pairs of clothes (including our Roger Federer shirts, in case we get to see him!), our newly-purchased tent, sleeping bags, snacks, and a newly-unboxed solar power bank. Next, we boarded the district line tube to arrive at the Wimbledon station, 30 minutes past midnight.
At that hour, we were among the few people walking towards the ground to join the ‘The Q’. Friendly volunteers guided us to the right spot as we looked out for the Wimbledon colour coordinated flag with Q written on it. We walked as fast as we could with our luggage in tow. Every fast move in the right direction was important as other campers walked towards the queue as well. We collected our queue cards – numbers 1484 and 1485) – set up our tent, settled into our sleeping bags and called it a day.
There are approximately 1,500 tickets sold on the day of the match in total, allocated equally for centre court, court one, and court two. Our plan was to queue for the Super Saturday tickets, which meant that some of the topmost players would be playing that Saturday. One only gets to know who is going to play in which court a day before the match, keeping us curious.
Waking up to the call of volunteers at 06:00 am on Friday morning, we were eager to see the number of campers choosing today’s game to judge our chances of buying the most sought-after centre court tickets. After two hours of moving our tents around in the queue, we were re-issued new queue cards (numbers 523 and 524). Almost 900 campers from the previous day had chosen to watch Friday’s match itself.
After setting up our tent again and getting breakfast from the kiosks on the ground, we spent the rest of the day people-watching, feeding ducks in the Wimbledon lake, snacking, visiting our favourite Thai restaurant in the neighbourhood for quick takeaway meals, and chatting with fellow campers – not realising we were creating memories along the way.
Although it was a very warm summer day, most campers were having their own picnic, chatting about their past camping experiences in Wimbledon. We met one camper from Switzerland who had been camping here for six years in a row!
That Friday evening, the list of players playing on Saturday along with court details were released. The Centre Court was to witness four extraordinary games on Super Saturday. Now, we were excited! However, at the same time, we were nervous as well, not sure whether we would get a chance to secure two of those precious tickets since we were slightly behind 500 in the queue, and not sure if anyone would want to miss their chance of seeing the centre court games the following day. With this thought and praying to all the stars, we decided to call it a day.
On Saturday, July 6, 2019, we were quick to pack, secure our luggage in the lockers and make our way to test our luck. When the tickets for the day were being issued, we waited in the queue with our queue cards, along with thousands of other campers. Twenty minutes later, as the volunteers with ticket bands approached couple of rows ahead of us, we were jumping with joy as they were still holding a couple of dozen centre court tickets. What a thrilling moment it was to be two of the final campers to get the tickets! We collected our bands, purchased the tickets and grinned our way to the stadium.
With our well-earned centre court bands in one hand and a cup of strawberry and cream in the other, we were all set to witness world-class tennis unfold for the next eight to nine hours. We had one of the best seats and could even recognise (now) well-known faces of fellow campers.
The lineup for the day was possibly the best ever! Then women’s world number one, Ash Barty; the greatest of all time, Roger Federer; the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal; and the local favourite, Andy Murray partnering with Serena Williams in the mixed-doubles. Personally, though, watching Federer play on centre court was a dream come true – majestic, classy and poetry in motion!
With our hearts filled with joy, uncontrollable excitement still very fierce in our tanned faces, we carried with us not just our camping luggage but a lifetime worth of memories from our 48 hours’ adventure in Wimbledon Park.