An unbelievable English sporting summer

There is no doubt that July and August 2012 was the best time to be unemployed in London. There was just so much going on, not least of course the Olympics, and although I was out of money when I returned home from Vietnam, the dream was to end off the two year adventure with the Olympics in London and so I knew I had to make a plan. That plan being the trusty credit card!

Day 3 at Wimbledon
Day 3 at Wimbledon

Before Olympic action got under way however, there were a few other sporting events on the go and I took in as much action as possible. First up was the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon which the boys and I were queuing for bright and breezy from 7am on Wednesday of the 1st week. It’s all very well organised with stewards marshaling you into queues on the outside field and everyone getting a queue number! The different lines are let in very systematically and as we’d arrived early enough, we were in by 10 with play scheduled to start at 11.

I was amazed at how close you can get to the action with the stands being very small on the outside courts. On some of the courts, for example, there is only a wooden bench alongside the court and this means you’re literally right next to the action. I had such fun on the Wednesday that it was a no brainer when Rob asked on Thursday night if I fancied joining him the following day and what it day it turned out to be as, can you believe it, I got to see Roger Federer on centre court! Let me explain.

By the Friday, it was mostly doubles on the outside courts and so Rob and I found ourselves a spot on the bench at court 8 to watch see the # 1 men’s seeds. It was a frustrating start to the day, one of those UK on-off drizzle mornings where the players get more exercise walking to and from the court than they do playing tennis. Within the hour, the players must have been out and back in some 3 or 4 times and at this point, the lady next to us comments to her friend that she’d had enough of this nonsense and why don’t they head inside to centre to wait for play to start there (play on centre courts started at 1).

I’m certainly not shy so I tapped her on the shoulder and asked that if for any reason they were to leave, they must please give me a call and we’d happily buy their ticket. Her response suggested we would never hear from her – the shrugging of the shoulders, the sighed “I guess we can take your number”. As soon as they were out of earshot, Rob and I both looked at each other and commented we’d never hear from them again!

Rob and I on Centre Court!
Rob and I on Centre Court!

Lo and behold, a few hours later as we’re watching our 3rd game on court #3, having queued for over a hour to get on, I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket with a very simple message  …  “Do u wnt tkts to centre”. So Rob and I high-tailed it off court 3 and headed off to centre where for 10 pounds we got to watch Roger in a 3rd round, 5 set  thriller. We came on mid-way through the 2nd set, which Roger lost 7-6 to go 2-0 down. Like a true champion he rallied though, winning the 3rd set 6-1 and holding his nerve to win an unbelievably tense and exciting 4th set tie breaker  8-6 and take the match to a 5th  set.  This broke the back of his opponent, the 29th seed Julien Benneteau from France, and he strolled through the 5th winning it 6-1.

The atmosphere on centre court throughout the match was electric, especially that 4th set with the majority in the stands willing the match to continue and head into a 5th set.  My 1st few days in the UK couldn’t have gotten off to a more phenomenal start!

Some 2 weeks later after the mud-bath up in Scotland at T in the Park, a 4 day music festival, Dyl and I were at Victoria coach station for our 6 hr bus to Blackpool and the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes.The atmosphere at the Open feels very British in a way … a polite clap here, and “jolly good shot” comment there (only after a really good shot – they don’t applaud for a normal drive onto the fairway, for example, as that’s expected) and total silence round the greens.

Dyl, Dan and I in front of the 18th green and clubhouse
Dyl, Dan and I in front of the 18th green and clubhouse

Notwithstanding a vast number of cocktails with Adam, our couch-surfing host and aplomb cocktail maker, and our large 4am evening, we were up by 7 and at the Open, 8 sandwiches in tow, by 9 for what turned out to be 12 hours of golfing bliss. We spent time at a few greens, followed a few groups for a hole or 3 and managed to see all but 1 of the many saffa golfers in the field. We watched the Big Easy, Ernie Els, tee off at the 1st and followed him to the 6th, all the time eliciting stares and smiles from people as I walked round in my 1 piece South African flag overall. Who knew that the Big Easy would go onto lift the Claret jug – what a true South African legend.

Following on from this was the mouth-watering test series between the Proteas and England but I’ll save that for the next blog! It certainly deserves it’s own space.

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