Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wimbledon 2012 (Pt. 2)

The pre-dawn portion of Wimbledon Pt. 2 was much the same as the pre-dawn portion of Wimbledon Pt. 1: zombie-ritual and semi-conscious stumbling. Our taxi driver to the grounds was much chattier this day, however, so he forced us to remain awake (one part conversing to three parts accent-riddling). I'd say we arrived within five minutes of the exact same time as the day before, and yet--and yet!--we were two hundred numbers further up in the queue. We could only presume that fewer people had camped the night before; after all, we were now into the second round of the singles tourney, which meant fewer overall matches. Could we get Centre Court tickets with our improved position? We knew we'd find out -- in about five hours!

We were less fortunate in our queue-buddy selection, which is not to say they were terrible; they just weren't as convivial and friendly as Faye and Tom, the good folks from Oz, had been. In fairness, we weren't as convivial either; we attempted napping. Despite the cold hard ground, if we'd had a blanket over top of us, I'm convinced we would have succeeded.

Knowing what kind of wait to expect made the morning proceed overall much quicker. We bought a newspaper from a rolling cart to see the day's lineups, sipped more coffee, munched our breakfast-in-a-bag, and chatted the hours away. When wristband time came around, our options were once again limited to Courts 1 and 2. Which made sense -- the queue was overwhelmed with folks sporting RF gear (not, as I so foolishly supposed the first day, "Republic of France," but "Roger Federer" -- who, I must say, has a very well designed logo), and the Fed was appearing on Centre Court that day. Ah, well -- Court 1 had plenty of matchups we were excited to see, anyway!

Same as before, Court 1 play didn't begin until 1:00, so we had a good hour and a half of match play on the outer courts before finding our reserved seats. We shuffled on down to Court 3, where one of Jenny's favorite upstarts from last year, a German girl named Sabine Lisicki, was taking on Jovanovski. We cheered our hearts out for the peppy German -- I think in equal parts appreciation of her sense of humor, her perma-smile, her real (and not stilt-like) legs, her whoops-equivalent squeal when she made a boo-boo, and her hustle around the court. Perhaps we shouldn't root for her; after all, she does have a tendency to give us stress-attacks and make games go much closer than they should be. (This match went three sets, though Lisicki was clearly dominant; in the fourth round, she handled Maria Sharapova easily -- oh what fun THAT was to watch! -- then beat herself in another three-setter against Kerber.) But root we did, and in the process I found a tennis player to be my favorite. The game is wholly different when you're pulling for a specific player in the tourney (I'm a surrogate Federer fan, thanks to Jenny!) and not just picking a favorite in each match.

After the match, we clamored out of the bleachers and around to the players' exit. Jenny identified the right door, and we got there just in time to catch Lisicki leaving. I had our program and a Sharpie in hand, and I got her autograph! Not only that, I got to have a (very brief) exchange with her -- auf Deutsch! I was busy watching her sign the program, so I didn't see her face; but Jenny says that she lit up hearing someone speak her native language. Talk about a highlight of the tournament!

The way the Lisicki match was drawn out, we had nearly missed all of the first match on Court 1. But we weren't about to leave it! Besides, it was a match we didn't particularly care about. The second one on 1, however, was a must-see -- the completion of the Roddick/Baker match from the day before. The crowd still grew boisterous behind their native Jamie, but in the end Roddick pulled off a victory. We had to be proud for our countryman!

Then the infamous Rain Delay swooped down over the skies of ol' SW19. The rain wasn't too unbearable -- we sat outside for much of it -- but it was enough for them to pull out the court covers. All in all, the delay wasn't too long, and as soon as it wrapped up we welcomed Maria Sharapova (the then-world number one) and Tsvetana Pironkova to the court. Pironkova was a feisty little thing, and we cheered her on mightily (neither one of us being big Sharapova fans). She gave the #1 a good run for her money, but we sensed that she got nervous when she was actually close to winning the first set; ultimately she lost it, and was down 3-1 when they called the night for darkness.

(Side note: you don't get to see this much on TV, but Sharapova has the strangest rituals. I wonder if she in fact has OCD. I mean for real -- not the sort of mildly compulsive behavior about which we always jokingly say, "That's just my OCD." And not the sort of routine that many athletes like to utilize. Fascinating to watch.)

Exhausted, damp, and thoroughly reluctant to leave, we took our final pictures in front of the standings board. Then we joined the throng filing through the gates of the AELTC, wandered up the street, and hailed a cab outside of the mayhem. I was converted from "tennis appreciator" to "tennis fan," and I now know how Jenny feels sitting with me during a baseball game -- the sport truly is more fascinating, the more you understand it.

I could hardly think of a more fitting end to a first (and second) Wimbledon experience than falling straight into bed. I was asleep before my knees finished buckling!

Thank you, Jenny, for sharing such an enlightening and thrilling sporting experience with me!

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