The sun was blazing last Friday as I entered Wimbledon’s gates. As the thermometer tipped past the level of ‘comfortably warm’, the crowds took cover in the shade, chugging rather than sipping Pimm’s Cup cocktails. Before I even stepped foot on the courts, I wondered to myself if we would have been more comfortable watching tennis from the comfort of a pub.

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We’ve made an annual visit to Wimbledon since we’ve lived in London. Drew is a true fan of the sport, having played since he was a kid, all the way through university. We get our tickets through a lottery system hosted by the local tennis league, the one way you can go to Wimbledon without paying dearly for the privilege or dealing with the dreaded day-long queue. I, on the other hand, am a fair-weather tennis fan. I like watching the navy-clad ball kids and the synchronized line referees.

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I also get a bit of a thrill from the routine of a match. The balls are changed out every seven games, and the players tend to grab a new racket at the same time. Some pros have such a detailed changeover routine that I am mesmerized by their habits. Sip of water, sip of sports drink. Bite of banana. Change of sweaty shirt every ten games. Towel off right arm, then left. Pick three balls, discard one. Tap the racket to the bottom of each shoe. Twirl the racket three times before each point.

It’s a nuanced, superstitious dance, and one I love to witness.

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We attended the tournament this year on an auspicious day, one where the two favourite players of the Brits teed off against one another. The local hero Andy Murray was set to battle perennial stalwart Roger Federer in a semi-final match and the crowds rallied in full force. Unfortunately, our tickets did not provide access to Centre Court, so an alternative seating area was needed to watch the match.

We did our best to find an open patch of land on Henman Hill from which to watch the action, but the crowds there had been thick since the minute the gates opened for the day. We gazed around, watching shoulders turning various shades of pink, and realized we were better off finding another viewing area.

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Fortunately, given the huge crowds, empty courts were used as alternative viewing areas, the Centre Court matches on display via the large screens. We took seats on empty Court 2 well in advance to see Murray and Federer in their battle royale. Sunscreen applied heavily, we waited, sweat, then waited some more.

And then our friends suggested we go to a pub, and watch the match there.

A bold move if I’ve ever heard one, leaving the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon minutes before the most anticipated match of the tournament is no small feat. But without tickets to seats in the main arena, our viewing opportunities were clearly limited to a boiling hotpot of plastic seats and warm champagne.

I phoned a nearby pub. Yes, they had a television set up indoors. Yes, they’d be showing the match. If we hurried, we would arrive before the first serve.

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And just like that, our day at Wimbledon came to an end.

We watched Federer take down Murray in three quick sets, a much faster destruction than anyone expected. When the number 2 player in the world can beat the number 3 player without visibly exerting much effort, you know he’s having a good day.

As we sat in the blissfully empty dining room, decked out in our nice ‘I’ve-just-come-from-Wimbledon’ outfits, I marvelled once again at our inability to be good tourists. We really are the worst. But our abrupt change of plans allowed us to be comfortable and have a front row seat to the action.

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Even if it was in a pub. 

Have you ever skipped out on a major event like we did? Or do you hold firm, relishing in the day no matter how uncomfortable?

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  • July 15, 2015

    Definitely a bold move! But I kind of can’t say I really blame you. I experienced a similar thing at the Australian Open a few years ago, and being trapped in the heat-box that is the stadium in the sweltering Melbourne summer wasn’t exactly fun. Unlike you, though we *had* paid quite a lot for the tickets, and they did let us into the Rod Laver Arena. We also had tickets for the evening match, so we stuck it out, despite the fact I could actually feel my legs burning. Well – I say we stuck it out… We operated in shifts between our seats and the air-conditioned corridors just behind them. Shade can be so tempting in the height of summer, whatever it’s competing with!
    Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog recently posted…How not to be that annoying person on a long-haul flight (or any flight, for that matter):My Profile

    • July 16, 2015

      Can’t imagine how hot it must have been in Melbourne. Like the shift idea between the court and the AC! I think we would have been fine watching it in the shade if we had centre court tickets, but since we could only watch it on the screens around the grounds, none of which were shaded, it wasn’t worth it. We were with our friends who also had no interest in continuing to sweat, so that helped to push us towards the pub idea. The cool air and cold drinks were nice!

  • July 15, 2015

    Ha ha! I was going to say first you bailed on the music festival early and now Wimbledon… you are really making it a habit of cutting bait early. 🙂 That said, sometimes I wonder with events like this if you aren’t better off watching them on tv—often the view is much better and it sounds like that pub was way more comfortable too.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Where to Eat in TlaquepaqueMy Profile

    • July 16, 2015

      I think tennis is fantastic live and if we had centre court tickets, we would have stuck it out. Since we were left to watch Wimbledon on TV, while at Wimbledon, it didn’t make much sense to deal with the chaos and the heat to watch it there on a screen. The pub was empty, refreshingly cool and a big TV right next to our table. Worked out perfectly! Of course, Julie clearly doesn’t have an issue cutting out early anyway if necessary….

  • July 16, 2015

    Probably you offence a lot of tennis fans out there, but I can’t say I blame you 😉
    Maaike – Travellous World recently posted…Walk the Walk: Den BoschMy Profile

    • July 16, 2015
      Julie

      I know, right? Don’t tell anyone 🙂

  • July 17, 2015

    You two are so cute and fun! We would have done the same thing. Not sure how anyone could be offended by it. You were the ones missing out on live action. Reminds me of when I used the men’s bathroom at the New York Opera House because the women`s line-up was a mile long. Oh, the horrified looks I got! ROFL.
    Yours in travel,
    Shirley
    Shirley recently posted…There Are NO Restaurants In Ireland!My Profile

    • July 19, 2015
      Julie

      Haha, thanks Shirley! No shame in using the men’s restroom ever 🙂

  • July 19, 2015

    Definitely a bold move, but one that I’ve also done as I’ve gotten older! (music festivals included 🙂 I can’t wait to get to Wimbledon, though.. hopefully next year! Love your photos…
    Samantha recently posted…What Kind of Ukulele Should I Buy?My Profile

    • July 20, 2015

      It was a bold move, but something we all agreed on. Wimbledon is great though and that was our second visit. It’s an amazing event that any even minor sports fan should add to their calendar. It’s quintessentially English experience!