By Jack Edward
Hi Popcorn Tennis readers!
Hope you are all well!
It’s been a while, eh?
Sorry about that. I’ve been juggling various things in my life (don’t worry, all good things!) and haven’t had much time to contribute.
But here I am post-Wimbledon trip, coughing a little from a bout of COVID (again thanks for your concern but I’m feeling alright considering!) but raring to give you the scoop on part of my wonderful adventure.
Here’s how my first day at Wimbledon went.
Organised As Fuck
I wake up in my friend’s flat in London on Wednesday morning groggy as fuck. I’ve had the best part of 60 minutes to get some sleep, tossing and turning at the thought of the next day.
See, I don’t have a ticket but figured I wouldn’t need one. My idea was to sell myself a little on the cut-throat streets of Wimbledon. I’ve got a blog and a podcast that I wanna’ kindly tell people about – I have wee postcards of the Big Four to give to people, little quizzes they can do if they’re bored at the very least.
After saying the idea out loud to Molly however, her eyes widen momentarily. She about-faces to say it’s a brilliant idea but it occurs to me in that split-second of her horror I’d have to have my biggest set of balls on to actually walk up to people and tell them about it.
Plus I don’t have a ticket.
So I was kept up thinking about that and then waking up having had one hour of sleep, I was even more daunted at the idea…
Fuck it. I’d figure it out.
My five-line itinerary starts with “25-minute cycle to Wimbledon”. I grab a Santander bike and feel rejuvenated by the London smog rushing through my hair. As I approach Wimbledon, it occurs to me I’d have to find somewhere to park it. I look up the map of docking stations for the closest one and…
There isn’t one for a mile.
Class. Organised as fuck. Well done, Jack.
(Not) Selling Myself
I cycle back into the city centre to park the bike before all hell breaks loose from the sky above. I continue onwards through the pissing rain and park the bike.
There is a 40-something man standing under some shelter with his mum.
Fuck it, let’s give it a shot.
They’re both going to watch the tennis so I proceed to give them a wee quiz on Wimbledon. They’re both loving it and they love the postcards but they haven’t got a scooby on some of the questions.
Iga Świątek? “Never heard of him”.
Easy enough approaching a captive audience of two in isolation but no way I’d be doing that to folk walking in the street, stopping them in their tracks to tell them this and that about players they’ve never heard of…
I walk into Wimbledon soaked as fuck and – sure enough – bail out of talking to anyone.
Meeting The Man Himself
I change my immediate plans. Let’s touch base with another Popcorn Tennis member for the first time!
I give Scott Barclay a message on Twitter wishing him a happy birthday and invite him to meet up briefly before the action begins.
He’s up for it!
Meet me here Scott? Does that help?
Scott replies 10 minutes later: “Feel like I may have wandered right by you mate! Are you back up the street slightly?”
My reply: “I’m afraid I don’t know where you are Scott!”
Scott: “A classic… Hold on.”
10 minutes pass….
I know where you are Scott!
…and we finally bump into each other! Scott’s taller than I expected – he’s a tennis player though of course – but nothing else comes as a surprise. He’s bubbly and kind – I’m still struggling to keep my eyes open at this point but I hope I do a pretty good job of keeping up with the conversation.
He shows me a text he’s received from Judy Murray saying she’s got a birthday surprise for him. I get him suitably hyped. We part ways for two minutes before…
“We should get a photo!”
Breaking Into Wimbledon
So the idea post-meeting with Scott was to make my way down to the queue to hand out some post-cards and entertain folk with some quiz questions.
Unfortunately the queue is non-existent at this point.
I walk straight up to the ticket sellers and buy myself a grounds pass.
What proceeded to transpire was a bit of an ecstatic blur.
I walked onto the grounds for the fifth time in my life but I’d only really previously been in as a complete and utter Andy fan. For the first time in my life, I was at Wimbledon as a complete and utter tennis fan and I was spellbound.
If the moment presented itself for me to give a wee postcard to someone, I’d take it. But inside the grounds, I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
My plan on the back-burner for now, I met up with Scott and his partner Molly to wish them good luck for meeting Judy before traipsing round the outside courts.
I settled into front row seats for Metkić/Pavić and introduced myself to my two bench mates – two Aussies, John and Paul, who had plenty of questions about Benoit Paire.
“He jist doesn’t look lyke ‘ee geeves a fuck y’know what I mean mate?”
He’s clearly here for the paycheque, John.
After a stunning return to close the set from Mektić, I give my new mates a couple of postcards and wish them a happy holiday.
My phone starts ringing as I look for a Nakd bar in my bag.
It’s Ruairidh from my tennis club!
“We’re just grabbing some fish and chips before Emma comes on. Do you want our centre court tickets for the last set of Novak’s match? They’re fucking good seats by the way!”
Ahem. I sprint over to the restaurant, thank Ruairidh a million times, give his daughter a fist-bump and settle in for Djokovic v Kokkinakis.
Being that close, absorbing tennis on centre court like that…
It’s unreal. It’s amazing. It’s fucking FAN-tastic actually!
I return the tickets to Ruairidh, thanking him and my lucky stars I didn’t lose the tickets on the way back.
I settle into Henman Hill to decompress and watch the tail end of Jule Niemeier and Anett Kontaveit.
If the previous occurrence had been a blur, what happened next was a freaking whirlwind.
A message from Scott: “There might be a chance of getting you on Centre for Andy’s match… Message you after the Emma match.”
I’m screaming internally on the hill.
I’ve been in touch with Isabel from Tennis Twitter and this site itself, who had been keen to go to Wimbledon. We were planning to meet up one of the days so I share the news… I might have a spare ticket to Centre Court! Stay tuned!
Isabel: “THIS IS NOT REAL”
Em, yeah shit maybe not. I may have got carried away –
Scott: “Well, I may have offered the other ticket to Joe.”
Here I am jumping the fucking gun. That was dumb, sorry Isabel, I’ve given you hope and shattered it instantaneously.
We meet up anyways in the hopes that this Joe guy falls through. Isabel looks as dazed and confused as someone that’s made their way through London at the drop of a hat. I’m still fresh off the buzz of Centre Court so I try to play it cool.
It was pretty cool on Centre Court, Isabel, but the real action is in the grounds. There’s so much going on and if you’re a real fan, you’ll know what to look out for… She looks convinced – she’s never seen live tennis before and the mere thought of setting foot in Wimbledon is clearly exciting her.
We wait in the queue for a grounds pass when suddenly…
Scott: “She’s all good to come in!”
Not sure what happened to Joe but Isabel couldn’t care less. She breaks into visible convulsions. We mooch about the grounds before sheepishly walking onto Centre Court where the convulsions turn into tears.
I don’t blame her. Having never watched live tennis before, this is as intense an experience as it gets.
It takes all of about two points for me to realise I’m in the same boat.
Tennis heroin. Andy Murray. Centre Court. Right here, right now. Every fucking point.
The disparity of the silence during every point interspersed with me screaming “C’MON ANDY!” at every available opportunity. I can’t handle the drama of that second-set tiebreak. My head hurts from screaming – but I keep screaming.
The third set is as good as it gets, Andy getting as pumped up as ever. Isabel can barely contain herself punching the air aimlessly in an attempt to release the energy she’s absorbed from the whole experience.
The fourth set ends in fantastic devastation as John Isner aces his way to match point and floats a volley out of Andy’s reach.
We sleepwalk off of Centre Court. Mine and Isabel’s brains are now collective mush. We meet up with Scott briefly to thank him for the experience of a lifetime barely stringing together coherent sentences.
I walk Isabel to the bus stop. She can’t really fathom what just happened. I didn’t really know what to say – I am now among the walking dead, my brain beaten to a pulp. Who knows what I had originally come here to do. The day had danced this way and that, dealing the haymaker in the final round.
The next two days are another essay’s worth so I’ll leave it at this.
I slept like a baby. Once more I’d been caught up in this sport’s amazingness. With the mush worn off, I woke up feeling thankful as ever.
Thank you Scott for your generosity.
Thank you Isabel for your company.
Thank you Andy for being you.
And one more time for good luck – thank you, tennis.