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Anyone For Tennis?

By: Nathan Baxter
Date: 27/06/2007

MY latest trip to summer sporting spectacles took me on Tuesday to Wimbledon for the second day of the tournament. I had been fortunate to be given tickets in the public draw at the first time of asking, so set off early for the tennis and followed the crowds.

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The queues were long and slow, but everyone accepted them and they were very orderly. Finally at the end of the third different queue I was handed my ticket to Centre Court and was free to walk round the complex, over an hour after I had got to Wimbledon.

The three matches scheduled on Centre Court on Tuesday were all top players against also rans. Nadal, Djokovic in the Mens' (sorry Gentlemens') tournament and Mauresmo in the Womens' all were on the famous court, which this year had no roof (I wouldn't have missed it had nobody said).

In between was the small matter of Tim Henman v Carlos Moya, which was of far greater interest to me than all the other games put together. And so it proved. The fifth set of the Henman v Moya game was a vignette of everything that is good about tennis: tension, excitement, pace, passion and flair were all served up in abundance. It was a superb spell, like watching an hour long penalty shoot out.

Unfortunately the rest of the day wasn't like that. The other three games were all very one sided, and I lost interest in them all as a contest after a handful of games. Only the Moya v Fish game was vaguely interesting as the second set went to a tie break. The three top players were all incredibly good, and I could admire their skill to a greater extent than is possible on television. But if I had been at home I would have pressed the red button on the remote control to watch a game on another court!

Having a ticket for the whole day (cost £36) enables you to dip in and out of games and walk round the courts, buy overpriced food and drinks, and generally sample the atmosphere. All very well, but frankly I'd have swapped the whole day for Mansfield away. Thank God for the Henman game otherwise it would have been a non-event for me personally. If I would go again I would go much later in the tournament when the games are closer.

Unlike the other sporting occasions I have attended it was unique as the crowd was 99% neutral for anything other than the Henman game. This and the one-sided games meant there was very little atmosphere. And if nobody else particularly cares it's hard to care yourself, unlike empathetic experiences I have had at other spectacles when I arrived a neutral and left a fan. Sport for me is all about the atmosphere and not just the spectacle and that's why Wimbledon on the day I went was largely a disappointment.

Amazingly the queue of people for tickets to the following day's matches had already started by the time I left with well over an hour's play left. I'm not sure I would do that for Mansfield away!

Verdict: 5/10

On Saturday my final trip of the summer (probably) will see me head to Twickenham (not the famous ground) to see Harlequins RL v Hull KR in the Super League. I should think this will be the closest I will get to the Beautiful Game, before proper sport begins again in August. Like all the other things I have watched this summer it will also be the first time I have seen the sport in question live, and I'm looking forward to this one as much as anything I've been to so far. What I'm hoping above all is for some proper fans, proper chants, crap burgers, abuse of the players, replica shirts and not all this establishment stuff: blazers, pimms and orderly queues. No more please!

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