It was like the blind leading the blind.
Here I was getting off the tube in the morning at Southfields Station happily heading in the same direction as the masses. My family and I followed the British crowd down the cobblestone streets to our destination with no tickets in hand.
Thousands of people were already lined up as we approached the Wimbledon queue. Some who had even spent the night were packing up their tents, waiting to get their day passes to Wimbledon. We were ushered into a line of organized chaos and handed a queue card that read 04586. While we were waiting, eating and hoping, we chatted with those around us and nervously asked if they had queued before and had successfully made it inside. They gave us hope. Vendors lined the lush grass of Wimbledon Park, selling various items such as newspapers, food, blankets and ponchos to protect the patrons. Rain was forecasted for that morning.
After three hours with our new English friends, who told us all the secrets of queuing, we finally arrived on the grounds of Wimbledon.
Someone pinch me. This must be a dream.
The hallowed grounds were adorned with purple and white petunias surrounding the perfectly manicured grass courts. Wimbledon emblems were strategically placed on every wall and post. Many fans were dressed in their finest summer attire while others were eccentrically clad in all white to match the players. They all held in their hands a bowl of strawberries and cream, a glass of champagne or a Pimm's Cup.
Being at Wimbledon felt like heaven for an avid tennis player like myself. After watching some of my favorite players, even if they lost, and peeking into the ESPN booth, that day is one I will never forget. This was the holy grail of tennis.
One match in particular I enjoyed on Court 1 was between an up-and-coming Brit, James Ward, and a seasoned fellow American, Mardy Fish. Of course, almost everyone in the 11,000-seat stadium was rooting for Ward — it seemed like there was only a small percentage of supporters for the American. Ward received applause after every point, which helped him push the match to a fifth and deciding set. It was an upset in the making.
A few times during the match, I yelled, "Let's go, Mardy!" That was a mistake — I had no one to back me up. All I heard after that was the entire crowd coming alive, shouting to will Ward to victory.
As a tennis player, it is very difficult to remain focused when the crowd is not supporting you. However, in the end, I continued to root for Fish. I contained my composure like Fish, and he eventually pulled out the win. At that moment I was proud to be an American as well as one of his fans. As the players walked off the court together, they got a long, standing ovation from the crowd. It was nice to see sportsmanship from the entire stadium.
The popular alternative to purchasing a pricey Centre Court ticket is to find a spot on Henman Hill, a grassy slope outside Court 1 facing a large JumboTron featuring the current top match. I was fortunate enough to witness Andy Murray, Great Britain's local favorite.
As the hot sun beat on the courts of Wimbledon, I watched Murray struggle to beat his opponent. I noticed quite a few sunburned Union Jack-waving fans supporting their country's athlete as he tried to win Great Britain's first men's singles title since 1936. Most folks on Henman Hill picnic while watching a match or two on the colossal screen. This area was jam-packed throughout the day. One thing people must be aware of when partaking in this ritual is that the grassy slope is not only slick, but also steep and has quite a few people on it sleeping after a long day or passed out from drinking too much Pimm's. It’s easy to slowly slide down the hill and become a neighbor’s new best friend. This day was a day of queuing. It was a day of waiting in line. Waiting in line to get a seat to watch high-seeded players on different courts. Waiting in line to buy resale tickets to watch Rafael Nadal on Centre Court.
But imagine waiting in line for the biggest, highest, fastest roller coaster in the world. No matter how long the wait, the ride must be experienced, and the ride would always make the wait worthwhile.