Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wanderlust takes me to Wimbledon - Day 2

Day 2 and I had tons of places to see, but another high priority place which I absolutely had to see was the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, better known to the rest of the world as the Mecca of tennis – the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon.

It was a glorious Sunday, with the weather being absolutely perfect for Wimbledon. I traveled all the way from Slough Station, changed at London Paddington into the district line and got to Southfields. From the Southfields station, it is a good 20 minute walk to the courts of Wimbledon.

Reached Wimbledon and I had 20 minutes before the tour started and so I decided to visit the Museum. You get see relics from a past age about how Tennis actually developed into the sport we now know.

There is an absolute brilliant must-see film about the science in Tennis that was made using a special 200° camera with 5 separate lenses with Maria Sharapova playing someone I don't know. The film talks about the technology infrastructure in Wimbledon, the technology in the clothes that players wear, the science in the shoes they wear, the racquets and the balls used, the science behind the hand-eye coordination required to play tennis. It is filmed in "The Matrix" style and the 8-minute film is awesome!

We were finished with the movie and people started pouring for the tour - There were Americas, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, British and me, the lone Indian in the group of around 25 people. We had a very knowledgeable guide who was passionate about the sport and took us all around the place telling us history of the place and funny stories about the players - My favourites were the ones about Andy Roddick and Boris Becker.

Wimbledon is a private club and one needs to be a member to play there - The easiest way they say, to become a member is to win a singles title! Non-members cannot use the changing area and it is only open to non-members during the Championship. Andy Roddick refuses to use the members area until he has won the championship and has become a member! I felt for Andy Roddick - I mean, with the kind of form that Roger Federer has been in during the last 4 years, it looks very difficult for anyone, not just Andy to lift the Wimbledon title!

During the Championship, since central London is a distance away from Wimbledon, players prefer to stay in the village, rather than spend time in traffic - So in the 2 weeks of the Championship, the rates around Wimbledon ranges from £500 - £5000 per week! Players such as Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova, both past champions, have bought property around Wimbledon so that they can use the facility whenever they fancy! During one such Championship, Becker saw this property that he really liked which the owner refused to let out at any price, and Becker came up with this incredible offer - For the duration of the 2 weeks when the Championship is played - he offered for the property owner to exchange his apartment in Monte Carlo and they would be even - and that was an offer that the owner could not refuse and that is how Becker stayed in Wimbledon!

The guide walked us around the Henman Hill (named after the then number one and the joke was that it could soon be named Murray Mountain - now that Andy Murray is the new British number 1), through the courts and then, to Court Number 1 and as we entered, I could not help myself but smile - This was something that I had seen so many times on TV - To see the place was a high! I am a non-player and I felt so fortunate to be there!However, what Pete Sampras said captured it the best showing us what most Tennis players think about the CHampionship, though I am sure Ivan Lendl will not subscribe to this train of thought!
While I did other things that day, it will be in another post - Wimbledon deserves its own special place!


Gautam Narayanan said...

though i love to have a travelling job..its a waste if you are not there with ur spouse..i know london is a beautiful place...excellent place at the right time to visit. Enjoy ur trip...:)

Anonymous said...

this was a passionate blog. Very well written!

you should write more regularly!