Wimbledon 2013

Welcome back blog fans.  This past Wednesday and Saturday, we had a chance to see Wimbledon first hand.  As anyone who knows me would know, I am not a massive tennis fan like Tara, but I am big sports fan in general and enjoy all sporting events.  It doesn’t matter if it’s baseball, football, soccer, rugby, NASCAR (which I still haven’t been to), horse racing, or beach volleyball, I’ll take the opportunity to check it out.  It doesn’t hurt that the Wimbledon Championship Tournament is one of the most sought after tickets to come by.  Although this is partly due to the complicated nature in which the Brits choose to distribute their tickets.  See Tara’s post about last year if you want read about the specifics.  I’m just glad that Tara knows all the details and was able to secure us some very good tickets this year.

Check out how "smart" we look

Check out how “smart” we look

For a few weeks every year, the entire focus of the UK becomes the Wimbledon tennis tournament.  It is the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and it is all you hear about on the BBC for the entire duration of the tournament.  The only other Grand Slam Tournament that I have to compare it to is the French version, which is known as the French Open.  Tara and I were lucky enough to see one day of play at Roland Garros last month.

Long drive for a day trip, but we avoided the traffic (queues)

Long drive for a Wednesday day trip, but we avoided the traffic (queues) on the M1 and M25 by leaving at 9:00 am and cutting over to the M40

Because I’m not a tennis expert like Tara, anyone reading this post will get a lot of opinions related to the overall experience and not so much about tennis itself because well….. I would just be talking out of my arse if I commented on the actual tennis play.

Which is better? French Open or WImbledon

This is the big question right?  After going to both, I can say that Wimbledon is a lot cooler than the French Open.  I’ll see if I can objectively make some points here so you believe me.

Atmosphere:  Winner = Wimbledon

The atmosphere at Wimbledon seemed to be buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm.  Throngs of eager tennis fans (who don’t even have tickets to a main court) flock to infamous Henman Hill to drink Pimms, eat strawberries and cream, and soak in the sun (if you’re lucky).  This vibe extends throughout the rest of the grounds at Wimbledon.  On top of all that, most people are dressed up like it’s a horse race so that adds another aspect of class to the equation.

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Lovely day for hanging out on Henman Hill

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Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday

The atmosphere at Roland Garros seemed to more laid back and by the book.  It felt like less of a party and more of a formality.  This could have something to do with the difference in the availability of alcohol (which I’ll get to in a minute).  Any way you slice it, the Brits win this round.

View of the Actual Tennis:  Winner = Wimbledon

The grounds at Wimbledon are a lot more impressive than the grounds at Roland Garros.  The sheer number of courts with seating seems to be a lot greater at Wimbledon.  Wimbledon has 3 main courts that require actual assigned seating tickets to get into.  These main courts are not huge, which offer you a really good view of great quality tennis.  Even “Centre Court”, which is the big fancy court with the retractable roof is still not that huge.  We had seats in the corner, near the top and we still had a great view.

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Our view from near the top of Centre Court

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Our view from the 2nd (middle) level of Court 1

The championship court at Roland Garros seemed to be a lot bigger, which is great for letting a lot of people watch, but doesn’t give you the up close feel like we got at Wimbledon.  You could see players up close on the outer courts at both places, so I guess that aspect would be a draw.

Food and Drink:  Winner = Wimbledon

This can’t be right…. Am I saying that the Brits have better food/drink than French people?  I guess I am.  Here was a typical snack bar at the French Open.

Hot Dog and Beer sans Alcohol.... yummy

Hot Dog and Beer sans Alcohol…. yummy

And there wasn’t a whole lot of other options near the courts.  They had a random tent here and there that had a little more selection, but it was hard to find and still not that impressive.

The setup at Wimbledon was top notch.  There was a surprising amount of variety and  you could find a snack bar or regular bar around every corner.  I didn’t take a lot of photos of concession stands, but here are the different varieties that I remember:  regular bar, Pimms bar, champagne Bar, snack bar with wraps and salads, fish and chips snack bar, snack bar with Tex Mex food, snack bar with all sorts of different chicken and side dishes, and burger snack bar just off the top of my head.

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There was also tons of outdoor and indoor seating to hang out and enjoy your Pimms, cider, or champagne.  Those 3 seemed to be the local favorites.

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And on top of all that, you were allowed to bring in a huge picnic to Wimbledon.  We definitely took advantage and brought in enough food for the whole day and some wine to keep us cool during the London heatwave of 2013.  The high was between 70 F (21 C) and 75 F (24 C) for crying out loud!

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Nice glass of Rose Wine to keep you refreshed on Court 1

Wednesday on Centre Court

And now on to the actual event itself.  We took a coveted day of vacation and made the 3 hour drive to London for our opportunity to see some Centre Court action.  I complained to Tara before going that this day would be too long (6 hours of driving), but I’m glad she persuaded me to go.  This was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I had a great time.  Like I said before, I don’t know much about tennis, so here are a bunch of cool action shots from Centre Court taken with our zoom lens.

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E. Bouchard straining for a shot

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Sunny shot of Bouchard and Ivanovic

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Another good one on of Bouchard in action

This turned out to be a day of upsets (spoiler alert).  In the first match was saw, 12th seeded Ivanovic was knocked off by unranked Bouchard.

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The famous Frenchman, Jo-Wilford Tsonga, who ended up pulling out due to injury

In the second match, the 6th seated Tsonga was knocked about by another relative unknown, E. Gulbis.  Technically, Tsonga retired due to injury, but he was losing 2 sets to 1 at that time, so that is pretty much the same as a loss in my book.

The third and final match had the biggest upset of the day, or maybe even the century.  The third seed in the tournament and one of the all time greats, Roger Federer was beaten by another relative unknown guy named S. Stakhovsky.

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The giant slayer, otherwise known as S. Stakhovsky

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The man himself, Roger Federer

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Roger in action

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Good shot of Federer’s forehand

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Sad day for Roger

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Probably the best win of this guy’s career

Seeing 3 ranked players go down on the same day on the same court has to be some kind of a record.  It made for quite the exciting day of tennis watching.  Although to be fair, I didn’t see all of it.  Remember how I explained about the greatness of the food/alcohol policy Wimbledon.  The policy was so good that I may have drank too much wine and fell asleep for a period of time during the Federer match.  Maybe that’s why the French make it so hard to drink while watching tennis…. oh well.  I still had a blast.

Happens to the best of us...

Happens to the best of us…

And that about sums it up for Wednesday.

Wimbledon Weekend with Emilie and Mikel

For our next set of Wimbledon tickets (Saturday afternoon), we rented a portion of a house within 20 minutes walk from the stadium with our good friends Emilie and Mikel for the weekend.  Or at least that was the plan….. cue epic failure music (if there is such a thing).  I won’t go into a lot of detail because this post is long enough as it is, but it is worth writing about because of the sheer awfulness of the experience.

We used a website called AirBnB.co.uk to rent out someone’s house in Wimbledon.  We had done this before in Paris for the French Open and had an awesome experience so we figured we should do it again.  However, this time things didn’t go so smoothly.  The “owner” of the house quit responding to my messages on about Tuesday, but we pressed on and figured we would make contact at some point before we showed up.  So Friday night at 8:30 pm rolls around and we arrive at the house.  We ring the bell, and no one answers….. A few minutes later, a Chinese guys walks up to the house and explains that this is a house that is being used by the Chinese foreign exchange program for Chinese students to learn English.  This was not good news.  We asked him if he knew the “owner” we were talking to through the Air BnB website.  He had no idea who it was, but assured us we were at the correct house.  He gave us the number of his landlord, who turned out to be the actual owner of the house.  The actual owner had never heard of the Air BnB website and had no idea what I was talking about…..

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Lots of confusion going on here

Now what?

Now what?

This was not good.  We had a car full of groceries which we planned to use that weekend in our rented house, but instead, we got scammed and were sitting in the driveway of a house full of Chinese students.  Not the best way to start off the weekend.  I started the process of working with Air BnB support to resolve the issue, but they were incredibly slow to respond considering the situation we were in.  We were in the town of Wimbledon at 9:00 pm on a Friday night smack dab in the middle of the tournament with no where to stay.  I explained numerous times that it was Air BnB’s responsibility to find and pay for our hotel accommodations for the weekend, but we kept getting the run around.  I would get transferred to unhelpful person after unhelpful person.  I probably spent 2 solid hours on the phone with them.  It wasn’t until 11:00 pm that a manager finally called me and authorized us to be reimbursed for a hotel room up to $600 for the weekend.  And in the middle of fighting with Air BnB, we had solved the mystery of the scam as well.  A company called Little Lets had wrongly taken control of the house and posted it on Air BnB.  The actual owner had no knowledge of this and let his house to the Chinese students.  Luckily, the actual owner of the house was really nice and understanding.  He helped us find the Holiday Inn Express that we ended up staying at, but we didn’t get settled into the room until after midnight.  All in all, this was the biggest travel debacle that we’ve had to date.  Luckily it happened in England where we had smart-phones to deal with the situation.  All in all, I’m proud of myself for not losing my cool and eventually getting to the correct solution…. even though it took about 4 hours.  Lesson learned about using Air BnB: Thoroughly vet the place that you commit to.  Call the owner directly and make sure it’s legit and you are comfortable.  I relied too much on the instant messaging service and was too trusting.

Anyway, back to tennis.  The next morning, we woke up a little more relaxed than when we went to bed and headed back to Wimbledon around 11:00 am.  Tara and I had tickets for court 1 at 1:00 pm so decided to catch an intimate outer court mixed doubles match.  It’s amazing how close you can get to the players.  The zoom lens was getting us too close in some instances, but it made for some good photos.

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F. Schiavone (serving) and R. Ram, who lives in Indianapolis some of the time

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R. Klaasen and A Rodinova

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Good action shot

Next we headed to court 1 to see Kvitova and Makarova finish off their rain delayed match from Friday.

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Victory fist pump

Victory fist pump

Flagged - 42And finally the last match we saw was an incredibly exciting match between David Ferrer [4] vs. A. Dolgopolov [26].  This match took forever because every point was a battle.  It went the full 5 sets, but Ferrer ended up winning in the end.

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Ferrer going for it

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Dolgopolov had a sneaky quick serve

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Check out the timing of this photo. The racquet is in mid air

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We were scheduled to see Serena Williams play on court 1 after this match, but the Ferrer match lasted so long that they moved Serena to Centre Court.  It wasn’t all bad news that we didn’t get to see Serena.  It gave us a chance to meet back up with Emilie and Mikel who had spent the day on court 2.

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The party was winding down on the hill as Serena made quick work of her opponent

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The group on Henman Hill

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On the way out

So that was the end of my Wimbledon experience.  I saw 2 full days of tennis at the most prestigious site in the world and had a really good time.  I was honestly kind of worried that I would get bored due to the amount of time spent within the grounds, but it never happened (minus the short mid match nap).  That evening, we were all too tired to leave the hotel so we just hung out and watched a movie.

On Sunday, we decided to take the tube into London and do some exploring.  As it turned out, Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far.  I would wager to say that it hit 80 F (26 C) in London.  Because it was so warm, we spent the day wondering through different parks and markets.  In fact, we managed to go quite a long way without going inside or underground.  With the aid of our feet, £2 bike rentals, and public bus, we covered a lot of ground and managed to soak in the sun the whole way.  And it seemed like the rest of London had the same idea.

Sunny Day Exploration

Sunny Day Exploration

We walked from Victoria tube station to St. James Park.

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St. James Park

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Great View

Then biked from St. James Park through Green Park.

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Bikes in London are only 2 GBP to rent for 30 minutes!

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Nice and Easy ride on bike friendly roads in the park…. not so fun on busy streets

We abandoned the bikes after figuring out it is quite hard to navigate your way on busy London streets.  After ditching the bikes, we wandered through Hyde Park.

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Found a rose garden in Hyde Park. My allergies, or “Hay Fever” did not like this idea

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Not sure what Emilie and Mikel are doing back there

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Tara was taking a lot of pictures of flowers so I had to include some in here

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Mikel was really excited about the rose garden as well

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Boat rental seemed like a great idea… until we saw the price

From Hyde Park, we hopped on the 274 bus and made our way up to Camden Town.  We went to Camden Town a few weeks back but Mikel had never been so we didn’t argue when he wanted to go up there for lunch.  It was incredibly crowded.

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Camden was happening!

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Time for some ethnic food

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Turkish Falafel

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Chicken and whatnot from a Peruvian stall

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At the horse stable market

On the way back to the tube station, we spotted a local ice cream shop with a very long queue.  We did the British thing and joined the queue to get some relief from the 75 degree heat.

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It’s the hottest day of the year. We had to get ice cream

That’s all for Wimbledon and London.  Besides the major debacle about our accommodation, it ended up working out in the end.