There are some sporting events you dream of seeing in person –an Olympics final, the deciding match of a Premier League season or perhaps the last day of a golf major. My sports bucket list also included a Wimbledon Final, but it wasn’t something I ever thought I actually would see in person. Until last year.
And, as I’m a Brit, you’ll know that 2016 was the perfect year to be there for the “Gentleman’s Singles final”. After all, Andy Murray was playing and that’s something you really don’t want to miss.
I have been to Wimbledon a number of times, always getting tickets through the ballot, which you need to apply for in the autumn of the winter before. Anyone can apply for this – you simply need to send off a stamped addressed envelope and then fill in and send back the official form – and you are told if you are lucky enough to have received tickets in the spring. If you are allocated tickets you still have to purchase them, and they rise in price, depending on their importance. The cost of the men’s final was a whopping £175 (but I know I’m never going to get tickets again, so I decided it was worth it!).
Going to Wimbledon on finals day is so different from going earlier in the Championships. For one thing, it’s much quieter. Normally there are matches being played on all the courts, but there were only a few going on – the main action was to take place on one court only. There were far fewer people bustling around and pictures of the main protagonists (Andy Murray and Milos Raonic – the first Canadian ever to reach the men’s final there) on display.
We arrived as we have done before, by tube to Southfields, and then took a taxi from the station (although we walked back later). I was going with my dad, who was then 79, so a taxi seemed wise, at least for one day.
We arrived and took some pictures and then took our seats. The court quickly filled up and I was mesmerised by the royal box. Although I had seen celebrities in there when I had been lucky enough to get tickets before, it had been nothing like this…
First up were Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. But they got better! I was indebted to the excellent zoom on my camera and excitedly told the couple sitting next to us that I could see Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Grant, David Cameron, Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and others. I had to pull myself away to watch the tennis – although I did glance back a few times at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when they appeared.
The match was terrifically exciting. It may not have seemed like it from the score (Murray won his second Wimbledon title in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6), but when you are watching and want someone to win so much, you just want it to be over. Plus two of those sets went to a tie-break, which made it nail biting. I am a big Murray fan and am always amazed by how he handles the pressure. But he played beautifully and Raonic was not quite in his league. Even his big serve wasn’t as big as we were expecting.
The whole match took two hours, 48 minutes and it really was a thrill to see Murray win his second Wimbledon title. I took a lot of pictures, including some which really show his emotions.
I was surprised to see so many people leave after Murray’s victory, especially as we had the possibility of seeing two British winners in one day! Heather Watson was surprised to reach the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles final with her partner Henri Kontinen, as they had not played together before the event. They came onto court soon after Murray and Raonic, in order to play Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Groenefeld and beat them 7-6, 6-4 for their first Grand Slam title. In the process, Watson became the first British woman to win a Wimbledon title since Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates picked up the same title in 1987.
It was a joy to watch them – the match seemed less stressful than the previous one – and it was amazing to see them win! Mind you, there weren’t many in the royal box who stayed to see it (round of applause for Hugh Grant, who did stay).
All in all, it was a fabulous, historic day, and all because we filled in a form. We’d recommend you do the same for next year – although be warned, you aren’t always lucky. We didn’t get any tickets in the ballot for 2017. Luckily we have the athletics world championships in London to come in August instead!