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Game, set, match: Wimbledon

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Originally, upon arriving in England, I had wanted to travel to Istanbul over one of the last two weekends in February. My desire to see the Blue Mosque and ruins of Constantinople never waned, but unfortunately over the past couple of months, my bank account has. So, the fact that the ATM laughs at me, in combination with looming midterms, has “forced” me to stay in London over the last two weekends.

However, this break in traveling has given me the chance to more deeply explore my favorite city in the world, and I’ve spent a lot of time heading to the less touristy areas. Places like Camden Town, Hoxton and the Portobello Road Market are places that I was able to check off of my list of things to see in London. In addition, it’s been a great chance to revisit some of my favorite spots and reflect back on the first half of a semester that is absolutely flying by.

However, my favorite place which I visited over the past two weekends is the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, more commonly known around the world as Wimbledon. Home to arguably the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world every June and July, the club is located only 25 minutes by train from our location in Conway Hall, which made it an easy half-day trip on the weekend.

This was a visit I had to make, because I have so many memories of watching Wimbledon on television and, when I played tennis, trying to reenact what I saw players like Nadal and Federer do on the emerald courts.

Upon arriving in Wimbledon, which is a fantastic little suburban hamlet, the signage indicated that the club was in the direction of a hill that forms part of the town. What I didn’t realize until about 15 minutes later, when I was very short of breath, is that the Club was obviously on the other side of the hill. However, upon reaching the peak of Wimbledon Hill, the hike was absolutely worth it, as the world’s most famous tennis center was laid out before me with the city of London in the distance. It was as breathtaking a vista as I’ve seen since I came to London.

What’s even more incredible about this uber-exclusive club is that they allow regular tourists to take a tour of the grounds year-round, with the exception of during the tournament. As someone who is personally more familiar with golf, it’s as if Augusta National, home to the Masters, opened up its gates and allowed tourists to take a tour around the property.

As we took the tour of the grounds, the memories of matches watched on TV flashed by. I saw Court Two, ‘The Graveyard of Champions,’ where Pete Sampras lost the last match he ever played at Wimbledon. The guide took us up onto the famous Henman Hill, where people crowd to watch the action on Centre Court on a huge TV screen. And last, but certainly not least, we were escorted into Centre Court, where the Wimbledon and 2012 Olympic champions have been crowned.

The club leaves the electronic scoreboard up, showing the final score of the Gentlemen’s Final until the next tournament begins, so the names Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, along with the score ⎯Murray winning three sets to none — still shone out as if it were the first weekend of July. Additionally, it was a beautiful late-February day, with the temperature about 60 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. When added all together, it made me feel like Murray and Djokovic would return to the court and start trading groundstrokes to the approval of a capacity crowd at any moment.

The tour of Wimbledon made me feel more closely connected to one of my favorite sporting events, which is a hard thing for any sports venue to do when the event is not on. It’s an inspiring, majestic place, even in late February with the grounds empty. I can hardly imagine what it looks like in July, but I really want to find out.

Now I just need to find a way to get tickets…

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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