Wimbledon 2019 Report
You might be rather annoyed if your alarm went off at 3.30am, however, on Monday 1st of July, there was nothing but excitement when 6 staff and 21 pupils from Larne Grammar School were woken up in the very small hours of the morning, because that only meant one thing – Wimbledon!
Our take-off from Belfast International Airport to our arrival at London Gatwick was almost as fast as a Roger Federer serve, as within no time, we found ourselves in London and on our way to the All England Lawn Tennis Club in the prestigious SW19 area, or Wimbledon, as it is more commonly known. We arrived in SW19 at 10am and were soon taking in our surroundings. We were astounded by the sheer size of the place – AELTC currently has 18 tournament grass courts (as televised when the most famous tennis players around the world battle it out to be crowned champion), eight American clay courts, two acrylic courts and five indoor courts. In addition, there are also 22 Aorangi Park grass courts, which serve as competitors’ practice courts before and during The Championships, making a grand total of 55 courts! We had barely been in the club for more than 15 minutes when whilst strolling through “Henman Hill” we spied tennis royalty; Sue Barker, Martina Navratilova and Andrew Castles were having a heated debate for Sky News on their contenders to be champions of the 133rd AELTC tournament, and I’m told we featured in the background (I’m not sure how much help we would have been to their debate, however!).
Play began on Court Number 2, our base for the day, at 11.30am, kicking off with the Swiss, Stan Wawrinka who breezed through his match, defeating Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in straight sets. This was the first Wimbledon many of us had ever experienced, and what an experience it was – the atmosphere was electric, so unlike anything on TV, and each and every one of the hundreds of spectators on Court 2 were fully absorbed in the match, sharing the players’ ups and downs and feeling every strike of their racquets. Our second match of the day was Round 1 of the Ladies’ Singles, with China’s Zhu Lin facing a tough match against World No. 3, Karolína Plíšková of the Czech Republic. Plíšková’s skill was superb as she marched through the first set with a 6-2 victory. However, the second set took an exciting turn when Zhu Lin came fighting back, taking the score to 6-7, only narrowly losing to the Czech in a tie break by 4 shots to 7.
At lunch time we had a further opportunity to explore Wimbledon. We couldn’t resist the temptation of the famous Wimbledon strawberries and cream which certainly did not disappoint! The Wimbledon shop did not fail to delight either, with many of us purchasing an array of gifts from personalised caps to AELTC towels and tennis balls. In the afternoon we settled back down into Court No.2’s thrilling tennis, with a five set match between Italian Thomas Fabbiano and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas. Fabbiano was certainly a joker, pleasing the spectators with his exaggerated comedic reactions, and it was his good humour that saw him beat off the Greek in a tight 3 sets to 2. Our last match of the day was former World No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. It seemed impossible for Wozniacki to take the first set when she was down by four games to love, however, the Dane battled on and did just that, when unfortunately, the Spaniard was forced to retire from the match due to a lumbar injury. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our truly unforgettable experience of the first day of The Championships at Wimbledon.
After a great night’s sleep at the Premier Inn we were treated to a fabulous buffet breakfast in which many of us had eyes bigger than our bellies! We then departed from our hotel for a coach tour of central London, taking in all of the sights the city had to offer: Westminster Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall and Downing Street to name but a few (not to mention the Brexit protestors!). Then it was “shop till you drop” at The London Designer Outlet beside Wembley stadium, in which over 4 hours many bargains were snapped up as we came out laden down with shopping bags! Feeling the need to escape the outlet before our pockets became lighter than we would like, we departed Wembley in the late afternoon, heading for Gatwick Airport. Our Easyjet flight back home to Belfast International was even faster than the previous day’s, probably because many of us were very sleepy on the way back! Nevertheless, we were back safely in Northern Ireland at 10.15pm following a wonderful Wimbledon trip, which left many of us asking, “Anyone for tennis?” well into the night!
Finally, on behalf of the pupils and staff I would like to thank Mr Rea for organising such a fantastic and memorable trip. Without him none of us would have had the opportunity to experience the wonders of Wimbledon!
Mrs J. Addis