Wimbledon has been a key fixture of the summer season for my whole life. My family is not especially sporty. No one ever took me for a kick-around in the park. My father never so much as considered supporting a football team, or getting excited about the Five Nations, or the Ashes.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户But for two weeks every summer, the television would be on permanently from 2pm through to the end of the replays at 11pm and the house would echo to polite applause and occasional grunty serves.
While no one ever mentioned Kevin Keegan’s bubble perm in my house, we all got incredibly over-excited about the length of Bjorn Borg’s beard by the time he reached the finals every year.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户And when John McEnroe burst onto the scene, fizzing with talent and spitting with rage, we were torn between outrage and wild admiration. Tennis was the sport I got excited about and Wimbledon was its Valhalla.
I first started going to the All England Club when I was about 11. Although we lived in north London, I went to school in Hammersmith and it was a short trundle down the District Line to Southfields, the nearest tube stop.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户I and two equally tennis-struck friends would sneak off after lessons to the Championships. We paid a tiny fee to get a ticket to the grounds - by the time we were arriving, it was around 5pm so there weren’t any queues.
And then we would wander round in absolute bliss. You could see all the action on the outside courts, and occasionally you’d get a glimpse of Jo Durie, then the British no. 1, striding about in whites with a huge sports bag.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户But our real goal was Centre Court, where we would hang around at one of the entrances to the stands looking hopeful. At every change of ends, there’d be 90 seconds in which people would get up and leave. Were they heading off for Pimms and strawberries and cream? Or packing up and going home?
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户If the latter - and we had a sixth sense for this - we would beg for their tickets and sneak in. We almost always got onto one or other show court. The ushers knew exactly what was going on of course, but they never booted us out. By this time we were in the era of Boris Becker and Steffi Graff and we basked in their golden glow.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户I’d get home at about 10.30pm, shattered, and with all my schoolwork yet to do. But my parents were understanding. They knew I was in the grip of an addiction.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户Since then I, along with so many right-thinking people, have fallen deeply in love with Roger Federer. Has anyone ever done anything as well as that man plays tennis? I don’t think so.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户There was absolutely nothing luxurious about the experience back when it all started. But in recent years I have been lucky enough to pick up unwanted debenture tickets from friends or enjoy some lavish hospitality in the sponsors’ tents. And of course it’s glorious to knock back flutes of Lanson champagne and then stroll along to a show court, presenting your own, legitimate, ticket to the match.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户I watched Federer win the 2017 final and he came to our dining room afterwards, still sweaty, trembling and clutching the trophy, to receive our standing ovations. That was quite a moment.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户But truly I think I was just as happy 25 years ago, when I was queueing for returns for some long-forgotten Hana Mandlikova two-setter on Court 3, as the long shadows set over the grass courts of south west London.
- Take me back to spellbinding Amalfi
- Take me back to Saint-Germain, where I am most inspired and hopeful
- Take me back to the Turbine Hall, where I get lost in the vastness and theatre of London
- Take me back to a little shack overlooking the Aegean where the view heals me every time
- Take me back to a darkly lit corner of the Blue Bar
- Take me back to my favourite bird's eye view over Venice
- Take me back to my favourite terrace spot at The River Cafe
- Take me back to my favourite Aveyron river, floating downstream without a care in the world
- Take me back to Amante Ibiza, for sunny days of basic bliss
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