Sunday, July 8, 2012

Murray/Marray Mania

When you live in Wimbledon, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the tennis championships, regardless of your interest in the sport.  Josh and I had spent the evening there on the 4th, but that only left me wanting more.  Despite the light rain that had dampened most of the day, my friend Ingrid (a fellow US expat and Wimbledon resident) and I made our way to the queue on Friday afternoon, hoping for the best.

It was a good call -- no queue and no rain!  The clouds parted and the sun came out.  As we walked in, Federer had just defeated Djokovic in Centre Court and everyone was pouring out for a bathroom/snack break.  Ingrid and I headed to the Number 3 Court to catch the end of the Ladies Invitational Doubles match with Martina Navratilova.  We arrived just as Martina and her partner won the match, and all four ladies kindly posed for photos for all the fans in the stands.
Barbara Schett (AUT) & Sabine Appelmans (BEL) pose for photos with
victors Martina Navratilova (USA) & Jana Novotna (CZE)
Since we had just arrived, we stuck around for the next match, which was the Ladies Doubles semi-final between pairs from Italy and the Czech Republic.
We were disappointed that most of the seats were empty, but we knew most people were camped out on Henman Hill/Mount Murray to watch Andy Murray play Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the men's semi-final in Centre Court.  The guy sitting next to us asked if we were American, and seemed surprised that we'd come all this way until we explained that we both actually lived in Wimbledon.  In fact, Ingrid was able to point out the back of her house from where we were sitting.  Then the guy seemed more envious than surprised...
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) & Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) & Lucie Hradecka (CZE)
It looked like the Italian pair was going to win, so after the second set we wandered off in search of other Americans to cheer for.  We discovered that the Bryan twins were playing in the Men's Doubles semi-final in Court 12, so we patiently waited for a security guard to let us in during a break in the play.  What a difference!  It was a much smaller court than the one we had just come from, but nearly every seat was filled.  We were lucky to find two together.  The crowd was cheering for the other pair, who I'd never heard of before.  I asked the woman next to me if they were British, and she said that one of them was, and the other one was Danish.  "Well, that explains why no one is rooting for the Americans!" I said.  (There was much more seating on our side of the court.)
Jonathan Marray (GBR) & Frederik Nielsen (DEN)
Meanwhile, in the adjacent (and unused) Number 2 Court, the crowd was watching a live feed of the Murray-Tsonga came from Centre Court, so we could keep an eye on the score of that game as well.
Bob Bryan (USA) & Mike Bryan (USA)
It was a VERY close match, but the British/Danish pair of Marray and Nielsen emerged victorious, much to the delight of the crowd.  The woman next to me was so excited she burst into tears!

A real nail-biter!
After a break for some strawberries and cream, we decided to watch some of the wheelchair tennis competition.  Since everyone else was watching the Murray game, we had no trouble finding seats to watch two ladies doubles teams from the Netherlands compete.
Wheelchair tennis
It was amazing and inspiring to watch these women zip around the court on their specially-designed wheelchairs.  It must have been especially challenging for them to play on grass courts.  As far as we could tell the rules were the same, except the ball could bounce more than once before they hit it.
These wheelchairs are incredibly maneuverable
We were also impressed by two young boys watching the game from the opposite side of the court.  Not only were they sharply dressed in jackets and ties, but they were watching attentively and clapping politely at all the appropriate spots.  If we were in the US, I might have assumed they were being punished for something, but they seemed quite content to be watching ladies doubles wheelchair tennis rather than the Murray-Tsonga match.
Very well-behaved little tennis fans
We debated going back to Ingrid's place to watch the end of the Murray-Tsonga match on TV, but I thought it would be more fun to be there with all the fans.  We made our way to the hill to watch on the big screen, but there was not an inch of available space.  I have never seen it so crowded! 
The crowd on "Mount Murray"
It seemed like it was coming to a head, so we didn't want to risk missing the end while making our way back to Number 2 Court at the opposite end of the grounds.  We just smushed into the crowd at an extremely oblique angle from the big screen and tried to follow along.  It was pretty clear from the reaction of the crowd when Murray won the match.
Murray defeats Tsonga!
With the sun shining and the crowd cheering, it was a great day to be at Wimbledon!
Centre Court from Mount Murray
Purple petunias
We went back to Ingrid's house and enjoyed a Pimm's in her beautiful garden before I headed back down the hill to my house on the other side of the tracks (literally). 

When I was watching the men's doubles final last night, I was surprised to see the woman who had been sitting next to me in Court 12 sitting in the player's box.  I think she may have actually been related to Jonathon Marray!  She must have been thrilled to have us plop down next to her and root for the Bryan brothers...  But Marray/Nielsen ended up winning and becoming the Cinderella story of Wimbledon, so hopefully we are long forgotten. 

I'm sure the AELTC is glad they installed that retractable roof on Centre Court, because it's been a particularly rainy week, and it POURED rain here today.  In fact, it rained so hard that we lost our satellite signal several times while watching the tennis.  If it weren't for that roof, they may have had to add another week onto the schedule to finish all the games.  Rumor has it they are considering installing a roof on Number 1 Court as well...

The Americans didn't do too badly overall.  The Czech ladies pair ended up winning their game, but losing to the Williams sisters in the final.  Serena Williams won the ladies final.  And Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond won the mixed doubles final, so we had a pretty good year.   I know everyone around here will be disappointed that Andy Murray didn't win the men's final, but at least there is a British man -- named Marray -- on the roster of 2012 winners.  After a 75-year dry spell, it's certainly something to celebrate!

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