Wimbledon starts tomorrow. Two weeks of amazing tennis which comes around every year to mark the beginning of proper summertime as far as I am concerned. My early memories of Wimbledon was seeing my dad watch the games on a black and white TV during the late 1960s. During those days Rod Laver and John Newcombe dominated the mens game and Billie Jean King the womens. My dad loved to watch sporting events on the TV. The main events in those days were football, tennis, boxing and wrestling matches and I also remember watching the 1968 Olympic Games.
We left Malaysia in 1970 and had to wait till the early 80s for the arrival of the television sets in Kerala. By this time it was the era of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Martina Navaratilova and Chris Evert.
I came to England in 1984. Nobody in my new family knew how to get tickets to see the game or were interested. I also did not have a clue as to how to go about getting the tickets. Then luck came in the form of an anaesthetic nurse, when I started my job at Oldchurch Hospital. She had somehow managed to get some outer court tickets and wondered if I was interested. There was only one ticket and so I would have to do this on my own. I wasn’t going to let a minor setback like this ruin my chance of watching my favourite players in action. So I booked my leave and away I went. With the outer court tickets you can go into any courts apart from Centre Court and Court no:1. In those days the other courts where you can sit and watch the games were Courts number 2 , 13 and 14 (I think). Others were mainly smaller courts with just standing areas around them. I got there early and walked around the courts and watched the players practising on the practice courts. I had a look at the order of the play and decided to spend my day on court number 13. I found a good seat and sat there most of the day and remember watching three games in total. I was scared to move, in case I lost my seat on return as I didn’t have anyone to look after it for me while I went for a walk.
The year was 1991. During the first week, most of the games were disrupted because of the rain. The day, I went most of the games scheduled for Court 13 did take place as far as I remember, although there were rain interruptions. As quite a lot of games got disrupted due to the rain, there were a backlog of games which did not get completed as per schedule and so for the first time in Wimbledon’s history, the Middle Sunday was utilised to clear the backlog.
Middle Sunday games meant that you could just turn up on the day and buy tickets. No one knew what to expect and announcements were made on the radio and newspaper to warn people that the demand might be too high and people who turn up might be disappointed. This ended up discouraging most people including me. However those who did turn up had a whale of a time. The Centre Court atmosphere was electric and when Jimmy Connors played against Derrick Rostagno, the crowd had the most amazing time and although Connors lost, he came off the court grinning. It turned out to be the most enjoyable and successful days of The Championships and came to be known as the People’s Sunday. When I heard about this, I was totally gutted and vowed that if there ever was a middle Sunday game again, I would be the first in the queue. The Centre court roof was installed in 2009, and before this was completed there were two more such opportunities and I was there both times. I will tell you all about it another time.