Grass is greener for Wimbledon spectators after year's absence

Ground staff pull rain covers in place on an outside court on the first day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at the The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon. — AFP
Ground staff pull rain covers in place on an outside court on the first day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at the The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon. — AFP

London - Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic

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Published: Mon 28 Jun 2021, 4:07 PM

The famed Wimbledon queue may be missing this year due to coronavirus restrictions but just being at the All England Club carried “special resonance” for fans braving the rain on Monday.

Due to the Grand Slam event being given test status by the British Government, 21,000 spectators a day — or half the normal capacity — are allowed on the grounds.

Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Once the gates opened at 0900GMT, spectators poured through after proving they had a negative Covid-19 test.

Despite the grey skies and rain which delayed the start of play, nothing could dampen their spirits.

Rosemary and Alvaro have been regular visitors since the “early 2000s”.

“This has special resonance this year due to what happened in 2020,” Rosemary, who first attended the tournament as a student in the 1970s, told AFP.

“We have been coming for many many years and love it and missed it hugely last year.

“However, we were impressed how the All England Club paid out first round prize money to the players who would have been here as especially for the younger players it gave them a bit of a leg up.”

Rosemary was particularly keen to take a photo of the board which displays the day’s line-up on the outside courts as Dominik Koepfer, a university friend of their son, was scheduled to play.

The 27-year-old German faces big-serving 27th seed American Reilly Opelka on Court 14.

“We have followed Dom for a while as he studied with our son at American university,” said Alavro.

“He decided to take the route of professional tennis and we love to come and watch him.”

Rosemary said they were fortunate to have picked the day that Koepfer, who lost to Roger Federer at the French Open earlier this month, was playing.

“We cannot come another day as everyone is restricted to two tickets for one day’s play,” she said.

“It is a bit of a lottery but we struck lucky as he is in the top half of the draw and he could have been in the bottom half which would have been Tuesday.

“We punted for Monday and we will see him now. We just need the weather to play ball.”

Some had travelled a long way to attend with keen doubles partners Andrew and Michael driving from just south of Edinburgh.

“Michael and I hopped in the car on Sunday and drove the 6 1/2 hours down here from beautiful sunny Scotland into the driving rain of England!” Andrew told AFP.

“We have tickets for Court Two and are buzzing to be back.

“Seeing live sports, experiencing the buzz of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the fans.

“Having it up and running again is very special.”

They were both pleased with the cost of their tickets £45 ($63) which also allows them to visit other courts.

They also said they felt safe as everyone was following health protocols — masks can only be removed courtside.

“We want to see as many British players as possible and cheer them on,” said Michael.

“They will need all the encouragement they can get as traditionally they do not fare well at Wimbledon.

He added: “Let’s hope Andy Murray finds a bit of form.”

They will be able to cheer on British number one Dan Evans playing Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez as they are due on Court Two.

Evans v Lopez does not quite rank up with some matches that fellow members of Andrew and Michael’s club Melrose Waverley have seen down the years.

“People from the club were at the famous 2008 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal,” said Andrew.

“Others were at the Serena Williams v Simona Halep final two years ago.

“We have not struck gold yet but we are a work in progress.”

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