For the second year in a row, me and a friend purchased tickets for the opening day of the Aegon Championships at Queens, after seeing some great tennis the previous year. The predicted weather didn’t look good, with rain expected throughout most of the day. We were lucky enough to book Centre Court tickets for the day and the order of play looked strong with both James Ward and Dan Evans featuring in the first two matches with players like Lleyton Hewitt and Feliciano Lopez following on. The main match we were looking forward to however, was the chance to see Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov playing doubles together against a wildcard British pair. With the weather predicted to be so bad we didn’t get excited too much.
As we exited the tube station at Barons Court, the queues began to get bigger and there was a great sense of excitement for the first day’s play. The weather was beautiful with blue skies and hardly any clouds in sight, perhaps the weather predictions were wrong?
Once we got into the grounds, we decided to walk around the practice courts and see who was practicing. The first player we recognised was big Kevin Anderson, and trust me, he’s absolutely huge. He was just concentrating on loosening up and completed various different stretches before practicing with what seemed his coach. We continued to look around the other courts and saw various other players who we couldn’t recognise. As we walked further a large crowd started to build up and it was soon clear that a top player was practicing. It turned out to be Andy Murray who was hitting with who seemed to fellow Brit James Ward. Unfortunately the alleyway was too busy to get a closer look so I was unable to take a picture.
With time ticking by and the practice courts getting even busier, we decided to head to our centre court seats and watch the first match. As we walked nearer the court, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga appeared from nowhere and immediately took a different turn to head to practice. Following him was Nicolas Mahut, the man who featured in the longest match in history, losing to John Isner after just over 11 hours of play. He appeared to be in a rush but I still took my chance of a photo and asked him for one. He replied saying “Sorry not now, maybe after I practice” and left me chuckling at him perhaps thinking I would wait for him to return.
Our seats in Centre Court were decent, slightly to the side of the server with a strong view of the whole court. First up, was Brit James Ward against Blaz Rola, a player who I knew little of. With Ward being British, the crowd wanted him to win and he started off badly, being broken in the first game. He immediately broke back however and the set carried on going with serve. Late in the set Ward broke the Rola serve and successfully served it out to lead 1-0. As there was hardly and cloud cover, me and my friend decided to leave the court and head for shade and perhaps get something to eat. From our seats you could see many of the players heading to practice and just before we left Wawrinka appeared with his tennis bag, seemingly heading to practice. After briefly finding some shade, we headed back towards the practice courts to see who was out there.
Nicolas Mahut was still out there, hitting with fellow tour veteran Radek Stepanek who were exchanging verbal banter after every point. Roger Federer’s recent French Open opponent Lukas Lacko was the next player to appear, the young player wearing a bright pink shirt. We headed into one of the alleyways separating the practice courts to have a great view of any potential players. Our excitement levels began to build up as the man dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ appeared along with his coach. Who Dimitrov was going to hit with was unclear but this was immediately wiped away with Wawrinka turning up and going across to converse with the Bulgarian. Out of nowhere the pair headed towards the court we were right next to and it felt surreal being so close to two world-class players.
They began to just hit to each other in rally form before practising volleys and serves. Whilst all this was going on, we could hear the announcement that Ward had completed his victory over Rola in straight sets, with Evans due to play Jurgen Melzer next. We were in no rush to head back to our seats however, as we were incredibly close to two well-known stars. The constantly exchanged verbal jokes and I lost count of how many times they said sorry to each other due to a mistake. One funny moment occurred too when Dimitrov kicked the a ball into the net and turned to the crowd and said “World Cup coming soon people, get ready” which was greeted with some laughs. With all this going on, we didn’t even realise that Tomas Berdych was on the next court, hitting with Denis Istomin, who was easy to recognise due to the glasses. Jarkko Nieminem appeared behind us later and Istomin left Berdych to hit with the Finn. Andy Murray suddenly appeared and began to play with Berdych after completing his various stretching programme. After an hour or so we decided to head back to our seats and watch the end of the Evans-Melzer match which appeared to have the potential of a final set shootout. Fortunately enough for us, Melzer won a second-set tie-break and took the match to a final set, giving us a chance to watch the end. The match appeared to be heading Melzer’s way with the Austrian breaking the Evans serve early in the 3rd but Evans, like Ward, immediately broke back to the frustration of Melzer. The set reached a tie-break and Evans stormed through it to complete a three-set win. Melzer is a strong player, capable of beating top players so this was a great win for the young Brit.
Next up was former World number 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who took on Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver who has never looked confident on grass throughout his career. The script went to plan and Hewitt only needed a break in each set to defeat Gimeno-Traver comfortably in a match that lasted a little over an hour. With this match ending, we headed off the court to purchase a drink and take a short break. The weather had been brilliant all day but little specks of rain were appearing at different times during Hewitt’s match.
We looked up towards the main information screen in the grounds and noticed that the Wawrinka-Dimitrov doubles match had been moved to another court and away from Centre, due to the dark clouds above. Instead of watching Lopez-Lajovic on centre, we moved to court 9 to await the arrival of both Stan and ‘Dimi’. After 20 minutes wait they appeared and began to warm-up with the Skupski brothers. The grey clouds above had began to get darker and sure enough the heavens began to open just as the umpire had called time. Immediately an announcement came that play had been suspended with the Lopez-Lajovic match only just about finishing their first set. After around 45 minutes, the announcement was made that play was abandoned for the day and the chance to see Wawrinka and Dimitrov in actual match action was gone. Weirdly enough it began to heavily rain just after the second announcement was made, increasing the amount of people that were leaving. The journey home was easy and we arrived home without any fuss or delay.
So there completes my review of my day at the Aegon Championships at Queens, another great day out in London watching tennis. We didn’t get to see the doubles match we wanted but we saw the pair practice which was simply incredible. I recommend to all.