17th August 2013
“The All England Club hopes that you enjoyed your day and treated the club and its facilities as your own.”
“Nobody told me.”
“With one or two exceptions.”
Slightly more energetic laughter.
My untimely interruption of Wimbledon Chairman Phil Brooks’ after dinner speech aside, (paraphrased in case of law suits) the day was most definitely enjoyed and the facilities were selflessly made available. A day that saw the dreams of many grass court players come true. Playing tennis on the hallowed turf of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, home to the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, The Wimbledon Championships.
As Phil Brooks went on to explain, the occasion was intended as a thank you to grass court tennis clubs around the country for their continued support and development of the game on grass. Three clubs are invited each year to compete in a round robin tournament against the AELTC team. This year it was the turn of Edgebaston Priory, the Northern in Manchester, and my club, Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club.
Everyone was greeted at Gate 5 and given a security pass before being led to the players’ lawn where the day was outlined. A guided tour of the grounds, including the post-match interview room, Number 1 and Centre Courts, and the lush grass of Henman Hill. A brief visit to the shop was followed by a buffet lunch on the members’ lawn, the balcony overlooking the south concourse where you can see many celebrities enjoying food during the championships. Finally it was time to get changed in the seeds’ locker rooms, where not so long ago Andy Murray was sprayed with champagne after his historic victory.
The round robin tournament consisted of three, one set matches with a tiebreak at 5 all. None of Ilkley’s matches went to a tiebreak. Our club players excelled in following the AELTC motto of, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” Not the triumph part, but the bitter taste of defeat could do nothing to sour a perfect day. Drinks in the Royal Box, dinner in the members’ lounge, and new friends made. While the Ilkley team may have been unsuccessful on court we were undoubtedly the most vocal team in the bar. As you would expect from members steeped in the tradition of northern hospitality. Hospitality that was only exceeded by the warm and friendly greetings of Phil Brooks and everybody at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Truly the very best of tennis.