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The Global Ambassadors – Wimbledon

#10 Wimbledon: July 2023

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, aka the All England Club, which opened in 1868, hosted its inaugural Lawn Tennis Championship in 1877. The Club, whose membership totals just 565, reinforces its exclusivity among and beyond the full/life (375), temporary (120), and honorary (70) members; many of whom are royalty and past tournament champions and dignitaries.

Author’s Note #1: We are not now, nor are we ever likely to become, members.
Author’s Note #2: Although not members, we are, in fact, officially global ambassadors; titles bestowed upon us by Bucket List Events. So, in the scheme of things, we fit right in with the other dignitaries.

The Club’s main site has a total of 18 Championship Grass Courts, which are traditionally available from May to September; with the exceptions being Centre Court and the other Show Courts which are used only for The Championships.

This extraordinary history was on full display as we made our way into Centre Court to watch the culmination of the 136 th staging of the tournament by attending the gentlemen’s final on July 16th. With a seating capacity of 14,979, securing a pair of tickets to the gentlemen’s final certainly qualified as a feat, and amplified its status among the most prestigious settings in all of sport. It’s worth noting that between the extreme ticket scarcity and the venue’s combined aura and intimacy, the fact that we weren’t seated among the 74 in the Royal Box did not particularly upset us, despite our ambassador status.

Would #2 seed Novak Djokovic, at the ripe old age of 36 win his fifth straight and eighth overall Wimbledon championship – and his open era-record 24 th Grand Slam? Or would the new kid on the block, the #1 ranked twenty-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, further cement his recent ascension into the sport’s uber elite? Or might a spoiler emerge and disrupt this sought after match?

Before we get to the day’s magnificent details, which included the consumption of strawberries and cream, the imbibing of champagne, and numerous borderline-haughty conversations, we must describe our half a fortnight in and around Wimbledon prior to Sunday’s final match.

After settling into our Airbnb in Wimbledon Village, population of about 68,000, we spent the following day acclimating by scouting out the Club and the ritzy neighborhood surrounding it, as well as the pubs, restaurants, and retailers along the quaint portion of the Village, a ¼ mile stretch along High Street. Alongside the combination of mostly ambivalent locals and anything but ambivalent tennis wonks, we soaked up more than just the atmosphere at the Ivy Café before watching the quarterfinals at Fire Stables and Dog & Fox, among other local hangouts.

The Global Ambassadors - Wimbledon

Because we remain aspiring assimilators, few opportunities were missed to enjoy the local favorite elixir, Pimms. Referred to as the drink of choice for the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, Pimms was originally sold as a digestive aid in the early 1800’s. While its taste has somewhat evolved, the strange gin liqueur-based concoction is routinely paired with lemonade and then garnished with mint, cucumber, and fruit. For perspective, it tastes like a cross between a British Sangria and a ‘hard’ Arnold
Palmer – whatever those are.

Our scouting of the immediate area complete we decided, being the history buffs that we are, that a self (mis)guided pub crawl in London was an equally compelling use of time. Fortunately, Forbes assisted with the legwork as it helped refine our pint-sized pilgrimage. Even though London boasts several thousand pubs there are, according to fellow historian Emily Webster, apparently only a couple of dozen exist that date back more than two centuries. Of these, six are somewhat clustered together in central London.

So, over the course of seven hours and four minutes and covering 5.2 miles, we knocked back more than a few pints at The Lamb and Flag, Cittie of Yorkie, The Seven Stars, Ye Olde Cock Tavern, Ye Olde Mitre, and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. We then customized our crawl by adding stops at White Hart, The Last Judgment, and The Albion.

Author’s Note #3: We were supposed to start the pub crawl at Lamb & Flag, not The Lamb & Flag resulting in George’s first unforced error of the trip as he was charged with any and all crawl logistics. In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation we visited the correct pub the following day.

Sticking with the dual themes of England and pubs, we were reminded of Winston Churchill’s statement in his 1948 speech to the British House of Commons in which he stated, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We couldn’t help but think just how great it would be to be doomed to repeat such a one-of-a-kind afternoon. Following an abbreviated “hop on/hop off” London bus tour the next morning, we found our way to the balcony of The Ivy in the Park, part of the Canada Square Park at Canary Wharf, where we watched the women’s’ semi-finals. While there we began to hatch our strategy for Friday, the day of the men’s semi-

We ultimately decided to head to nearby Richmond for the day and began the festivities at The Prince’s Head. The 300-year-old tavern has more recently been known as The Crown & Anchor, the fictional pub frequented by Ted Lasso where he contemplated all things soccer and life. Later, while bouncing around town, we managed to watch both Djokovic and Alcaraz rather easily advance over Sinner and Medvedev respectively – setting up the long awaited and desired championship final. Or, as the Associated Press banner headline read, “Djokovic to Meet Alcaraz in Dream Wimbledon Final.”

Saturday felt a little like the calm before the sporting storm for us. Although we again found ourselves parked at Dog & Fox to watch the Women’s final between eventual champion Markéta Vondroušová and Ons Jabeur, visions of the next day’s grandeur danced in our heads; but only ever so briefly as Sunday morning was quickly upon us.

The Global Ambassadors - Wimbledon
Just because Wimbledon doesn’t specify a certain dress code doesn’t mean we were planning on rolling in in poor taste – quite the contrary. Because we wanted to ace our appearance, we attempted a “borderline bespoke” look. Although neither a well-known nor customary fashion look, it was our intent (repeat: intent) to look the part.

Nattily attired, we were grateful for Rufus’ air support earlier in day. Rufus, a 16-year-old Harris’ Hawk, flies over the Club for about an hour most mornings before the gates open in order to scare away local pigeons. This tradition, which began in 1999, ensured our spotless experience.

The gates opened precisely at 10:00 AM, four hours before the final match with a welcoming announcement, which was followed by a rousing rendition of “The Raiders March,” aka the Indiana Jones theme song. As if that wasn’t enough to get us pumped up, having fellow attendees describe us as looking ‘smashing’ and ‘dapper’ as we entered the Club initially felt like we were the cream on top of strawberries. Although, unlike the venue’s storied strawberries and cream, we did not underwhelm.

After navigating our way through the Club’s must-see Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and snatching up requisite merchandise, we began carefully absorbing the vibe, an extraordinarily high-end party feel set against meticulously maintained grounds.

It felt like the type of party neither of us would be invited to; so opulent and extravagant that we’d have been fortunate to even be called upon to dust off the seats for the assembled minted class as they took theirs. And yet here I was feeling like humming a little Stealer’s Wheel: “Barons to left of me, barons to right, and there I was stuck

The Global Ambassadors - Wimbledon

in the middle with George (in amazing seats in section 208). Partly sunny and 70 degrees as the match got underway, it felt as if the intensely engaged fans were cheering for ‘tennis’ more so than either player. And but for the occasional passing breeze, you could hear a pin drop as each player served. However, as the match went on and the champagne went down, a low-key ruckus slowly built and support for Alcaraz steadily grew.

Support for him now palpable, we watched Alcaraz defeat Djokovic in a five set, four-hour, forty-two-minute instant classic 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to win his first championship at the All England Club, taking home both The Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy and $3 million in the process.

In more than a decade, 45 players had failed to beat Djokovic on Centre Court. And then, somewhat suddenly, one had. The kid from Spain, with his nation’s king looking on, dethroned Djokovic in what seemed very much like the changing of the guard. Reuters summed it up this way, “All Hail Alcaraz as he ends Djokovic’s long Wimbledon reign in thriller.”

Martina Navratilova, who has won the most women’s Wimbledon singles titles (9), was sitting at an adjoining table after the match at our go-to restaurant for the week, Sticks’n’Sushi. As newfound tennis aficionados, we were curious to hear what a fellow tennis know-it-all was thinking. We welcomed her perspective about the match to which she quickly responded, “It was awesome.’” We agreed with her, which likely made her feel far more comfortable knowing her assessment matched ours.

Final Score: Bucket List 10, Alcaraz 1

And with that we said au revoir to England and bon jour to France, the site of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris, our eleventh bucket list event.

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