Today was one of those days where, every now and then, I had to pinch myself to ensure I’m not dreaming. Looking back at it, I think there are a number of reasons why it simply felt unreal. Let’s start with the most obvious one – after 17 months of staying and working at home, not being able to go to a pub or restaurant and not being able to travel, it sure felt strange to get into our car and head out to the south-west of London as if everything was back to normal. Secondly, we were looking forward to being back at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament – Wimbledon. And lastly, it wasn’t just any day at Wimbledon, it was the men’s semi-final day at Wimbledon and we had tickets for Centre Court!

Now I realise that some of you may think that getting a Wimbledon ticket is simply a case of showing up either at a physical box office or online and buying a ticket, but this is not the case when it comes to tickets at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. You see, Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis club, dating back to 1877, which brings with it a long history of etiquette, culture and traditions which also includes an old-school postal ballot ticketing system. The public ballot was first launched in 1924 as this was deemed the fairest way for the public to get tickets to The Championships, a system still used today. You should consider yourself lucky if you play the ballot and actually get tickets (for any day over the 2-week period of The Championships). You’re even luckier if you get tickets to see a game on No 1 Court and should deem yourself super lucky if you get your hands on Centre Court tickets. And then, if somehow, against all odds, your name is drawn for a seat on Centre Court for a semi-final or final, then it means you’ve pretty much hit the jackpot as you’ve beaten a few million people that wanted that seat.

The other way to get into Wimbledon would be to camp out the night before and to join the public queue the next morning, hoping to get access to the grounds when tickets are resold (when those leaving Wimbledon for the day, put their tickets back in the box at the gate to be resold). But in 2020, due to the global pandemic, Wimbledon was cancelled. This meant that the people who had tickets for Wimbledon 2020 were told their tickets would be valid in 2021 as it was assumed that COVID would be something of the past, but as you know this was not the case. With the world still battling with COVID, the UK started rolling out vaccines and infections rates started to fall. No one was really sure if Wimbledon would go ahead this year but at the very last minute, the government gave Wimbledon the green light. Unfortunately for the 2020 ballot winners, this meant there wasn’t enough time left to issue tickets and the 2020 tickets were rolled over to 2022. Luckily for us, this forced the 2021 tournament to introduce a once-off online sale where tickets were sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. But there was a catch – unless you’ve previously played the ballot and subscribed to Wimbledon’s mailing list, you would not have received the authentication code to access the online sale to buy tickets. Thanks to Elaine, who plays the ballot every year, she was sent the invitation and access code for the online sale.

When the tickets went on sale, Elaine and I tried to access the online sale using three different laptops but there were tens of thousands of people ahead of us in the (virtual) queue. Honestly, we did not expect much, but after about an hour we were able to secure two tickets on Centre Court and we were ecstatic! Since she can remember, Elaine’s biggest bucket list item was to watch a game on Centre Court and honestly, the ballot makes it impossible to have any form of control over if, when and how you watch a game on Wimbledon. Back in 2018, we got tickets for Number One Court for day one of the tournament, which already felt like a dream come true, but watching a men’s semi-final was simply unimaginable!

So this morning, we got all dressed up and made our way over to The Championships. At the gate, we had to present our negative COVID test result and our digital tickets to gain entry to the grounds. After passing security, Elaine and I spent the first few minutes just soaking up the atmosphere as the vibe at Wimbledon is unlike anything you’ll ever experience at any other sporting event. And then, whilst strolling around the grounds outside Centre Court, we noticed a door where a few cameramen were waiting for something to happen when, suddenly, Novac Djokovic appeared. Again, I had to pinch myself to make sure I’m actually awake because the world’s number one was less than 2 metres away from me (see pic below). It was unreal!

After Pimms and some strawberries and cream, we made our way to our seats to watch Matteo Berrettini play Hubert Hurkacz in the first semi-final with Denis Shapovalov taking on Novac Djokovic in the second semi-final. The tennis was amazing, the atmosphere electric and as expected, Wimbledon gave us an experience we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. We’ll probably never be this lucky again to get semi-final tickets in a ballot, so we’re incredibly grateful to have had and shared this experience together.

Some pics below: