x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Gold dust hopefuls at Wimbledon, join The Queue

Long waits and impressive handiwork on show as Paul Radley joins the hopefuls in 'The Queue' on men's final day

Thousands of tennis fans waited in 'The Queue' in hope of gaining access to Wimbledon during the past fortnight.
Thousands of tennis fans waited in 'The Queue' in hope of gaining access to Wimbledon during the past fortnight.

Wimbledon is the perfect meeting place for old and new. Boys wearing ties knotted skew-whiff, and jackets which their mothers no doubt expect them to grow in to, sit placidly next to their grandfathers in the posh seats, rapt by the play.

A high-tech retractable roof, which cost around £100 million (Dh600m) to construct two years ago, perches neatly atop a court which was first built in 1922.

Even the 21st-century pursuit of sports commerce has its place alongside other more traditional features.

It comes to something when even a queue is branded, but the organisers of the championships well know their value. The train of humanity, which snakes its way along the boundary of Wimbledon Park more or less unbroken for a fortnight, is as much of a symbol of this tournament as strawberries and cream, and an all-white dress code for the players.

As such, it even has its own signposts, directing spectators to: 'The Queue'. (The punctuation marks are all part of the brand.)

However, no matter how big the product's profile is, some people always remain oblivious. Apparently, there are still people in the world who have never heard of David Beckham or Tiger Woods.

Just as shockingly, some greenhorns are unaware that an early start is crucial for successfully navigating 'The Queue'.

"We got here at 11.45am, but we have given up now," said Andreas, a German who was handed a card telling him he was the 3,414th person in line when he joined the back of 'The Queue'.

Andreas reckoned around 2,000 of those in front of him were let in before the gates closed, leaving him a distance away from getting in via the one in, one out door policy.

"We obviously knew we would not be able to get in to Centre Court, but we wanted to get in to watch the game on Henman Hill and enjoy the atmosphere with our friends," he said.

Some do not bother with all the hassle. Rosi Garcia and Cristina Velasco, two Spaniards expatriated in Southfields, the small suburb adjacent to Wimbledon, have never seen a ball hit on the other side of the fence. Garcia, a housewife and nanny who has lived in London for 20 years after she originally planned to leave her native Leon for just one, still likes to make her presence felt, however.

This year, the two friends drew a Spanish flag, and inscribed over the top, "Vamos, Nadal, No 1".

They had hoped to display their support for their man by pinning it to two lampposts on the road outside the main gates, so everyone making the trek from Southfields Underground station could see, but to no avail.

"The police have just told us we can't put this up because it is not official," Garcia said.

"It is not a problem, I will just stand here and hold it up instead.

"Every year we make a flag, usually around three metres wide, and put it on our roof. Then when the helicopter goes over they show it on the television."

Their handiwork is impressive, and was done with such obvious care it would be easy to presume they were hoping to display it in the stands on Centre Court, rather than the modest surrounds of Wimbledon Park Road.

But these tickets are like gold dust. "We never go in," Velasco said. "During the week, when there is a chance of getting tickets, we have to work, but it is too expensive for us anyway. But we still do what we can to support Rafa."

The two friends planned to pack up their flag just before Rafael Nadal started his final against Novak Djokovic, and head somewhere to watch the game.

They may not have managed to get on to Henman Hill, but they have a communal spot with a bit of atmosphere picked out anyway.

'The Queue' has live radio commentary piped to it through tannoys, and the Spanish pair reckon they know where they can find some television screens showing the match, too.

Whatever happens, they will see Nadal. "He is the best Spanish player there has been for 20 years, and the best there will be for the next 20, too," Garcia said. "Even if he was to fight with a bull, it would not be able to stop him."