Grand Slam Number 4

Four has always been my favourite number. I think, in part, this is because I had a t-shirt as a four year old which read ‘It’s fun being four’. Have I used this reference before? Anyway, the t-shirt was right; it was fun being four. It was probably also my favourite t-shirt until I acquired my catmacbirthdayslam fan shirt at the beginning of the year. 26 years later, having conquered the closer grand slams in Paris and London, it was time for fun four to strike again as I hit my fourth and final grand slam in New York City: the US Open.

Compared to the other slams, I was extremely disorganised when it came to buying tickets, and I only financially committed myself two weeks before my departure. Part of me was waiting to see if ticket prices would go down (they didn’t), and I was also nervously waiting and wondering if Andy would definitely be playing. His seeding in the tournament would determine which days of the tournament he’d be playing on. We decided to go on the Tuesday of the second week which, had Andy played and reached the quarter-finals, he would have featured on. I take some consolation from this fact!

I ended up paying between £100-£150 for both my day session ticket on Louis Armstrong and my night session on Arthur Ashe; one of the more expensive days of my life. However, all of the matches that we watched were quarter-finals so maybe that’s just the price you pay? To be honest, I’m still not quite sure if I went about getting tickets the best way. Grounds-pass tickets only seemed to be available up until the Monday of the second week of the tournament and, as that was the day that Anna and I flew into New York, this wasn’t an option. However, top tip, which I wish we’d known in advance: the second Thursday of the tournament is completely free! Say what? I know. Also, it was possible to buy a grounds-pass for the finals on the last Saturday and Sunday of the tournament for $31.50 which I embraced, only purchasing online the day before. This is how I was able to watch Alfie Hewett in the final of the mens wheelchair singles.

So what did I make of the final grand slam of the year? Flushing Meadows is definitely the biggest tennis hub of the four slams. As a result, I never felt claustrophobic or stressed because of there being too many people, nor did I have to hunt down somewhere to sit like I do at Wimbledon – simply because there is just so much space. The down side of this is that less people end up in the stadiums watching the tennis, perhaps because it’s more sociable to stay out in the grounds. As I mentioned in my last post, it was really disappointing to see such empty stadiums for the doubles and wheelchair matches. On reflection, I feel like this isn’t the case at Wimbledon because there are fewer options for places to go: people either have the choice of being rammed on the hill or watching tennis on a court.

Arthur Ashe is an incredible stadium and despite what some people had told me in advance, you can see the match clearly, even from the highest-up section of the stadium. I almost think it’s better to sit up in this section anyway because then you get a greater sense of the size of the crowd and the atmosphere. However, I did find it odd that silence is not sought in the same way that it is at Wimbledon. On Centre Court of Wimbledon, people shhh you for whispering to your neighbour. Contrastingly, at the US Open, there is a low buzz of noise during the entire match with people coming and going from their seats constantly. I guess it’s hard to police such a big stadium, and maybe it seems pointless in the top sections which are so far away from the players; are they too far away to be a distraction? There’s also music played at every given opportunity which adds to the general sense that the focus of the US Open is entertainment; the tennis comes second.

Despite my misgivings, I thought Arthur Ashe was very impressive and I loved my uber-American experience watching Venus Williams play. On the other hand, the make-shift Louis Armstrong stadium, the second biggest/most important stadium at the US Open, was almost embarrassing. They are currently renovating or building the actual Louis-Armstrong stadium which will be ready for the 2018 tournament. In the meantime, an underwhelming, steel structure was propped together for 2017. I felt a bit ripped off that I’d paid over £100 to sit in this temporary replacement. I didn’t even have a proper seat, not that this actually mattered given how few people were watching the tennis. Thankfully this is where I saw Jamie and Martina win their quarter-final so I still have positive memories of the court, despite its questionable quality.

Ach, it was fine, but it’s no Arthur Ashe!


Despite my criticism, I feel like, apart from Wimbledon, which has an unfair advantage as I’ve been there so many times, I experienced a fuller US Open experience than I did for either the Australian Open or Roland Garros. The final of the Australian Open was epic – the best grand slam final of the year by far and worth every penny of that trip – but I do wish I’d seen earlier stages of the tournament as well. The earlier stages are, in a way, more what these tournaments are all about. Similarly with Roland-Garros, I rocked up for the semi-finals, which, don’t get me wrong, were again incredible, but by that time, there’s less tennis going on in the grounds and I wasn’t able to get a true sense of Roland-Garros as a tournament.

So in conclusion, I basically need to do the grand-slam tour again, but go to the entire two weeks of all four tournaments to fully appreciate them. How can this somehow be my job? Answers on a postcard, please!

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A Postcard from London

Hello from London! The least exotic location of the four grand slams, but by far the most convenient. Interestingly, despite Wimbledon taking place on my doorstep, this is probably the most belated tennis postcard of them all. Still, who doesn’t want to remember Wimbledon one month later?

In my head, I was going to be at the Strawberries and Screen big screen at King’s Cross every day after work, cramming as much tennis action into two weeks as possible, whilst maintaining a full-time job. It was a wonderful vision. However, despite my location, and moving my weekly runs to be pre-work, rather than post-work (yes, before work!) I didn’t watch as much tennis as I had hoped; normal life seemed to get in the way. Maybe in future, I should just take the entire 2 weeks off work, temporarily move to a holiday home in Wimbledon, do all of my life admin pre-12pm and then set myself up in front of a TV/large screen/court on a daily basis as appropriate? Roll on retirement and this actually being my life!

However, despite not being able to watch all of the matches I wanted to watch, I found that I generally knew what was going on thanks to my good friends, the BBC. I wish they’d do ‘Today at Wimbledon’-esque nightly summaries for all of the grand slams. I’m sure Sue Barker would like the extra cash!

So, Wimbledon 2017, eh? Would you like a helpful recap?

(1) Eight singles players withdrew mid-match in the first round but still received the £35,000 losers prize for starting the match. Incroyable. This needs to be addressed – I would have been very angry had I been a fan who had paid to be there on those early days of the tournament.
(2) Stan the Man, the guy who beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals of Roland-Garros with yours truly as a witness went out in the first round. What on earth? Grass is clearly not his surface.
(3) Nadal and Muller played a fourth-round, 5-hour thriller on Court Number 1, with Muller eventually winning the tiebreak whilst I watched a Roger Federer masterclass on Centre Court and then toddled off home. I do kind of feel like I missed the match of the tournament. Fail.
(4) I saw Andy play (and win) not once, but twice in the space of four days. Amazing but a little bit stressful.
(5) After losing to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals, Andy famously corrected that idiot American journalist in the press conference that followed. No, Sam Querrey is not the first American to get to the semi-finals of a major since 2009. Have you heard of Venus and Serena Williams? Call yourself a journalist?
(5) SOW Venus Williams knocked out our girl Konta in the women’s semi-finals, after Jo’s impressive run on the grass. Boo. Refreshingly though, Venus did not go on to win Wimbledon, and was beaten in straight sets in the final by Spaniard Muguruza. Yay.
(6) Djokovic retired in his quarter-final, an injury which we now know will prevent him from playing for the rest of the year. This means that there’s no chance of me watching him in this year of grand slams though I did watch him jog past the practice courts at Wimbledon. I must admit, I was quite excited. Anna, less so.
(7) Federer won Wimbledon for an incredible 8th time, defeating a determined, yet sadly injured Martin Cilic in straight sets. It wasn’t the best final because of Cilic’s injury but hats off to him for completing the match.
(8) Wimbledon ended on a high with a cracker of a mixed doubles final between defending champions Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen, and thee Martina Hingis and former number 1 doubles player in the world, Jamie Murray. A very entertaining match and  Martina and Jamie prevailed much to my delight. I’m forever a Murray-for-the-win kind of girl!

So yes, that’s my summary – I’m sure you are thrilled to have read my post-Wimbledon analysis! When I looked back at my other ‘postcard’ posts, I realised I had written more about the cities I’d visited, rather than the ins and outs of the tennis. I guess this post is a reflection of what Wimbledon is all about for me: the tennis. Having said that though, I obviously did make a point of seeking out Wimbledon big-screenage when I was able to: after work with my colleagues near Kings Cross (I made it once!); with my flatmates at the top of One New Change beside St Paul’s; and then in Millennium Square in Bristol, as part of a reunion weekend with Megan and Viv. The UK knows how to cater for the avid tennis fan!

Remember in my last postcard post, I said that this year was unintentionally turning into a Nadal slam? Well don’t worry, Andy has swiftly overtaken in the rankings. Thanks to my double-whammy of Andy at Wimbledon, I have now seen him play in three matches this year, whilst I have watched both Nadal and Federer two times each over the three grand slams. Not bad considering they are three of ‘the big four’/some of the greatest tennis players of all time!

So we haven’t bought our tickets for the US Open yet as they are still pretty expensive and we’re convinced they will go down in price. Yes, Dad would be proud, I will be forever a bargain hunter! We’re also not sure if Andy is going to be playing? However, we’re definitely going to New York so here’s hoping Andy’s hip recovers, we miraculously choose tickets for a day that he’s playing, and then he wins a grand slam! Not much to ask for, right?

Roll on Flushing Meadows!

CatMac X

How To Wim at Wimbledon: The Ballot

When it comes to the ballot, “wimming at Wimbledon” is not quite so straight-forward. Whilst you can almost guarantee your success in the queue by simply getting up early, entering the ballot doesn’t necessarily yield tickets for Wimbledon. However, it’s the first and most crucial step; as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

I recognise that my queue post wasn’t very helpful given Wimbledon is an early-July distant memory. However, this ballot post should hopefully be a lot more useful as the tournament organisers will now be preparing for Wimbledon 2018 which means we, the punter, can also start preparing for Wimbledon 2018! No jokes, the link says it all.

Let me talk you through my ballot success for the 2017 Championships.

(1) At some point in September, I applied to the ballot directly, following the bureaucratic process that Wimbledon seems to hold dear. Scroll down to Wimbledon on my tickets guide to learn more about what is involved.

(2) Not fancying my chances, in November I did my classic shout-out to Facebook in hope I could persuade a few more people to apply to the ballot, so they could take me with them when they won.

(3) Distracted by the Australian Open, I forgot all about the ballot until 13 March when I came home after a boring day at work and found a letter addressed to me on the floor. I remember picking it up, casually opening it, thinking it was some fancy looking bill. And then I saw the Wimbledon branding. Gasp. Frantic opening. Ahhhh, I got tickets!!!! Cue texting my sister, the second biggest fan of Wimbledon that I know and waiting very impatiently for a response. Clearly Wimbledon knew it was my year of grand slams!

The notification letter that you receive from the tournament provides instructions on how to pay for the tickets online if you want them and so that night, I logged on and paid the balance. I think I was a bit scared that if I didn’t pay for the tickets there and then, somehow they’d be taken away from me. So happy!

(4) Having paid for my tickets, the only thing left to do was wait for them to arrive. In a similar context to when I received my original letter, I came home from work on 17 May to a fancy looking envelope and then got very excited when I realised what was inside. Wimbledon tickets!!

(5) Fast forward several months to the day itself. Anna and I went for brunch in Wimbledon village in the morning and then strolled into Wimbledon at around 12pm. Such a contrast to the previous Friday when I’d queued! Fortunately, I really enjoy the Wimbledon queue experience so never grudge it, but it was so nice to get into the grounds that Monday and not feel exhausted by the morning’s efforts. And the weather was again on form! Check out the blue skies and sweaty Catmac below as proof. Our line-up on centre court was also not too shabby: Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. You know, just some legends of the sport.

As if I need to say, it was another cracking day at Wimbledon. Venus strolled through her match. Andy stressed us out as he likes to do but fought through to win the match. Roger demonstrated the art of effortless tennis. I couldn’t have asked for more. For context, this was the same day that Nadal and Muller had their epic showdown on Court number 1. Looking back, I wish we’d stayed to watch the match on Henman Hill/Murray Mound. Instead, we left the grounds and kept stopping at pubs on our route back to the station, watching snippets on their tiny screens. Facepalm. Moral of the story: never leave the grounds when there is tennis still in play!

When Anna and I were at brunch, we got talking to some other lucky ticket holders at the table next to us. They told us that they had won ballot tickets for the mens final in the 2013 championships, i.e. they saw Andy Murray win Wimbledon for the first time, after Britain’s 77-year wait. What an epic event to have witnessed! This conversation, coupled with my own flukey success in my first ever entry to the ballot, has motivated me to apply for the ballot forevermore. And I think you should do the same (and take me, obviously!).

How To Wim at Wimbledon: The Q

Though it wasn’t Andy’s Wimbledon this year, it was probably my most successful Wimbledon yet. Not one visit, but two: one in the queue as a punter, the other as a member of the tennis elite, strolling in after brunch in Wimbledon village, smug with ticket in hand. Following on from my last blog post “So You Want To Go To Wimbledon?”, I thought it could be useful to illustrate my step-by-step guide to queuing at Wimbledon to demonstrate that anyone can”wim” at Wimbledon. I mean, at least in 2018 you can?!

Step 1. Wake up at 5am. Take obligatory sunrise photo and post it on Facebook so the world knows you’re going to Wimbledon.

Step 2. Meet friends at 6.30am outside Southfields station. Be thankful that you were only 5 minutes late, and not 30 minutes late like you were two years ago. Follow signs and crowds to the start of the queue. Join queue at approximately 7am, receive your queuing card (essential for getting into the grounds) and tweet ViewfromtheQ to let them know the status of the queue (please note, tweeting is not mandatory, it’s just helpful for your fellow Wimbledon fans).

Step 3. Enjoy the queue. Take natural photos like the one below. Go for multiple walks. Try a delicious iced coffee from one of the food outlets. Get told you won’t be allowed to take your Scottish flag inside the grounds so hide it in the depths of your backpack.

Step 4. But not before you take a group photo with your flags.

Step 5. Make slow progress in the queue. Make friends with the people next to you in the queue so they can take group photos for you.

Step 6. Pay £25 for a grounds-pass and enter the grounds around 13:05. Take a photo to remember how joyful you felt. Check out the order of play and if interested in the players on Court Number 3 (Oh hi, Nishikori) get yourself in another queue to get a seat.

Step 7. Having not been deterred by the length of the Court 3 unreserved seating queue, get on Court Number 3 court and feel extremely pleased with yourself. Watch Nishikori win a set but then ultimately lose. Mixed emotions.

Step 8. Get some bargainous strawberries and cream for £2.50 and then some less bargainous Pimms for £7.50, battle through the crowds to find a small space of grass on the hill and sit back and watch the tennis on Murray Mound (Henman Hill).

Step 9. From your perch on the hill, watch a third-round battle on Centre Court between Murray and Fognini, realise the match isn’t going to be over in a hurry so join the ticket resale queue and get yourself a cracking seat on Centre Court for £10.

Step 10. Scream your way to an Andy victory!

this one's for the instagram feed @andymurray rest up and i'll see you at the @usopen #twoscots #catmacbirthdayslam

A post shared by Catriona MacArthur (@catriona_mac) on

So You Want To Go To Wimbledon?

A few people have asked me for advice on going to Wimbledon so before the greatest grand slam of the year descends upon us, I wanted to write a quick post explaining all there is to know. Sit down, make yourself a cup of tea, and wish that you had one of my amazing Wimbledon cupcakes.


Going to Wimbledon
One of the reasons that Wimbledon is so great is the fact that you can get tickets last-minute, either by queuing on the day, or by purchasing online the day before.

The Queue

  • Show-courts (Reserved seats on Centre Court and courts 1, 2 or 3):
    The majority of the show-court tickets have been allocated through the ballot but a healthy number are kept behind for on-the-day purchasing. If you want a chance of getting these, I suggest you become one of these mad people in tents who camp overnight.
  • Ground-passes (Grounds and unreserved seats on courts 3-19): The majority of people joining the early morning queue will be there to get a ground-pass ticket. These tickets are only sold on the day of play. In past years, I’ve arrived at the grounds between 6.30am and 7am in order to guarantee entry. Follow @ViewFromTheQ on Twitter to get the daily update on what time is advised to arrive. If you rock up at 10am, you’re not getting in. Tickets on the first week of play will be £25.
  • After work: I can’t find anything to confirm this on the Wimbledon website but I think if you go to Wimbledon after 5pm, you can buy a Ground pass for even cheaper than £25. However, I’d only recommend doing this on the first week or the first half of the second week when there are still lots of matches going on.
  • Re-sale tickets. Another reason Wimbledon is so wonderful is because you can buy show-court re-sale tickets which have been handed in by attendees who decide to go home before the action is over. Tickets cost either £5 or £10, and are available from 5pm at the re-sale kiosk.

Online
It is also possible to buy show-court tickets on the day before play on ticketmaster – my friends did this last year and saw some epic matches on Centre Court. I’ve never done it but imagine this might cost a small fortune!

Watching Wimbledon
If you’re in the UK, as ever, Sue Barker and the BBC have you covered so you can bask in the wonders of Wimbledon for the next 2 weeks. If you’re in London, I’d recommend watching some of the matches on one of the big screens dotted around the city for the next best thing to a Henman Hill/Murray Mound Wimbledon atmosphere.

Myself? Queuing on Friday. Centre court tickets on the following Monday. And lots and lots of quality time with the BBC on either end!

One more sleep until Wimbledon!

Parkrun #5 and #6 – Wimbledon and Tooting, London

It’s been a while, blog. And that’s why I’m going to make it up to you by documenting not one, but two parkruns in this post. What a treat!

 

 

The challenge I set myself at the beginning of the year was to run at least one different parkrun every month. April saw me return home to Inverness for a weekend, where it would be rude not to do my first Scottish parkrun. This was followed by my birthday weekend back in London. As part of my celebrations, I had invited my friends (of the running variety) to join me for a tennis-themed (location only) parkrun in Wimbledon. In the end, April was the month where I’ve seen the most improvement as a result of me doing the Dulwich, Inverness and Wimbledon parkruns on consecutive weekends. It’s no wonder I got my fastest time yet in Wimbledon – 31:05, baby! And yes, if you’re counting, the two new parkruns in April meant I was going above and beyond my challenge. Oh, how smug I was in April.

 

 

Unfortunately, May has been less fruitful. Two weeks travelling for work, and a week overcoming a virus, has meant that any fitness gains I made in April were lost in May. However, I knew that in order to keep up with my challenge, I had to do a run today as it’s the last Saturday in May. The good thing about parkrun is that you can always walk if running gets the better of you. I don’t like to stop but if it’s a choice between finishing the parkrun, and not finishing it, I’ll happily surrender! I really struggle to run in the heat, and with it being around 22 degrees at 9am this morning, I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to stop. In the end, my time was 35:00. It’s not terrible but it’s also nowhere near my best. Still, as long as I stay healthy and train during the week, I should be able to improve on that next weekend. And that’s what it’s all about for me: challenging myself to improve.

 

 

So what are the routes like? Both flat, obviously. Otherwise I wouldn’t be running them. One of the main criticisms I’ve heard of parkrun routes concerns sections of the routes being narrow trails, meaning that if there are many runners, it can be hard to run at your desired speed. This is a challenge of both the Wimbledon and Tooting parkrun routes. However, it only tends to affect the beginning of the race when everyone is bunched together. As people establish pace at their own speeds, the route becomes less busy. What particularly struck me at Tooting parkrun, and to an extent at Wimbledon, was that the volunteers who were rallying the runners to keep going, were located in different locations around the course. I think this is so important because it makes a huge difference to your motivation levels if there is someone telling you to keep going, you’re doing really well, throughout your run. What really motivated me at Wimbledon as well was that on the second and final lap, towards the finish point of the race, there was someone calling out the time. I heard 30 minutes and knew if I sprinted to the end, I would be able to get a PB. And that’s exactly what I did. Thanks a million, Wimbledon!

So, what’s next? I’m so glad you asked. In case you’re not quite up to speed on your tennis calendar, Roland Garros starts on Monday and I’m eurostarring across to Paris at the end of the second week to watch the semi-finals. Conveniently, France has caught on to the parkrun craze, so hopefully I can be back at my best in two weeks time for my second international parkrun of the year. Bring it on!