Larne GS Trip to Wimbledon 2016

Larne GS Trip to Wimbledon 2016 Report

The 3rd Larne Grammar trip to The Championships, Wimbledon took place from Thursday 30th June to Friday 1st June 2016.  Alarms beeping from 4am onwards in the Larne area heralded the arrival of the long awaited day for the 53 eager participants from Years 8 to 11 and 6 staff as they eagerly (??) bounced out of bed, anticipating an excellent and fine day’s spectating at the biggest, most famous and best tennis tournament in the world.  An early morning meeting at George Best Belfast City Airport preceded the 7.10am FlyBe flight to Southampton Airport where a large double decker coach from the All England’s Club’s appointed tour operator Sport Experiences would smoothly whisk us up the motorways, through the exclusive tree lined streets of London SW19 and into the grounds of Wimbledon by 10.30am.  The walk from the coach to enter the magnificent grounds via Gate 18 is simply one of the finest in sport, as the whole of the grounds are spread out below you, Court 1 immediately to your left with Murray Mount and the big screen and in front the passage way down the side of Court 18 and Centre Court.  The grounds themselves are fantastic with everything about them pristine and the flowers and real feature, not to mention the outstanding grass court surfaces all around.  We made our way to our seats in Court 2 as swiftly as we could without being overawed by the surroundings, catching glimpses of matches warming up on the numerous outside courts.  The first match on the Order of Play for Court 2 was the British no. 3 Dan Evans against the Ukrainian 30th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov.  Evans progressed fairly comfortably and was never in any real danger from the fast serving Dolgopolov.  Next up was 5th seed in the Ladies draw Simona Halep who dispatched the Italian Francesca Schiavone with ease.  Some of the pupils and staff had taken the advice of Mr. Rea and moved to some of the outside courts, where thanks to rain delays from the previous day there were some outstanding matches in progress.  Some watched the huge 6ft 10 Croatian 23rd seed Ivo Karlovic get beaten by Slovakian Lukas Lacko.  Words cannot fully express the power, athleticism and sound of the tournament as it progresses.  It quite simply defies my vocabulary to adequately express what the experience is like for both either an ardent tennis fan or just a casual observer.  Quite simply, it has to be seen and heard to be believed.  Third match on Court 2 was the Australian 19th seed and highly talented Bernard Tomic against Moldovan Radu Albot.  Tomic showed the full array of his considerable potential in winning in 4 close sets.  The highlight for some of the pupils was the vocal encouragement given the Tomic by the Aussie Fanatics.  Some of the pupils were actually shown by the BBC as part of their coverage during their participation in one of a number of Mexican waves!  Last match saw the Polish Ladies 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska just about beat Ana Konjuh with the assistance of a serious looking ankle injury to the Croatian.  Some of the participants also managed to catch the Williams sisters playing doubles and also do some celeb spotting.  Perhaps the finest spot was the girls who managed to acquire men’s world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s signature on their souvenir large tennis balls!  An outstanding result!

It is undoubtedly true that the cost of eating at Wimbledon is greater than the cost of eating in Northern Ireland, however by London prices the cost of food is more than reasonable and the standard of the catering is excellent with plentiful availability!  The shopping experience is also impressive as the number and range of merchandise is again very impressive but once again it can be quite costly (including £779 for a replica Umpires striped Ralph Lauren jacket – which despite looking most stylish in Mr. Rea decided against purchasing!).  The day at the tournament is long but certainly worthwhile and at the close of play 60 happy but tired participants arrived at their hotel in Hounslow just after 9.15pm for a relaxing evening.  The following morning, after a pleasingly large breakfast, the group packed and set off for a much anticipated sightseeing tour of central London including most of the famous sights.  The traffic it goes without saying was horrendous meaning that the afternoon stop at the enormous Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre in the QE2 Olympic Park was a little shortened, but not shortened enough that there weren’t some issues squeezing a number of purchases into hand luggage cases!  Southampton airport was reached without too much hassle (apart from heavy traffic on the M25 causing some timing concern) and the flight landed on time at 9.15pm in Belfast again – leaving 53 tired but happy pupils dreaming of returning to The Championships in the near future!

My thanks to Mrs. Creighton, Ms. Weir, Miss Hunter, Mr. McKay and Mr. Gourley who were both excellent company and outstanding group leaders.  I for one can hardly wait to return in the near future – though given the dates of the tournament are moving back a week to the start of July it may well be the last term time trip undertaken.

J Rea

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