During a regular calendar year, professional tennis takes players and connoisseurs on quite a journey, from sunny Melbourne, where eggs have been fried on bright, blue courts as a testament to brutal summer heat, to blue and green courts shadowed by palm trees in Indian Wells, Calif. before a stop on teal courts in Miami.

Planes (remember those?) shuttle players on to Europe, where striking red clay courts await in such storied cities as Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris. With June comes grass season, culminating in a suburb just south of central London known as Wimbledon, one of my favorite places on Earth.

The hallowed All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, home to a tennis event since 1877, has been forced to keep its nets down before: from 1915 through 1918 and from 1940 through 1945, because of World War I and World War II, respectively. One of four Grand Slams, Wimbledon is referred to as “the Championships” and is regarded on par with golf’s most prestigious major, held at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia—and not just because tickets are nearly impossible to access. They’re allocated to debenture holders (who pay as much as £75,000 ($94,000) to get a guaranteed Centre Court ticket for five years), members, and winners of a coveted ballot, who are picked at random. Other mortals can queue or—more recently—try their luck online.

I like to consider my history with this revered venue along Church Road in London’s SW19 postcode (like a zip code) as unique. After years of religiously watching the tournament on television from Sydney in a not exactly conducive time zone, my initial Wimbledon pilgrimage on a trip to London involved joining The Queue, a rite of passage for any tennis aficionado.

The Sights and (Lack of) Sounds
I remember being awed from the moment I stepped through the black gates embellished with “AELTC” in gold. Purple, green, and white flowers and shrubs delicately arranged in hanging baskets and window boxes (which I’ve since learned include hydrangeas flown in from the Netherlands). Navy green buildings adorned with creeping ivy. The sound of furry neon-yellow balls being struck back and forth. The tradition of all-white player attire, stark in contrast against lush grass mowed into stripes. People abuzz with excitement. Umpires calling out score updates. Hand-picked strawberries doused in cream. I knew I’d be back.

After college, I had the privilege of working as a court attendant over two summers. I made friends with Brits my age who had made their film debuts in (you guessed it) the 2004 romantic comedy Wimbledon, starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. My team of six was responsible for ensuring that our court’s sacred grass, meticulously cared for year-round by dedicated ground staff, was covered within minutes of play being suspended for rain. Each morning, I’d help “dress” our court with wooden net posts, wind the net to an appropriate tension, and place umpires’ chairs and players’ towels—items that would have to be swiftly removed if and when it rained.

I’d also operate the then-manual scoreboard, enabling me to share a court with some of the sports’ greatest, including Venus and Serena Williams. Word of my scoreboard enthusiasm spread. Soon, I was happily substituting for friends on both nearby courts, as well as inside the “Crow’s Nest,” a structure in which a team of two would operate scoreboards for two show courts that have since been torn down and rebuilt as Show Court No. 3.

A Tourney Like No Other
I love Wimbledon because of how its energy differs from that of the other Grand Slams. The adage about being able to hear a pin drop rings truer here than at any other sporting venue. Rather than a relatively constant buzz of chatter, or speakers blasting hits such as Journey’s Don’t Stop’ Believin’ on other prominent courts like Arthur Ashe Stadium at New York’s Flushing Meadows, home of the U.S. Open, there’s nothing but hushed silence between points.

As players change ends, a gentle murmur rises, as well as delighted gasps and appropriate (rarely raucous) applause for those highlight-reel moments in which players do the impossible by winning a point thanks to a series of unthinkable shots.

Fans don’t need a sideshow. They’re on site to pay respect to the athletes serving and volleying, trading blows, and delivering mind-boggling winners from unthinkable positions. These are the warriors whose white sneakers collectively wear the grass courts down, from green to brown, over two weeks.

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