LONDON -- They call it Manic Monday here at Wimbledon. Every player in the singles draws, men and women, plays their last-16 ties on the same day. But can one person get to all 16 matches? We were about to find out.
It ended up being a blur of green, sunscreen and racket abuse, that last courtesy of the mercurial Juan Martin del Potro. It was a day that included two GOATs, a man dressed as the Wimbledon trophy, the dancing feet of Camila Giorgi, another top-10 women's seed falling, yours truly sitting in the bull's-eye of John Isner's monster serve, saxophone music and a gate-crashing pigeon.
It was a task which began at 11:30 a.m. BST. Play was starting on four of the six courts I would take in during the day. The next eight hours would see the very best in tennis in one of the greatest venues in the sporting world.
Match 1 was on Court 18, where I was sat just a meter from play as Su-Wei Hsieh took on Dominika Cibulkova. There were three breaks of serve in my time there, while those in the north stand began to fan themselves with remarkable ferocity as the sun broke through and soaked them in rays.
Solid sweats had already broken through my cotton shirt. Not through exertion -- this is a wonderful challenge -- but because of the unrelenting sun. Aliaksandra Sasnovich put in a beautiful lob over Jelena Ostapenko, but it would be Ostapenko who would later head through.
Manic Monday. Three games into my task of seeing all 16 singles matches on today. Already nicely burnt, but feeling pretty elite. A lot of break points running through the games I've seen.
On to Court 12, where the nimble footwork of Giorgi caused Ekaterina Makarova all sorts of problems. The lady behind me had already shouted herself hoarse, and although the encouraging volleys of "Forza" were barely audible, it was admirable in endeavour.
Four down! But there are grey clouds... rain delays would ruin my immaculately (random) planned schedule.
A reporter's nightmare as I queued at the wrong entrance but finally made it on for Karolina Pliskova's match against Kiki Bertens. Court 2 is probably my favourite here; the claustrophobic show court has spectators looming over the competitors. My lack of sun cream was becoming a major issue.
The first match I get to on the box-office courts is Angelique Kerber's clash with Belinda Bencic on Court 1. Kerber will later manage to avoid the curse of those seeded here, but while I'm there, the two play out the best rally of the day.
Meanwhile, GOAT No. 1 Roger Federer was up on Centre Court at the same time, and he had the match in the palm of his hand. This was the first time I really had to rush, as the message came through that Federer had won the opening set in a mere 16 minutes. Cue flop-sweats and a quick dart to Centre Court. Federer was in charge, with those in "RF" hats lapping up his every move.
This guy has queued since Thursday for his Centre Court ticket.... and then someone rather famous gatecrashes this video to make his day...
Sat on Court 3, you can have the perfect view of just how destructive Isner's serve is. I was placed at the diagonal, just behind Stefanos Tsitsipas' view as the serve broke over the net, flew past the outstretched racket and hammered into the green fence just below the press seats. My ears were significantly burnt at this stage.
Court 1 for Kevin Anderson against Gael Monfils. This was a lot of fun. A pigeon stopped play, you had the full theatrics of Monfils and the big booming serve of Anderson. During a delay as a spectator was being attended to, Monfils entertained himself -- and the watching crowd -- by juggling the tennis ball on the corner of his racket, interspersing it with some neat footwork.
Apart from the two GOATs, Rafa Nadal is the next-biggest draw here at Wimbledon, judging by volume of support and eager-eyed spectators. A fan on the aisle next to the press box spent the break in play constantly waving at Nadal. It was ambitious, as it felt like we were miles away from him.
Match 15. Juan Martin Del Potro up against Gilles Simon on Court 2. Random saxophone music floating on the wind as Simon holds serve and Del Potro launches his racquet. #wimbledon @espnuk pic.twitter.com/Dr9EFOHvZh— Tom Hamilton (@tomhamiltonespn) July 9, 2018
Few can match the mercurial nature of del Potro. He is box office. On Court 2, I am lucky enough to witness what will surely become a social media meme sensation. First he smashed one racket, then got a warning from the umpire, then bludgeoned the replacement against his head. All the while, Gilles Simon kept on chipping away at him. Del Potro is a fascinating player to watch -- mixing power and passion, no wonder "Delpo" has such a support here at Wimbledon. Of course, it would later become evident that I could have skipped this one and watched it Tuesday, as bad light caused the match to be suspended. Typical.
And so to the final match of Manic Monday. Novak Djokovic, hardly enamoured with the Wimbledon crowd after what he deemed rough justice against Kyle Edmund on Saturday, was up against tricky Russian Karen Khachanov on Court 1. The wind was swirling, the sound of car horns drifting over the court while one journalist sent his laptop flying. On court, Djokovic and Khachanov played tennis' version of chess, trying to outthink their opponent. Djokovic won, handily.
Manic Monday? More like Magic Monday. Now for a Pimm's.