London | Wimbledon Shorts…

Sweeping up some of the stories in and around Wimbledon…

When I started I never thought I would manage 30 years. I had actually made up my mind to leave in 2017 because the hours were becoming very long and quite challenging. That would have been 25 years and seemed a good time, but I am so glad I made the decision to stay on. I’m very happy to be leaving with no regrets, and on my own terms, while I am still on top of the job, it just feels like the right time to go and leave it to others. Sue Barker

Martina Navratilova gets Covid

Record 9-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova missed out on the special ceremony marking the 100th Anniversary of the Centre Court at The All England Club because she has tested positive for COVID-19.

Navratilova, a former 18-time Grand Slam champion, enjoyed the most success at Wimbledon, having won the tournament a record 9 times.

Roger Federer, a record 8-time Wimbledon champion on the men’s side, led the on-court line-up of former champions in the ceremony.

It has also been reported that Virginia Wade too has been recovering from Covid.

AWOL

Among the notable absentees at the Centenary Celebrations on Centre Court was Ash Barty, last year’s women’s champion, who apparently was playing in the Icons Series golf event in the United States.

Australian greats Margaret Court, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Pat Cash and Lleyton Hewitt were all in attendance, but Barty and her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley could not attend.

On Thursday and Friday, Barty played in the exhibition golf event for Team World against Team America alongside the likes of swimming legend Michael Phelps, boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez, English footballer Harry Kane and Aussie cricket legend Ricky Ponting.

Speculation has been rife in the aftermath of Barty’s retirement from tennis that she is eyeing a switch to golf.

Also missing at the parade of champions on Sunday were Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, who missed broadcasters Sue Barker, John McEnroe and Clare Balding talking through 100 years of history on the court, before British singer Freya Ridings performed to 15,000 spectators.

Sue Barker sheds a tear

Sue Barker broke down in tears when John McEnroe went off script at the Centre Court 100 year celebrations to pay tribute to the BBC legend, who is retiring after 30 years covering The Championships.

Barker, who is recovering from laryngitis, was visibly moved by the tribute.

Wimbledon honoured its former champions, with the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Bjorn Borg and Venus Williams appearing on the court.

While Barker didn’t win Wimbledon during her distinguished career, McEnroe ensured a special mention was made to her on her final year presenting at the All-England Club, and the 66-year old received a standing ovation and warm applause from the 15,000 capacity crowd inside the packed Centre Court.

The former French Open champion and former World No 3 has been shaking off a bout of laryngitis, a condition when the voice box or vocal cords in the throat become irritated or swollen, to keep presenting this fortnight.

It usually comes on suddenly, and gets worse for the first 3 days but tends to go away by itself within one to two weeks.

Barker is yet to miss any of her presenting slots so far, although BBC viewers were worried on Day 1 of The Championships as she was not on air until later in the day.


John McEnroe went off script during the Centre Court Centenary Ceremony to pay tribute to Sue Barker, who retires from the BBC coverage after The Championships this year

© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Who will replace Barker at Wimbledon?

With Sue Barker is stepping down from presenting Wimbledon after 30 years, speculation continues as to who will take over her role next year.

Speaking about her retirement, Barker said: “Basically I just feel the time is right. It has been my dream job and I have loved every minute of it, working with so many great colleagues who I am going to miss so much.”

“When I started I never thought I would manage 30 years.

“I had actually made up my mind to leave in 2017 because the hours were becoming very long and quite challenging. That would have been 25 years and seemed a good time, but I am so glad I made the decision to stay on.

“I’m very happy to be leaving with no regrets, and on my own terms, while I am still on top of the job, it just feels like the right time to go and leave it to others.”

So who could take over from Sue Barker when she retires from presenting Wimbledon? Here’s the current list of favourites for the position.

Sports presenter Clare Balding, who currently hosts the Today At Wimbledon highlights show, is the favourite to replace Barker. Betfair has Balding at odds of 11/10 to take over.

Other names suggested by Betfair include former British number one Tim Henman and US tennis legend John McEnroe.

TV presenter and comedian Paddy McGuinness is also tipped to be in the running, with odds of 12/1 to take over from Barker.

Here’s the full list of current odds:

  • Clare Balding – 11/10
  • Tim Henman – 6/4
  • Annabel Croft – 7/4
  • Billie Jean King – 2/1
  • John McEnroe – 3/1
  • Martina Navratilova 3/1
  • Tracy Austin 5/1
  • Paddy McGuinness 12/1

Becker forced to decline Royal Box invitation

Boris Becker was invited to Wimbledon’s Royal Box, but had to turn it down because he is a guest of Her Majesty at Huntercombe Prison in Oxfordshire.

A few months ago, the Club invited Becker to participate in the Centre Court’s centenary celebrations, but the 54-year old, who became Wimbledon’s youngest champion when he won aged 17 in 1985, was convicted of fraud in April, and remains in jail.

A source told The Sun on Sunday: “Invitations were sent out back in March, so it was before Becker was jailed.

“All past champions have been asked to come back to play a focal point in the day, which will celebrate some of the legendary matches.

“Luckily Boris saw the funny side of it, now that he has to watch the action from his cell, and he politely declined.”

German Becker, who won the Wimbledon men’s singles title 3 times, was jailed for 2½ years for fraudulently concealing £2.5million after being declared bankrupt.

Wimbledon in uproar over noisy balls

Ben Ellery writes in The Times that All England Club members are upset that the sound of bouncing balls in the new multi-million pound complex in Somerset Road, which houses 6 indoor courts, produces an overwhelming noise.

Members say that the building amplifies the noise of balls and shoes ‘hundreds of decibels higher than normal’, and it is putting them off playing.

To add insult to injury, they have denounced the building, designed by the leading UK practice Hopkins Architects, as ‘hideous’, considering it resembles a 1960s secondary modern school.

The centre, opened this year, is used as a warm-up area for players during The Championships, and by Club members for the rest of the year.

One member, speaking anonymously, told The Times: “Millions of pounds have been spent on this spanking new indoor tennis centre and members were even asked to choose the court surface.

“But for some unfathomable reason, balls hitting the surface are making a deafening din, and you can hardly hear yourself speak. It seems something has gone drastically wrong.

“Something has to be done for sure, but I don’t know how [the club] will go about this. It will cost a lot of money — but I don’t suppose that bothers them!”

Members are also furious that the building’s underground car park, with 338 spaces, has been occupied by fleets of cars for players during Wimbledon.

The anonymous member added: “Members are also miffed that their underground car park has been taken over by the fleet of Range Rovers used for transporting players and entourages.

“This means a scramble for what few car park spaces are available for members during The Championships.

“To say the least, they are not very happy.”

Hopkins Architects, who describe the building as having ‘an undulating double-curving roof structure’, have declined to comment.


Concerns over empty seats on Centre Court and No 1 Court continue as attendance at Wimbledon is down

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

All-day tickets responsible for empty seats

Wimbledon has also come under criticism for the swathe of empty seats on the two main show courts, particularly since demand for tickets far exceeds supply, while, every year, people in The Queue snake through the adjacent park for the chance to obtain a ground pass.

Many seats are not taken at the start of a match because of those enjoying corporate hospitality, but they are usually in place after 3, or maybe 5 games, when there is a a full house, but this year empty seats have stayed unoccupied for far longer.

This is partly due to the Club taking control of resale ticketing through a slow website, and all tickets are now digital, with paper tickets no longer in use, resulting in some of the older generation having trouble working out how the tech works.

Spectators who leave early are encouraged to submit their tickets to the resale scheme, with the proceeds going to charity.

This used to be simple in the days when paper tickets were popped into a box on the way out, but the introduction of digital tickets has made the process less straightforward, and many spectators are leaving their seat unoccupied for the rest of the day.

Also, no matter how keen they are on tennis, fans simply do not have the stamina to spend an entire day and long evening sitting in one place.

At the other Grand Slams, you buy a ticket for either the day or the night.

There are also restrictions on applications per household, which sounds fair except it prevents locals attending as a family.

Wimbledon’s famous Queue to go ‘virtual’

Attendance across the first 5 days of The Championships was down by almost 20,000 compared to 2019.

There is sufficient demand to sell out the 42,000 ground capacity well in advance, but organisers reserve 9,500 tickets for daily sale, and want to encourage more casual fans to sample a day’s play.

The main factor reducing attendance was a drop in people queuing up for the cheapest £27 ground-access tickets, organisers say, as well as the 1,500 daily tickets for Centre Court, Court No 1 and No 2.

In bid to reverse the trend, Wimbledon is making its famous Queue ‘virtual’, allowing people to leave it, negating the need to camp overnight, and be alerted when it is their time to enter the grounds.

Another innovation being considered is sending alerts to spectators during a match that a better seat has become available, after people leave later in the day, to help avoid the empty seats.

Upgrading fans to seats closer to the action would create a better atmosphere, and leave fewer gaps in the stands for broadcasters.

A new location for The Queue

The location of the physical Queue will change under the planned expansion of Wimbledon into neighbouring parkland over the next 8 years, adding several more courts, including an 8,000-seat show court.

Alex Willis, the AELTC’s Communications & Marketing Director, said she envisages a ‘Downton Abbey’ style development, with planners taking inspiration from ‘classic Tudor country houses’, but said that even in 100 years the courts will still be grass.

“It’s become one of the most iconic landmarks in all of sports, and what we’ve really been trying to focus on is looking ahead to the future, and what the future of this stadium might be,” she said. “What I would hope is that the purity of the experience remains.

“One of the things we will absolutely be looking at post Championships is what’s behind this slight shortfall in people coming down on the day.”

Over the last two years, the tournament has been compromised by coronavirus, as 2020 saw it cancelled, while it had a 50 per cent capacity limit in 2021.


Coco Gauff's serve is the fastest among the women playing at Wimbledon

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Gauff, the fastest women’s serve at Wimbledon

American Coco Gauff made jaws drop as she launched a 122 mile per hour rocket and then a 124 mph effort across the net in the Wimbledon 2nd-round on Thursday, the fastest serves so far in the women’s tournament.

Facing Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu on Centre Court, the 18-year-old forced her opponent into a forehand error to close the 5th game of the first set with the power serve.

She followed that with the 124 mph stunner in the second set, before closing out the match 6-2 6-3 to set up a 3rd-round clash with compatriot Amanda Anisimova.

One of the most fearsome servers in the sport, the 18-year-old Roland-Garros finalist unleashed a 121 mph serve in the prior round against Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Petra Kvitova and Elena Rybakina were the second fastest servers of the competition with 119 mph.

Maia Lumsden feared tennis career was over due to long Covid

Scotland’s Maia Lumsden reached the 2nd-round of the women’s doubles at Wimbledon as she continues her return to the sport.

The British player, who has been sidelined for 18 months by long Covid, is concerned players are risking their health by not taking the disease seriously.

Lumsden is slowly rebuilding her career after being bed-bound for months having initially contracted Covid-19 in October 2020.

Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut all pulled out of Wimbledon following positive tests, but there is nothing to stop a player continuing to compete, and France’s Alizé Cornet claimed earlier this week that an outbreak at the French Open went undeclared.

Lumsden told the PA news agency: “In a way it’s understandable but a lot of people just don’t realise the effects long Covid can have. I think that is quite scary if people have it and are just playing on.

“For most people they may be fine but there could be some where their career can get turned upside down from that. That would be a horrible thing.”

Lumsden only had a mild case of coronavirus but became very unwell several weeks later and feared her career was over after a number of unsuccessful attempts to return to physical activity.

The Scot finally took her tentative first steps in April, winning two singles matches at the recent second-tier event in Ilkley, and made the second round of the doubles at Wimbledon with fellow British player Naiktha Bains.

“It’s been so good to be here, and playing in the singles qualifying as well,” Lumsden said. “Even a couple of months ago I would have never have thought I’d be getting to play here this year.

“I’m still not 100 per cent, I’m still building. Singles wise sometimes it’s still quite difficult, the highest intensity points. Over the next couple of months I hope that I can build that match fitness up again.

“After such a long time that’s the thing that’s difficult. But it’s been absolutely amazing to play again. I’ve had some good results in doubles. Obviously it’s a bit physically easier as well.”

Fellow British player Tanysha Dissanayake, 20, is approaching a year since testing positive for coronavirus and is still largely bed-bound.

Kyle Edmund back on court after 18-month injury absence

Former World No 14 Kyle Edmund played in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, 18 months after he last stepped on to a tennis court.

Amid the flurry of Britons who roared into the 2nd-round and beyond at this year’s Championships, Edmund’s come-back went relatively unnoticed as he and his partner, fellow Brit Olivia Nicholls, lost their opening match, 6-4 6-1, to Americans Jack Sock and Coco Gauff.

Now 27, Edmund climbed as high as 14 in the world after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals 4 years ago before 3 knee operations put his career on hold.

Edmund revealed the knee issue will never be fully resolved, but he will manage the injury as he bids to resume his career.

“I have been out a long time,” he said. “For me, just being back playing a match to start with feels like a reward for me.

“It’s not an injury that heals by itself, and there is no straightforward procedure to have. It’s just something that’s now part of my life. I have just accepted that.

“I will constantly be dealing with it. It’s not like now that I’ve had three ops it’s all fixed.

“But I’m happy where I’m at and I can enjoy playing now and just wake up and be a tennis player rather than a professional rehabber, which was what I was feeling for a long time.”


One of 10 digital artworks, known as NFTs, that formed part of the Centenary Collection, for which there has been a public ballot

wimbledon.glorious.digital

Wimbledon’s centenary digital artworks

The All England Club is balloting the Centenary Collection comprised of 10 digital collages of iconic Wimbledon moments, and more than 40,000 people have bid to own the digital artworks, known as NFTs, which have been released to mark 100 years of Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

The All England Club is offering the Centenary Collection at £500 each via a public ballot, which has now closed, and successful entries will be notified by 10 July, 2022.

Each digital artwork depicts a different decade of Championship moments since 1922, when the tournament relocated from SW19’s Worple Road to Church Road, where the courts are now located.

They include photographs of America’s Serena and Venus Williams in their prime and 17-year-old Maria Sharapova celebrating her win in 2004, while an earlier image shows Fred Perry leaning on the net after victory in 1934.

Robson sits on Wimbledon panel discussing climate change

The All England Club held a panel discussion on climate change and how event organisers can leave a positive impact on the environment, featuring former British No 1 Laura Robson.

Jonathan Overend moderated the panel, which also included Kate Hughes, Director of International Climate Change at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ex-rower Melissa Wilson and the London 2012 mixed doubles silver medallist Robson.

The meeting sought to bring different perspectives together and find solutions by drawing on experiences from the audience on how to become more environmentally friendly.

The Club recently re-affirmed its commitment to the United Nations Sport for Climate Action Framework, stating its hope to be environment positive by 2030.

It is running the 2022 edition of Wimbledon under the theme ‘Environment Positive Every Day’.

Robson encouraged players to use their platforms to advocate for climate action.

“I loved the ideas and initiatives we discussed during the panel event today,” Robson said after the event. “Wimbledon is such a huge event, and has the power to inspire other events across the world to adopt more sustainable practices.

“The difference every year when I come back to Wimbledon is huge. It’s not necessarily big changes, but small ones that make a big difference.

“I would love to see more players become more vocal on this. I know Dominic Thiem is someone who consistently brings this up in press conferences and interviews.

“The more people like that, who get involved, the bigger impact we can have across the world.”

Hannah Jones and Amy Pickerill, the Chief Executive and Director of the Earthshot Prize, were present at Wimbledon for the event, as was Dame Julia Slingo, a noted meteorologist and climate scientist, and Water Aid Chief Executive Tim Wainwright.

Players told to stop spending in restaurant

It has been reported in the ‘i’ that players at Wimbledon have been asked to stop ordering unnecessary food because the catering services are struggling to keep up with demand.

Every player badge at Wimbledon is preloaded with £90 a day to spend on food and drink at the player restaurants, together with one designated coach each, who get allocated around half that amount on their credential, but those accredited apparently have gone out of their way to use up all the cash on their passes.

As a result, the Club has felt it necessary to send a polite reminder via email asking players to be more ‘judicious’ with their usage of the available funds over and above what is necessary.

There are 6 different outlets players can use, including 2 sandwich bars, 2 restaurants and 2 coffee shops, the majority of which shut at 7pm, leaving a more limited evening choice.

One coach is understood to have put through 27 bottles of probiotic yoghurt drink in one go, using up what was left on their accreditation.

Despite the abuse of the system, the amount of money allocated to accredited players, coaches and media is not under review, and Club sources insist they are not attempting any sort of cost-saving measures or being squeezed by the inflation and cost-of-living crisis.

Player instructed to change her bra

Mihaela Buzarnescu was instructed to change her bra in the warm-up ahead her 1st-round match against Germany’s Nastasia Schunk after Wimbledon supervisors observed that the Romanian’s illegal bra was not compliant with the Grand Slam’s rules.

“My bustier was too black and could be seen up here,” she told Eurosport, pointing to her chest. “And I had to change it.

“The white one I had was too transparent, and you could see everything underneath, and I couldn’t wear it, so I borrowed from my coach, I took her bustier. That’s good, we did it,” Buzarnescu added with a laugh.

She did manage to win the match and got to play Coco Gauff on the Centre Court but lost in straight sets.


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