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Property: Wimbledon is where it's at for celebrity living

FOR A Wimbledon developer hoping for overseas buyers, who better than a top tennis player to lure them into SW19?

Pathfinder Properties is turning a British Telecom building into smart apartments. As it turns out, the flats, with membership of a health club, are selling without a tennis racket in sight. Just as well since the kind of money top players expect for this sort of arrangement can knock a nasty hole in advertising budgets.

According to James Mercer of ProServe, whose clients include Greg Rusedski and Petr Korda, property deals are more common in the United States. "If a player is putting a name behind some beautiful apartments where he or she would like to live, and the deal is over something like a three-year term it could mean a free apartment at the end of it."

The very minimum association would not be less that pounds 70,000, but it is more likely to be several hundred thousand. Wimbledon Central prices for two-bedroom apartments start at pounds 234,000.

STILL IN Wimbledon, the great holiday exodus is underway as owners make the most of tennis lettings. If there is no answer from friends at this time, the chances are they are something like pounds 1,500 a week better off for not being there.

On the other hand, Joanna Doniger of Tennis London, who arranges lets, is more likely to be swabbing down their floors. Apparently as soon as the owners clear out with their pets, the neighbouring cats make the most of unguarded territory.

"I have had a terrible time clearing up cat mess for the past few days," she says. Animals are also responsible for the superfast exit of some players from their temporary homes: "A player with an allergy can be suffering within minutes."

If it's not pets it's washing machines. "I have two plumbers sorting out problems for distressed players who can't wash their whites."

Not all owners will be lucky enough to let. But it appears that anyone with a tennis court is on to a winner. Edward Foley, of Wimbledon estate agents Robert Holmes, nearly ran into some men playing tennis in the street the other evening. It turned out to be Sampras and friends.