327,000 lap up strawberries and sun at Wimbledon: Boris Becker fails to halt Pete Sampras, leaving way clear for an all-American final on Independence Day

AS TWO Americans, Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, made their way into the men's singles final at Wimbledon yesterday, the All England Championships prepared to celebrate the first tournament that has been uninterrupted by the weather since 1977, writes Matt Tench.

Sampras beat Germany's Boris Becker, while Courier knocked out Stefan Edberg, of Sweden. Tomorrow's final comes on American Independence Day.

The weather leading up to Wimbledon gave few indications of the dry spell to come. It was the wettest May for 10 years and June began with parts of Britain suffering from floods. While SW19 has been bathed in sunshine for most of the fortnight, other areas have experienced rain. Overall June, too, was wetter than normal. With two days left, the forecasters are confident there will be no interruptions.

The good weather has attracted the crowds, with the tournament on course to break attendance records for the period after 1986, when stricter safety regulations were brought in. Attendance has been up on 1992 every day, and by yesterday the overall increase was 23,174, with an aggregate total of 327,187.

The traditional Wimbledon diet has also been more popular than ever. Caterers predict that by tomorrow evening 28 tonnes of strawberries will have been eaten - an increase of 30 per cent - along with 10,000 pints of cream.

Reports, pages 55, 56

(Photograph omitted)