Streak of bad luck sinks Wimbledon finalist

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They have struck at cricket, they have struck at rugby and the very courageous have appeared at football, but at the Elysian fields of the Wimbledon championships a streaker was an unknown phenomenon until yesterday.

It was 2.03, as the Duke and Duchess of Kent settled into their seats in the Royal Box, when our heroine appeared. By Wimbledon tradition, the skimpy apron worn was predominantly white. There was nothing on top and, as she passed in front of the men's singles finalists Richard Krajicek and MaliVai Washington, she flicked up the flap of her apron to establish that the bottom half matched. "I saw these, you know, just wobbling around," Washington said later. "Then I got flustered and boom, three sets later, I had gone."

Before then, the constabulary of SW19 had intervened to take away the woman who had been working during the fortnight for Wimbledon's caterers, Town & County. The only slices she had seen were the pieces of pizza served from her posting.

The doyenne of streaking, long part of British sporting culture, is Erika Roe, who braved the January weather of 1982 at an England rugby union international at Twickenham. Her appearance prompted Steve Smith, the England scrum-half, to point out the intruder to his short-sighted captain, Bill Beaumont. "There's a woman over there," he said. "And she's got your bum on her chest."

Whether yesterday's streak was an artistic gesture or a mercenary act was called into question when William Hill reported several bets on a streaker appearing during the finals.

The All England Club had a strange response to the interloper. "We have never had a streaker on Centre Court before, so I suppose it was inevitable eventually," a spokesperson said. "Whilst we do not wish to condone the practice, it did at least provide some light amusement for our loyal and patient supporters, who have had a trying time during the recent bad weather."

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