Wimbledon begins amid tight security: Strawberries may cost 10p more, but the touts have knocked pounds 3,800 off a pair of centre court tickets. Rhys Williams reports

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The Independent Online
THE WIMBLEDON tennis championships began yesterday amid increased security, following the on-court stabbing of Monika Seles, the women's world No 1, at a tournament in Hamburg last April.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club, the tournament organisers, refused to outline the specific measures being introduced, but reports that 1,000 security guards had been drafted in for the championships, compared with 220 last year, were dismissed as 'an exaggeration'. A spokeswoman said 270 was a closer figure. Despite the club's reticence, a number of the new security measures were in evidence. Guards were stationed behind the umpire's chair to survey the crowd during the players' changeover between games - the period during which Ms Seles was stabbed. The players sat with their backs to the umpire rather than the crowd, as has traditionally been the case.

At the gates, random checks with a metal detector were carried out, and, as in previous years, players were escorted to outside courts by guards. It was not clear, however, whether the close attention being afforded to Richard Krajicek, the Dutch no 9 seed, by two large men in uniform was anything to do with his description of women tennis players last year as 'lazy fat pigs'.

Some players were content to roam around without protection. Stefan Edberg, the Swedish No 2 seed, walked through the crowds unattended as did the British woman player, Jo Durie. Earlier in the day, the police turned their attention to the only people likely to extract more money out of a punter than a strawberry vendor - the ticket touts. Chief Inspector Des Wyke, in charge of policing at the tournament, said that between 26 and 30 well-known touts were rounded up and told that should they venture on to club grounds for food, they would be ejected; and if found plying their trade on public property, they would be arrested.

A group of touts was later spotted appreciating hamburgers inside the gates.

Nevertheless, the police claimed to be winning the ticket tout war. Touts said they were only able to command pounds 200 for a pair of Centre Court tickets, compared with as much as pounds 4,000 for a pair in previous years.

But for all the queues, exhorbitantly-priced food (strawberries cost pounds 1.70 a punnet this year, up 10p on last) and drinks, it was still not quite Wimbledon - there was no John McEnroe, no Jimmy Connors and no rain.

Wimbledon reports, pages 33 and 34

(Photograph omitted)