Mark the racketeer

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The Independent Online
NO DOUBT who was the happiest spectator at Wimbledon last week - Mark Weber, a 20-year-old student from Chesham in Buckinghamshire. It was Mark who caught Greg Rusedski's racket when the new Brit threw it exultantly into the Centre Court crowd after beating Guy Forget on Wednesday.

"Right place at the right time," said Mark, who was with his mother, Kate, when pounds 150-worth of the finest Wilson craftsmanship came his way. Mother and son play at Chesham Pednor Lawn Tennis Club, which, Kate pointed out, is the second oldest in the country. "Founded in 1879," she said proudly.

Mark, who has just finished his first year at the University of Kent, plays for the Chesham Pednor men's third team, but reckons the highlight of his career was winning the club's mixed doubles title. So will the Rusedski racket be framed on the clubhouse wall? "No, I think I'll use it," Mark said. "The grip's a bit small, but I could do with a new racket."

WIMBLEDON Park Road has been temporarily transformed into a souk of tennis souvenirs. A long line of front gardens has been given over to stalls peddling T-shirts, sunglasses and furry toys. But most of the vendors are not the home owners; apparently a Mr Big from the souvenir world cannily signed up the frontages en masse.

At number 400 you can buy more than a keepsake of the tournament; the house itself, an award-winning energy efficient home, according to the estate agents, is for sale at pounds 399,000.

STALWARTS of the tournament were aghast to see a gentleman bare to the midriff sitting under the scoreboard on Centre Court on Wednesday. Wimbledon may have relaxed a little over the years - but bare flesh?

Stewards are instructed to keep an eye out for women in bikini tops and men without tops at all. The culprit is presumably still cooling off in the dungeons under Court One. Almost as offensive to snootier types was the sight of a gentleman wandering the precincts in a West Bromwich Albion shirt.

PROBLEMS occur for the tennis experts who transcribe Wimbledon interviews when the questioning crosses sporting barriers. Hence the following version of an exchange between the press and the Southampton fan Chris Wilkinson, before the defection to Manchester City of his team's manager.

Q: "Do you have a message for Alan Ball?"

A: "Keep Letizier"

TODD MARTIN, who beat Derrick Rostagno in five sets on Friday, is a closet bridge freak. His regular partner is Dean Goldfine, coach to Patrick Galbraith, and their regular opponents are Galbraith and Martin's coach, Robert Van't Hof. How well does the coach put up with all this? "He can't handle any more of me by the time eight or nine o'clock rolls by," Todd said. It may be all that bluffing that gives Martin a good line in deadpan humour. Asked what it had been like to play five tough sets on a court hot enough to fry eggs, he replied: "Fortunately, I'm not an egg."

Contributions from Andrew Baker and Simon O'Hagan