Shouting match for the in-crowd

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon is dominated by statistics. Behind the scenes, IBM operatives pore over their screens, seeking previous instances of ambidextrous Japanese female semi-finalists, collating serve-speeds, inside-leg measurements and hat sizes for the ravening hordes of the press corps. But one area remains unexamined. The much-vaunted Crowd Factor, held responsible for the unstoppable march of the underdogs, and in particular for the progress of Tim Henman.

So here - stand by your calculators, number crunchers - is the first statistical breakdown of the Crowd Factor at work. Henman v Gustafsson, Fourth Round of the Gentlemen's Singles, Centre Court. Individual cries of "C'mon Tim!": 487 (includes one "C'mon Timmy" and - unfortunately - one "Terminate him, Tim"). Girlish duets of "C'mon Tim, you'd better win": Only one, thankfully. Mass cries of "C'mon Tim!": 20. Individual cries of "C'mon Magnus": 39. Puzzling cries of "C'mon Chris": 1. Cries of "Monster": 1 (perpetrator ejected). Mass "Oooo"s: 13. Mass "Ahh"s: 23. Roars: 42. Groans: 32. Mass "Tut-tuts"s: 7. Mass chuckles (linesmen taking avoiding action, low-flying pigeons, comedy ballpersons): 5. Gustafsson errors applauded: 4. Umpire requests for no flash photography: 1. Umpire requests for quiet: 10. So there you have it. Discounting the odd nutter, pro-Henman cries exceeded pro-Gustafsson cries by a factor of 12. Then what happens on Thursday? Early start, Centre Court half-empty, one persistent and loud individual upping the "C'mon Todd" count, and out goes our boy. What do you mean, it was his return of serve that let him down? It was the Crowd Factor: statistics prove it.

MANY Wimbledon officials shed a tear as the last match score was read out on the old Number One Court. How touching, you might think, that those stone-faced adjudicators should mourn the old place. Do not be deceived. For in the bowels of the court, hidden from prying public eyes, was the Officials' Bar, a haven of peace with a charming terrace where off-duty umpires and linespersons could sip a reviving tumbler of barley water, or something stronger. No more. When No 1 Court goes, the Officials' Bar, and their quaintly named "Buttery" restaurant, go with it. There will, of course, be some sort of replacement - billed, no doubt, as "A Buttery for the next millennium" - but things won't be the same. For the last time, then: "Barman to serve: Snowballs, please."

STANDING in line for the Wimbledon Special bus at Marble Arch on tube strike day, the eye was drawn to an unusual sight in the middle of the little square by the monument itself. An open-top Jaguar XJS sports car, with, on the bonnet, an artificial leg, a bucket and spade, a samurai sword, two pizzas and - a nice seasonal touch - two tennis rackets. Weird enough. But in the car were a guitar, a set of golf clubs, a teddy bear, a doll in a child's carry-seat, a (live) brindle great dane, a lingerie- clad (live) blonde model and, around her neck, a (live) python, which kept diving for the inviting shade of her cleavage. There were a couple of avidly clicking cameramen as well, so the bizarre scene was presumably some sort of publicity stunt. But what on earth it might have been promoting kept a bus-load of punters speculating happily all the way to the All England Club. So whoever you were, scantily clad snake-woman, much thanks.

A RAINY day in the Press Room, Part One. In burst a trio of genteel Stewardettes, intent on finding the representative of the News of the World, for whom they had a story. Sensing a scoop ("Top School Triplets: Our Treble Knee-Trembler with Treacherous Timbo"), your man swooped, and, in cut-glass SW19 accents, the girls revealed all. "Well, you know those men handing out free Doritos?" Yes. "Well, we went up to one of them and asked for some. And he told us to bog off. Isn't that awful? Will you write something about it?" Tim, you can breathe again. Doritos rep, hang your head in shame. And eat your heart out, News of the World.

A RAINY day in the Press Room, Part Two. The Duke of Kent, pursued by a posse of Royal Box guests, passes through. "Not much for you lot to write about today," says HRH. "Not to worry, sir," a hack pipes. "We'll make something up."

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