Tennis: Court Circular

Australian likes a slice of the action
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The Independent Online
IF YOU want to be a winner, eat pizza for breakfast. That's what Pat Rafter did on Thursday morning before be began his quarter-final against Todd Martin. The match concluded yesterday with a win for the Australian, so his fast food diet is obviously doing him no harm. "I love getting the pies in before the match," Rafter told the salesman, Tom. "He was a really nice bloke, very funny," said Tom, and reached under the counter to produce the triangular pizza-carton Rafter had signed for him. It was not Tom's only trophy. "We had that Shaznay Lewis from All Saints here as well," he added, and produced another signed carton to prove it. The staff at the Hot Wok Chinese takeaway next door could only look on in envy. "Richard Dreyfus came in here and had spicy chicken," a saleswoman said. "But he didn't sign a box."

VENUS WILLIAMS demonstrated yesterday that she is a real woman of the people. During the Rafter-Martin quarter-final, she arrived at Court 13, queued on the stairs until there was a break in play and then set about looking for a seat. Spying an empty pew, she clambered over several rows of chairs and sat down to watch. It was a pity that she had to leave after only five minutes to answer an incoming call, but encouraging that her mobile did not have a disruptive ring. The phone vibrated instead, which made it easier to escape without interrupting play, but less easy to sign autographs for the 20 people who followed her out.

ANOTHER AMUSING moment during the Rafter-Martin match came when a sudden blast of loud music set the audience clapping. The source? A gigantic can of Virgin Cola being driven along the road behind the court.

SO MUCH for the autograph booth, touted before the tournament as the place where the public could meet their heroes. Despite it being a gloriously sunny day yesterday, the small green shack was shut and padlocked. "The problem was that no one turned up to sign autographs," said a steward. No one at all? "Well I think Carlos Moya did a session last week, but I haven't seen anyone since." So much for bringing the game to the people.

THE ALL ENGLAND Club has employed dozens of staff who patrol the grounds with "Information" signs on their backs and answer visitors' questions. "The location of courts is the most common request," said one member of the team. "Although someone did ask me yesterday how to tell when an avocado is ripe."

A POLICEMAN was spotted loitering nervously at the site Post Office for more than 10 minutes yesterday, shifting from the door to the counter and back. Was he on special stamp-guarding duty? No, just waiting for a quiet moment to ask about the speed of delivery.

LENS MAGNETS

A photo count from yesterday's national press (seedings in brackets)

MEN NUMBER OF PHOTOGRAPHS WOMEN

Tim Henman (6) 6 10 Steffi Graf (2)

Boris Becker (-) 1 9 Jana Novotna (5)

Andre Agassi (4) 1 8 Venus Williams (6)

The total photo count since 21 June

Tim Henman (6) 163 123 Anna Kournikova (17)

Greg Rusedski (9) 103 93 Martina Hingis (1)

Andre Agassi (4) 63 87 Jelena Dokic (-)

CHAMPIONSHIP STATISTICS

196 The number of winners Pete Sampras has won to reach the semi- final stage.

14 The number of sets Alexandra Stevenson has played this Wimbledon.

56 Aces Tim Henman has served during the championships.

134 The speed (mph) of Tim Henman's fastest serve at Wimbledon, which of the four semi-finalists is the quickest.

173 The number of points Australian Pat Rafter hit during his four set win over Todd Martin, of America, yesterday.

TV COVERAGE

BBC1: 1.0pm-5.10pm.

BBC2: 5.0pm-8.30pm.

Highlights: BBC2: 10.30pm.

TODAY'S WEATHER

Damp and drizzly morning turning brighter in the afternoon, with the odd shower. Max temp 22C (72F).

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