Tennis: Open season for tennis coaching

Wimbledon Diary
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The Independent Online
TENNIS coaches are enjoying their most profitable time of year as Wimbledon sends fair-weather players scrambling for life-changing lessons. Intrigued members of the David Lloyd club, Finchley, are at present queueing up for tuition from their new resident coach, David Pierce, brother of the French favourite Mary Pierce.

"He does not have the same temperament as their father," a fellow Lloyd employee assures us. Jim Pierce, of course, is the driven father and former coach of Mary, and is banned from all WTA tournaments.

Should Pierce sound too imposing, Andrew Foster is also available. Foster is the battling bearded Brit who reached Wimbledon's last 16 in 1993, when he and his fans gave Pete Sampras a rough ride on a noisy Court 14.

LOOKING for a long-term investment to stash the cash before the recession bites? Dump thebroker and get on to your local tennis coach for the best tips. The German consortium which raised pounds 20,000 for Andre Agassi's first-round conqueror Tommy Haas to attend Nick Bollettieri's Florida tennis camp as a junior are now enjoying a nice return on their investment.

The same goes for the business backers of the Russian Marat Safin, who was sponsored to leave Moscow and live and learn in Valencia during his formative years. Safin's sensational French Open run, which also included a win over Agassi, indicates it was money well spent, presuming we still accept the balding Andre as a decent scalp.

THE City is still the place to go, though, if you want tickets for the Wimbledon final - pounds 2,000 is the square mile's going rate for a pair for next Sunday's final. Or why not go the whole hog and snap up a Debenture, which assures seats for every day of the championships until 2001. That privilege is being traded at pounds 17,500 to pounds 18,500 for the Centre Court option and a mere pounds 5,000 to pounds 5,500 for the new Court One. "Prices generally drop, though, and bids are best held back until interest subsides during the winter months," a broker advised.

READERS of the only national newspaper to feature the British No 3 Chris Wilkinson on the eve of Wimbledon, will not be surprised by his success in reaching the third round for the fourth time last week.

Britain's Davis Cup captain David Lloyd was also expecting nothing less, having already planned to recall the former Southampton schoolboy footballer to his squad for September's crucial tie against India.

Wilkinson has returned from the Davis Cup wilderness since refusing to represent his country in protest at Greg Rusedski's hasty passport switch three years ago. Now, following Rusedski's injury problems and Wilkinson's confirmed upturn in form, he is likely to be an even more active member of the side than Lloyd had originally earmarked.

THE ATP, the men's governing body, has been inviting fans to vote for its favourite player in an Internet poll. "Who's the coolest?" the ATP asks. The results probably may say more about the voters than the credibility of their nominations. The present standings are: Michael Chang (15.49 per cent), Pat Rafter (14.71), Marcelo Rios (11.76), Marat Safin (6.97), Pete Sampras (5.6), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (4.06), Alex Corretja (3.91), Nelson Aerts (3.72), Hicham Arazi (2.47), Mark Philippoussis (1.95). Recent monthly winners: March - Chang, April - Thomas Enqvist, May - Rafter.

SECURITY at Wimbledon is tighter than ever - just ask the players whose bags are searched daily or the national sports editor who last week took 20 minutes to travel the 50 yards from the entrance gate to the media centre as he was made to wait for an official escort. This is done to prevent impostors nipping into the crowd once past the main gate. One hopes that the introduction of these stringent practices and computerised photo passes have nothing to do with previous chancers turned Wimbledon diarists.

I was once inspired to "have a go" by a former tennis-playing pal, known to all as Nipper, who claimed to have witnessed 10 consecutive men's semi- finals by casually strolling through the main gate in a white, ankle-length doctor's coat, pretending to be a programme-seller or car-park attendant.

Posing as a distraught loser from the qualifying event who had forgotten to collect his two-week ticket allocation, I arrived to claim what was not rightfully mine. Nerves mounted as I was escorted inside to prove my identity at the players' office. Fortunately, the trusting, over-worked official led me a few yards into the grounds before pointing me to my destination, allowing me a swift slip into the masses to enjoy a great day's tennis. I am assured none of these tactics work today, but I am amazed that no one thought to question the man in the white coat in the old free standing area on Centre Court.

STEFFI GRAF'S surprise early exit last week can partly be explained by disruption to her home life. Graf had to seek alternative Wimbledon accommodation this year when the owner of her regular SW19 nest, Tessa Wyatt, decided not to rent and stay at home to enjoy the tennis herself. Wyatt said the highlight of her week has been a knock-up with the Australian legend Ken Rosewall. And Wyatt is allowing fans to park their cars in her drive for a tenner, all proceeds to charity.

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