Beyond The Baseline: The bookies loved their tent, Wimbledon hated it. Guess what happened?
Sunday 09 July 2006
The Richard Bloomfield affair has done nothing to endear the betting industry to Wimbledon. The spotlight fell on Bloomfield after his first-round victory over Carlos Berlocq coincided, according to Betfair, with large sums being wagered on a British victory, an unusual pattern to say the least. Bloomfield conceded only five games. There are no betting facilities at Wimbledon, but that wasn't always the case. In 1975 the bookmakers William Hill unveiled the first - and last - on-site betting tent. Why was the experiment so short-lived? "It wasn't a great success," the All England Club told us. Curious that, because William Hill's memory is very different. "It was a huge success both in terms of turnover and as a public relations exercise," their spokesman, Graham Sharp, said. "We had a good site on the strawberry lawn, we had Buster Mottram as our adviser and we made the front pages of the nationals, which was good for us and tennis. The tent was packed every day and even some of the players were in there. They were more innocent days. We wanted to carry on, but the following year they doubled our rent and offered us a site that wasn't half as good. Perhaps they thought the whole thing was beneath them."
This is Maria Sharapova after playing on Court Two: "It's a different atmosphere from a show court. You hear a lot more things." And vice versa. When Maria, Maria, Maria - she could be out of West Side Story - was on Centre Court her trademark shriek could be heard on Court One and Henman Hill. Sharapova barely noticed the naked ambition of the man who appeared on Centre last Tuesday. A streaker v the shrieker: no contest.
The appearance, also on Centre Court, of a Fathers 4 Justice doubles act during Roger Federer's quarter-final victory over Mario Ancic led the All England Club to review security, but employing more personnel is not really an option. They already have nearly 500 security guards, although most are probably keeping an eye on the huge amounts of cash that flow in and out of the grounds on an hourly basis.
Blanc's Reality Check
The ticket tout, once as familiar a feature as strawberries and cream, has become an endangered species. The threat of arrest by the Met's finest and a rupture in the supply chain has had a dire effect on the Stan Flashman industry, although not at the French Open in Paris, where touts are two a euro. With strange timing, Jean-Claude Blanc, the chief executive of the French Tennis Federation, has announced he is leaving to take up a similar post with Juventus FC, the club most deeply implicated in the match-fixing scandal that is tearing Italy apart just as the national team are within striking distance of the World Cup. With equally bizarre timing Francesco Ricci Bitti, the Italian president of the International Tennis Federation, said: "I have a personal wish that Jean-Claude will do very well in his new job, as Juventus are one of my favourite teams."
Orient Express Interest
Europe has dominated the Championships as it has the World Cup in Germany, and the only cab ranks (Yanks for those unacquainted with Cockney rhyming slang) to be seen are outside the courts. The former East Europeans are hungrier and the Chinese are also stepping up, Li Na becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarter-finals. "I'm very proud for my country," Li said. China won the doubles gold at the Athens Olympics, and you can expect to see the beginning of a dynasty at Beijing in 2008. Not everybody is impressed. "A group came to my academy in Australia and, boy, are they tough on the girls," Pat Cash said. "They trained in the sun for five hours and then they screamed at them to go and do more running." Cash told BBC2's Today at Wimbledon: "We got them super-fit, but that wasn't enough. They worked them too hard."
And they want equality! Just in case the heatwave led to meltdown, officials had a contingency plan - a 10-minute break for players between the second and third set. It would have come into play if heat stress reached a certain level. The extended breather would have applied to ladies singles, where scores of 6-0 6-0 were not uncommon, but not to the men.
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