Big screen experience ends with a choc ice

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The Independent Online

The end, when it came, was terribly, terribly British. No tantrums, no boos, no home-grown winner. And on "Henman Hill", where three-and-a-half thousand fans had gathered on a damp slope to watch their hero's demise on the giant screen, there was a little light applause before attention turned back to the next soggy sandwich or pot of overpriced strawberries.

"I've actually got a ticket for No 1 Court to see the doubles today but I've come out to watch the end of this," said Susie Chisholm, a 26-year-old accountant from Wimbledon, as Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic began a third day's play in their semi-final. "The atmosphere out here was amazing yesterday," she added. "It's quieter today, but then it's just getting started."

Within minutes it was becoming clear that it was just being finished. Henman had started the day 2-3 down in the final set but serving at 30-15. Both the points he took to hold his serve were accompanied by polite "Whoos", and when he took the first two points of Ivanisvic's next service game, there was even one relatively loud "Yeah" and one "C'mon Timmy". But then Ivanisevic held for 4-3 and a resigned "Aahhh" rolled gently up the hill.

From the start of the eighth game, the soundtrack of the devoted, in its entirety, went as follows: "Whooo" (Henman ace), "Aahhh", "Aahhh", "Aahhh", "Whoo", "Whoo", "Noooo" (after Henman double-fault). Silence (after Ivanisevic converted a game-point). 5-3.

"Aahhh," "Whoo", "Aahhh", "You can do it, Tim" (after an Ivanisevic double-fault), "Aahhh", "Go Tim" (after another Ivanisevic double-fault, for deuce), "Aahhh", silence (converted match point), then a few gentle claps. Then: "C'mon Dorothy, let's get a choc ice". By the time Ivanisevic had sealed his win, the massed ranks were already standing to disperse, no doubt vowing to be back in 50 weeks to start again.

"To be honest I only came today to watch the ladies' single final," said David Penhale, a 31-year-old fund manager from north London. "Once Tim had lost the momentum of Friday evening I think the whole thing was effectively over. Yesterday saw the tables turned and Goran go ahead and today was pretty much a formality. Tim's had a courageous run, but let's face it, we're used to underachievement, aren't we? Losing in the semis is as good at it gets."

And that, pretty much, was that. Except it would be remiss not to mention the few people present who still had a great time despite the result. "Coming to Wimbledon has been my dream since I could speak," said Michael Waters, a 21-year-old student from Mississippi. He and a group of friends had turned up at the All England at 9.30am yesterday, bought their ground passes and were overjoyed just to be sitting on the famous hill.

"I wish Henman could have won, it would've been really exciting to see him in the final," he added. "Especially with Britain not having a finalist for over 60 years. But the atmosphere of this place is great. The strawberries and cream are perfect. The champagne is perfect. It's just great to be here."

One of his companions, Katherine Markham, from Arkansas, concurred. "It's so nice here," said the 21-year-old, who counts Chelsea Clinton as a vague acquaintance (although she didn't see Chelsea's ex-president father over the weekend, while he was in SW19). "At home you're not allowed to bring in coolers or drinks. Here you can. And in the United States everyone would be jumping over the gates, pushing to get in, being rowdy. Everyone here is so well behaved." Indeed.

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